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Solving compex reliability issue [TIC]

posted Aug 14, 2014, 7:00 AM by Sami Lehtinen   [ updated Aug 14, 2014, 7:03 AM ]
Why I'm the guy who's sent when others fail, fixing a system which is impossible to fix. Yeah, this is a tongue in cheek story, but it's still completely true.

This is ridiculous example, but this is just one of the solutions I usually do. Others claim it's impossible or there is no solution. I'll get it done, what ever it takes, just like in this case.

There was a system which does stuff X, there were several engineers wondering why the system wasn't working, customer was unhappy, continuously complaining about serious problems which follow from the system X not working etc.

Engineers did investigate this problem for two months and finally concluded that unfortunately there's no solution to the problem. I'm usually the guy who doesn't take these kind of answers very well. I'm techie, I know things can be solved. It's just about the fact that are you willing to do what it takes to get issues solved and ready to look outside the box.

After examing data which is waas based that there's no solution. I found out that first they suspected software issue, but after long investigation they noticed that actually cables were getting broken. After that it was the use case where the cables were getting boken, that lead to suspect that the customer was incorrectly using the cables and causign excess stress. After ispecting a few cables, I noticed that the cables really were quite weak and really easy to break, without using any excess force.

There had been questions if there would option to get 'heavy duty' cables. But unfortunately the supplier said that it's impossible to get those, because they're only delivering one purpose built custom cable and there are no other alternatives.

Ok, not a software issue, weak cable, there's no option to get stronger cable. Thing should be fixed quickly and efficiently. What shall we do? Of course we could contact some cable manufacturer and get our own heavyduty custom cables. Aww, I've done that kind of stuff earlier (components manufacturing and ordering from subcontractors and manufacturers), and I knew it wouldn't be quick or cheap way to get this issue fixed.

Then I got one of the cabes and examined it in detail. It was very easy to break the cable using bare fingers alone. After breaking the cable, I found out that it was super weak plastic cover, and inside that plastic cover there was nothing to relief the strain of the cable. So solderings between wire and the circuit board did get broken very easily. As well as the cover itself was ridiculously weak.

Solution? Open the cover on new cables, insert about 1ml of eboxy inside the cover filling it up, and closing it again. Now all it took, is about 3 minutes and it's done and working just as it should have been working originally. Then I batch processed rest of cables.

Now everyone is happy. We got strong cables, customer isn't having problems anymore, and it was simple and cheap fix. But originally the customer and I were told, that there's no solution to this impossible problem.

Silly story, yeah. But this is great example. About the fact how easy it's to fix something what's impossible to fix. If you're just willing to get the job done instead of making all kind of excuses why you can't do anything about the problem. Which unfortunately happens clearly to be the major problem in larger companies. Why the cable manufacturer couldn't do this simple step, that's a great question. Why nobody else was able to do this ultra complex procedure? Even the customer them selves could have done this. So there was over 20+ people involved, but this was too hard for everyone, except me. It wasn't even my job, but when I can see people dealing with things totally inefficiently, I just can't stand it, so I'll help them a bit.

Kind of reminds me from how many engineers you need to ... jokes.