Engineering Management and Fault Finding of Electronics

Created; 05/02/2015, Changed; 15/03/2020, 18/03/2020

Old this webpage;


Previous page; Beginners guide

Caveat; I don't do all that I say, Or say all that I do, And sometimes I only say what I wish I had done. Those who do what they say can be imposed on this is stressful, Take care. We see these things in each other and ourselves they need to be kept in mind. In any case stating the obvious so that everyone is clear is a good strategy - I may say that "I may be stating the obvious but............" Or "this sound's silly but imagine if A could do........" thread may go off on a tangent then someone perhaps of a different discipline will come back with a neat or at least a holding solution for now, and they may not have been going to say. This method is much more focussed and precise than "Brainstorming" which I find the latter uncomfortably forced and so inhibiting.

This page is not about being managing other people but it is about managing your own

work and working with the team and using either a logical or a reasoned approach.

  • It is important that when we come up against a problem that we are honest with ourselves in our criticism. It does not help to avoid criticising our tools, others either or to be overly judgemental. Be constructively critical and work around a problem if necessary. The real world is not precise by comparison with any virtual world (software), solutions come from out of a range of uncertainties. But you do have to make assumptions that many things are certain then test those assumptions and change them.
  • Concentrate on one aspect for a while but periodically break-off, reassess you priorities, and work on what becomes the new highest priority also work on some of the low priority issues periodically rather than neglect them altogether. Reassess your priorities every two weeks or at a convenient breakpoint. This is called prato-analysis, or more commonly summarised as the 70% of the costs of problems are caused by 30% of the problems - 70/30 rule, which fits to all sorts of things. But do not break off to the point that it is prevarication - you just have to keep your head down and resolve them often.

List and priorities;

  • When doing any task if something comes to mind writing it down. Creating a list of bullet points. At this stage do not analyse it but keep the list with the project (Circuit and PCB diagram or software)
  • As part of analysing your list later you may chose to discount or add items, or make a more detailed note.

Choice of, What to do with the list;

1. Deal with each item in order then put a line through the item or defer for now and skip to the next item. This is a good approach for managing the work within any project. Such as software writing or electronics design and you can add things to the list as you review it.

2. Priorities items Prato analysis as I described. This is a strategy for managing your work priorities. The difference, though, is that the list is created at the time the process is carried out or when an item comes to mind.

3. In other words plan as far as you can see.

  • Half-split fault finding strategy -

A system with a fault is first splitting in half,

Each half is tested to see which half the fault exists in,

Then the half of the system with the fault is split again repeatedly until the fault is isolated.

Always keep an eye on the whole system, and back-track if necessary. This is a powerful technique in all decision making as well as a test and fault finding strategy. The basics which should be done first; Inspect for visible faults, then in the case electronics, check that the power supply voltages are within tolerance. One method of Analogue to Digital Conversion is called successive approximation and that method works in a similar way in order to measure the input voltage quickly.

Fault Finding in Electronics; Applied to engineering management methods.

Be aware of your uncertainties

- An absolute certain repair would be ideal.

- But absolute certainty is not possible does not mean be less than thorough.

- The different strategies suit different temperament types of people.

Reasoned approach;

  • Do some basic functional tests and inspect for obvious damage or common failure such as; heat stressed components, power supply voltages incorrect, cables connectors and other mechanical damage.
  • Collect information and make judgements about accuracy and likelihood of the information collected, verbal told or personal observation being accurate or significant.
  • Analyse and theorise the cause. Using methods such as half spilt.
  • Based on the theory reasoned; Test some parameters and measure the consequences of changing some parameters or conditions. Such as apply heat or cold to a specific parts whilst monitoring relevant parameters.
  • Grabbing at straws (a hunch) is not unreasonable but can lead to highly enlightening discoveries. But you do need to sit down reason and test things.
  • Repeat until the problem is resolved. Use strategies such as Prato analysis to keep track of your priorities.

Procedural approach;

  • Identify the correct document.
  • Follow the procedure until a conclusion.
  • Out come will be the fault is resolved or the item at fault will be identified for other action.

Methodical approach;

  • Work through everything testing and repairing everything found.
  • This approach may seem like the last resort but it is worthwhile in all cases where the problem is not clear cut at first.
  • Disadvantage is that it is slow can be wasteful but on the way you collect more evidence and discover more possibilities. See the video above from a science fiction BBC TV series Blake's 7 above.
  • Ultimately the fault is resolved but the key reason is not discovered. This is a simple logical solution. But you will have a list of components that may have been fine but were out of spec. so were replaced or replaced because a nearby faulty part had had a knock on effect.
  • You can (should) always start with this approach then abandon the approach when a theory becomes apparent that can be tested giving you a quick resolution of the fault.

Practical approach;

  • Use a form of the procedural or methodical approach to check expediently for common things. But try to avoid doing things that you can not discover if they were the cause or that will make the problem seemed to go away - this is always a problem but particularly with a methodical approach.
  • Then proceed with a reasoned approach.
  • Get a second opinion or talk it through as necessary And switch between strategies.
  • Another persons approach may be different depending very much on their temperament. Consequently one person can go through a complex set of faults and fix them and another can go down a simple list of solutions in a pressurised situation a deal with that efficiently.
  • Understand what motivates ourselves . If a human is starving that human may most likely kill for food, the next priority is to find shelter and warmth, then sex, Ultimately to when we feel very safe; have empathy. See's_hierarchy_of_needs
  • Sustainability - In the "Garden of Eden" people mainly live on raw fruit, veg and some insects without harming fish and animals or each other, And in any case nature is abundant and therefore all-for-giving. Most of us don't live this way and our ethics and ways of life have changed to reflect that but compassion and fairness in the way we work is good.

This can be applied were a problem arises, Ask for any these to be considered;

  • More time,
  • Concession in the requirement,
  • Reassessment of the requirement,
  • Or reassessment of the system,
  • Opportunity for improvement arises,
  • Opportunity for saving arises.

In conclusion make up any list you like but importantly, talk and listen don't just struggle on potentially digging a bigger hole for yourself, you might just need another pair of eyes to look at it.

My strategy is not always popular but alternatively can be very much liked. Once a reasonable cause of action is agreed (keep checking those points) then push until it is carried out. That is to make it is easier for the others to do what is reasonable and agreed than be obstructive. Similar to giving children clear boundary's - adults are different to children and they can obstruct even after being reasoned with.

  • Problem solving by reasoning - Avoid dismantling things but instead test and reason, primarily, to avoid introducing other changes.

Reasoning still involves as a thought process splitting the system, prioritising and testing. Which includes considering probabilities and theorising.

This process produces a vast number of degrees of Grey (suppositions) but the outcome does lead to a very confident black or white answer.

This approach is also necessary when there are many faults or many partially working systems and the half split method does not do it, But you can get you bogged down so test even the easy to see seemingly apparent things again. This applies to management or to tangible objects.

People have to be given the freedom to learn there own lessons by making there own mistakes. Up to a point of cause. Dog sometimes survive after chasing Seagulls at Beachy Head in East Sussex. It is said that the Seagulls stand at the edge of the cliff but fly off just at the last moment when dogs run at them. Some dogs go over the cliff.

*** Add photo of the Seven sisters ***

British Engineering is second to none - how come that used to be said?

Self management & Inspired working

Three examples of understanding of motivation are; The last two examples are systems were workers are self managed. The first two examples are from my time a college studying Diploma in Engineering Management.

  • The Hawthorn experiment in the 1920's USA, - After running many experiments changing the environmental conditions in a factory for a selected group verses the control, the factory. Whatever was done hot/cold/comfortable, good/poor lighting which cost a few million dollars investigating it was found that the group selected always preformed better, against the control. The conclusion being that the selected group considered themselves special.

In 2014 (Radio 4) this assessment was reviewed and questioned because the methods at the time were more subjective. I think the original conclusion is reasonable although I appreciate that not all the evidence may be recorded - it is not possible to be absolutely objective and subjectivity is also necessary to get to a conclusion [The question of cause should be asked but the modern era is different the Ideology That there is no such thing as society, everything is individuals and family is not a general truth]

  • Or the gang working in National Coal Board which was very productive. Workers were organised into gangs in charge with cutting coal and bringing it to the surface. The lesson learnt was copied by Japanese quality circles, Volvo and others. The small gangs self regulated carrying workers for while but not carrying laziness a sort of Karma.
  • And I have been told of another example called Sixes combined with job and go in British Rail. Six blokes would work on six sleepers at a time moving up six sleeper lengths together. A new worker would be carried for a week, then after that if he got behind eventually catching up with the gang as they finished there break and moved on. Thereby the gangs are Self-managing. They went home when the job was done hence either home early or late but hence no cost overrun.

Although we are in a post industrial era, banks and creation of money (credit + interest) have superseded manufacturing in the UK. My hope is for industry and self worth will return to the UK.

  • Sadly it is also true that being horrible as a style of management also works people keep there head down to distract themselves by working harder. Of cause this is very demanding on health and the state of mind. An American term Suck and Push sums up another similar approach - I have not heard this term for 30 years or so.

Malamdale Holiday Fellowship 1995 - Nikon EM with Sigma 35-70mm f3.5 zoom lens.

Inspiring people to make things that they are proud of:

  • When I was a young Design Engineer I found that identifying and borrowing people with particular skills from other departments, means that products are made with enthusiasm because the people who make them had a hand in designing them. Whether I could do it better myself is not the point. An additional benefit is that people tell you things, you discover informal workaround's, which being aware of you can design out or formalise.
  • Answer technical problems promptly avoid "I am busy now", of cause if you are really busy and can't break off say so but come back to the enquirer. Don't avoid the question, but if necessary say I don't know, and pass it on or share the problem, invariably it needs to be, and can be resolved.

What may be necessary is to discuss how together the matter can be answered even if the answer is a work around rather than a proper fix.

  • Leading quietly by example, then enjoy seeing others copy and claim it themselves. This is much more effective than complaining or swearing. But a good swear and moan can help you, just be careful such is rarely productive or ultimately as pleasing as the first, setting a positive example. Actually moaning just lets a bully know they got under your skin, when that happens they can rarely stop themselves doing it again.
  • Remember that it is only work, don't take any of it personally, express your concerns at the appropriate time, and do as required in good faith. Take responsibility for excepting another's concerns and for your own mistakes. Sometimes taking blame, tong in cheek perhaps, for things that go wrong makes everyone else happy and it gets the job done and defuses situations.
  • I worked for a company that cultivated quality and inspired the Boffin types like you will see Professor Quatemass in those 1950's films and like those films he always came through so knowing that the government gave him everything he needed knowing he would again. I was fortunate to be in that position and aspired to do what others who worked for the company did the job correctly and efficiently.