Pay attention Manufacturers develop special tools to avoid potential equipment adjustment and component installation problems. Remembering which tools and techniques to use speeds servicing procedures.
The shop staff was finishing the monthly inventory and preparing to get going on real work. Housekeeping, bookkeeping and inventory never seem like real work. It is getting a lot easier now that Motorola, Ericsson and others have on-line parts ordering. The use of PCs really seems to be helping small businesses like ours increase efficiency. We are working with no clerical staff at all, yet we’re finding it normal to have volumes of data and help at our fingertips. Isn’t life great!
“I think we have enough of the fast-turnover antennas and batteries,” concluded Ruben. “What about the front-mount VHF and UHF radios?”
“Plenty for next month,” I decided. “Doesn’t it look a little slow for this time of year? We haven’t seen any reason to stock higher, and we can get a quick shipment.”
“Finished the critical customer repair stock check,” added Karen.
“Me too,” Jerry said. “I’m done with the miscellaneous parts.”
Our habit is to maintain three categories of stocking. For critical customers, such as the sheriff, we have some on-the-shelf spares for things such as voter modules, control cards and similar items. The sheriff cannot wait even for two-day delivery for repair components on some parts of his critical dispatch system. This extra inventory is reflected in the monthly contract charge to the sheriff.
Next, the fast-turnover stock. We keep this at a high level because if it is not on hand, the sale will be lost. Last is routine parts, small odds and ends: resistors, installation hardware and fuses. The small stuff is hard to keep track of. However, it does have a convenience and efficiency value far in excess of its cost. We keep it well stocked, really in depth. Most other parts and modules the manufacturers can deliver, on-demand, in a day or two.
“What’s scheduled for today?” I asked.
“Karen and Jerry have a rechannel job for the water company,” replied Ruben. “The water company received 15 surplus Motorola MT-500 hand-helds from its regional center, and they want them recrystalled to the local channel.”
Is that going to be cost-effective?” I asked.
“Sure. Three weeks ago, Karen and Jer pulled the old channel elements, and I sent them to Bomar,” Ruben replied, “and they came back a couple of days ago. Didn’t cost much. Both the old and the new frequencies are close together so it shouldn’t take long to finish. No retuning is needed.”
“Where’s the box from Bomar?” Jerry queried. “Karen and I want to get started. This housework is driving me nuts.”
“Me too,” Karen added.
“Here you go,” replied Ruben, handing them the UPS box with the channel elements in it. “Do you know where to find the instruction book for the MT-500?”
“We can handle it,” Karen said.
With box in hand, Karen and Jerry set up a strategy. They decided to make it a production line operation. Jerry would open the units, install the channel elements and hand them to Karen. She would then set the frequency and check the modulation. Karen would then pass them back to Jerry, who would add a battery and close it up. The batteries had all been run through the Alexander Batteries Tri-Analyzer and reconditioned over the last week. Only one battery needed replacement.
“Well, Jer,” started Karen, “at about 10 minutes a radio, we can be done before lunch time if we push it. “OK,” answered Jerry, “let’s give it a go!”
“When you pull them apart, watch for bad gaskets and screws. We have a box of spare parts we can use. If you jam the screws, it really makes a mess,” Karen said.
“Gotcha,” said Jerry.
Everything was ticking like a clock factory as Karen and Jerry’s mini-production line worked through the morning. About half-past eleven, Ruben checked on them. He thought it was a smooth operation and brought a couple of the radios up front to show the boss.
“Well, Wes, they are going great guns on these radios,” announced Ruben. “They’ll soon be done. Looks pretty good, huh?”
“Sure look like new.” I answered. “Real clean.”
“Jerry is cleaning the outside as he re-assembles them,” Ruben said.
“Let’s try one,” I said, turning it on. “Water One, this is radio repair for a radio check. How do you copy?”
“I always want to call them Wet One,” quipped Ruben as we awaited an answer.
“‘Buzz’…’buzz'” came a distorted reply, with the copy broken and scratchy.
“Thanks, Radio Repair clear.” I said. “Well, Ruben whatcha think?”
“I think we better double-check the task at hand,” he replied.
Ruben and I went to a bench and set up an IFR service monitor. Connecting an adapter into the MT-500 and punching in the channel, we took a look at the radio. We found good modulation, but the frequency was about 2kHz off center. We tried another radio, and found the readings about the same. Another checked likewise.
“Karen,” I asked, “is your IFR set off the calibrate click?”
“Why do you ask, Wes?” Karen answered. “Is something wrong?”
“Let’s check some more of them,” Ruben suggested.
“All of ’em,” I replied.
“My IFR settings check,” Karen said. “What’s wrong?”
“These radios are all off-frequency. That’s what. We need to figure out why,” I continued, “and fix it. I did a radio check with Water One, and they said it was scratchy, so Ruben and I checked on the other IFR, and the frequency was off a couple of kilohertz. Two more checked the same.”
“Ouch,” winced Karen. “I have been very careful when I set the frequency.”
“Are you using the faux back?” I asked.
“What’s the fall back?” Karen and Jerry asked, in stereo.
“Not fall back, but the French f-a-u-x, pronounced ‘foh.’ Faux means false. We have an MT-500 cover set with holes in it so you can set the frequency with the covers on.
“Well–in a word–no.” Karen meekly replied. “Now I remember. We went over that at a Motorola seminar once. The MT-500 can shift frequency when you close it up and tighten down the assembly. When that happens, the cure is to use a ‘jig’, or as you call it, the faux back, to make sure the frequency is correctly set. It takes just a little more time, but it always works. Every time.”
“That’s the one,” I replied.
“Looks like I committed a faux pas, huh,” Karen joked.
“Yup,” I groaned, “but if you notice, the radios were all about the same. Here’s the cover set, and you can get them done real quickly. Modulation is OK, just set the frequency.”
“OK,” answered Karen.
“Wait!” called out Jerry. “While you were explaining the error of our ways, I was looking into another problem. Some of these radios seem to be intermittent. I can’t get a handle on it, but it seems the crystal elements don’t fit tightly every time. What do we do, send them back?”
“No, there is a simple fix,” answered Ruben. “Karen, do you remember any more from that old seminar?”
“You mean the squasher?” Karen replied.
“Yes,” said Ruben, “the squasher.”
“Geez, you guys are talking about faux backs and squashers,” interrupted Jerry, “but don’t we have any normal American solutions?”
“The squasher is all-American, Jerry,” I said. “Baseball, apple pie and Motorola tools are as American as you can get. The channel elements in the MT-500 were designed to fit into little pin sockets. To ensure a reliable fit, Motorola engineered the pin on the channel element to be squashable by making it from many strands of stiff, gold-plated wire. Then they put a bulge in it to make it fit tight in the socket. For maintaining this good fit, they engineered a squasher tool. Here is a pair, with green handles. It looks like pliers, with a groove on one lip and a hole on the other.”
“I saw those on your bench, but I had no idea what they were for,” Jerry admitted.
“Just put the groove against the little lip at the base of the channel element,” Ruben said. “Insert the tip of the wire into the hole on the other lip, and squeeze.”
I picked up the explanation. “It has a stop to keep you from destroying the pin. It just ‘squashes’ it a bit.”
“This squash,” added Ruben, “is all that is needed to maintain good contact and eliminate intermittent channel element operation.”
With new instructions, Jerry and Karen returned to the task of getting the radios finished. Jerry went back and re-opened every one of them. He then “squashed” the pins on each channel element, just to be safe. Karen, at the next work station, took the units and clamped down the faux covers and reset the frequency. It went smoothly, and in no time they were finishing the task. Of course by now the clock was ticking into their lunch break.
“Hey, Wes and Ruben,” hollered Jerry. “Karen and I are finished, but will you double-check for us?”
“Yeah,” added Karen, “things can happen, you know.”
“No problems,” Ruben replied, as he set up a check and ran through five of the units in a flash.
“Watcha say, Ruben,” I asked, “do these guys live or die? What’s the verdict?”
“Thumbs up!” smiled Ruben. “You got it this time.”
“So, did you all learn anything this morning?” I asked.
“Sure, pay attention to what you know,” Karen chanted, “and to the details. Pay attention! Pay attention!” “And you Jer?” I asked.
“I learned that if you don’t get it right the first time,” Jerry stated, “you’ll have a short lunch break. Let’s eat!”