Engineering Management and Fault Finding in Electronics

Created; 05/02/2015, Changed; 09/01/2024, 19/02/2024

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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 is inhibiting.

This page is not about 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.

Star Trek - Ultimate Computer

A new experimental computer in control turns a war exercise into seeing any spaceship or starship as a real threat and attacks them.  The brilliant designer had woven his personality into the machine, the M5, but he still held anger and fear of being bullied, having been overlooked treated as a nerd when he was younger.

In 2001 A Space Odyssey, HAL is programmed with a conflicting primary directive to both lie and not lie to humans, leading to the computer killing of most of the astronauts.  The basic story is not about HAL but about an alien visiting and guiding life on Earth and the eventual birth of the star child.  In the sequel story the alien starts the process of sowing the seeds of life on Pluto, Discovery is visited two years later and brought back to functioning with HAL running again with the conflicting instruction removed.  The term worm is used to root out the bad program conflict and the book explains that holographic memory was used, which were more examples of the science prediction being spot on then, if wrong now.  With very accurate science prediction, as a documentary, the highest quality of production as you see in all films created by Stanley Kubrick. 

In summary, humans will make bad design decisions if they try to appease conflicting instructions.  Perhaps they will make wicked machines in a culture of fear, hate and cynicism.  But engineers will create the finest work if they work with kindly, inspired people around them.  People will also find excuses to be cynical and do work for profit regardless of ethics, or bully if there is a culture of not standing up to them.  Whether that is wishful thinking I don't know the 1930s Soviet engineering was equal to any, but the professionals worked from camps in cold places.  Slave labour may be productive, though a well researched documentary's theory was that the ancient pyramids in many parts of the world were not built by slaves, but that technology used was very advanced moulding concrete and using solar lenses to melt and moulding granite.  Those ancient Egyptians knew maths often re-invented much later and the builders worked part of a year for a decade or so in comfort.

 List and priorities;

Choice of, What to do with the list;

1. Deal with each item in order they were listed, 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 Pareto analysis.  This is a strategy for managing your work priorities.  Every two weeks or at a convenient time, create a list of things to do.  Then priorities the items and switch to the most important item and work on that.  Not forgetting to do some work on the low priority items sometimes.  

3. Plan as far as you can see.  That might mean your end point is very imprecise early on, but that will improve with as the project is developed. 

The list (1) can get very long so that many items are not dealt with and are almost forgotten.  That is fine, but occasionally you need to go right to the beginning of the list and review it.

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 of 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 similarly, by halving the voltage range in each step 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 to be less than thorough.

In any case, it is good practice to avoid dismantling and unsoldering anything in order to minimise potential damage.  That is, until you are confident that this is the best step.

Signal injector; screwdriver that you can touch circuit part to inject mains hum into the audio frequency sections of a circuit.  And a crystal earpiece; To listen to the audio sound at various point in the circuit.  I also used oscillators, but the most useful tools are an oscilloscope and a multimeter.

You only need to touch the circuit nodes with the tip of the earpiece, the 0V need not be connected. 

Reasoned approach;

Procedural approach;

This method is used more now with modules replaced, and then the replaced module may be discarded or returned to the manufacturer for repair.  

Methodical approach;

Practical approach;

BBC TV Series Blake's 7 (other side of the coin to Star Trek doing good view of the militaristic hierarchical Federation) 

Auto-repair simply goes through everything, in the system, replacing things that are not to spec it does not take any shortcuts, repairing each damaged circuit panel sequentially taking a minute each.

This can be applied where a problem arises, Ask for any of these to be considered, they apply even if you are talking to yourself;

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.  It is necessary to follow a false direction, back track to another course then back track again occasionally, but now you know better why you are taking this line of development leading to a better final solution.  Later in the development cycle, the cost of making a big change of direction is higher and the decision to pursue such a course of action including abandoning the project needs to be taken at a higher level of management.  It is worthwhile prevaricating and so being more sure of your facts and asking for time before presenting your case.  Still, don't know, and, not sure, could be parts of a reasoned case for change.

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.

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 will be a nice feel, robust solution. 

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 their own lessons by making their own mistakes.  Up to a point, of course.  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.

The Seven Sisters, East Sussex.  

More cliffs are behind me and more are ahead, the last one is Beachy Head before Eastbourne.  This is Cookmere Haven.

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 where workers are self-managed.  The first two examples are from my time a college studying Diploma in Engineering Management.

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, how will modern era Ideology change the conclusion?  That is, is the present assumptions based on 1980s there is the no such thing as society, everything is individuals and family]

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.

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

Inspiring people to make things that they are proud of:

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.

TV series Quatemass and the Pit, 1958

In the original version, the government committee meeting hears Professor Quatemass states the problem and what he needs, and the committee agrees on his past record to give him everything he has asked for.  He would be called a Boffin not a nerd and be highly regarded

To discuss these electronics pages, see; Blog page Electronics 

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