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Made by Monkeys

Unforeseeable Failure of Logic in Washing Machine Manual

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S.Wimmer
User Rank
Silver
Wrong problem
S.Wimmer   6/2/2014 9:37:00 AM
The problem was not filling not that it wasn't agitating.

You were chasing the wrong problem (been there done that).

Always check for the real problem yourself.

GTOlover
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Wrong problem
GTOlover   6/2/2014 10:31:44 AM
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Seems more and more the manuals are lacking. The appliances get cheaper and the manuals get thinner!

bob from maine
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Wrong problem
bob from maine   6/2/2014 10:41:03 AM
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I guess as the controls are intergrated into fewer and fewer components, the necessary manuals become thinner. Soon the manual will be printed on the power cord: "If this device doesn't work, open the back, disconnect the power cord, replace the device and reconnect cord". Kind of like a PC.

Cabe Atwell
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Wrong problem
Cabe Atwell   6/3/2014 7:51:21 PM
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I agree, the manual I got for my new programmable thermostat is one page long. I guess when it comes to the devices programming features I should just 'know' how to do it.

Mr. Fixer
User Rank
Iron
Re: Wrong problem
Mr. Fixer   6/4/2014 8:06:34 PM
Oh it was agitating, agitating the owners!  

These days, many of the components of an appliance have markings that indicate what material they are made from, so they can be recycled.  To me, the ultimate in recycling is repairing the appliance and continuing to use it.  That is getting to be more and more difficult with every product cycle, for the very reasons we all read about in "Made by Monkeys".

OLD_CURMUDGEON
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Wrong problem
OLD_CURMUDGEON   6/17/2014 3:38:53 PM
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Seems to me Cabe that you've hit the nail on the head, BUT not just with your "smart" thermostat.  I think this trend started a while ago as application software on PCs got to be more sophisticated, all-encompassing, and all-powerful.  The producers decided it was far easier to pack HELP files full of "stuff" and to invent the ubiquitous, but despised acronym, FAQ!!!!  No matter how complete these HELP files think they are, most often what you need cannot be isolated easily, OR it was not there to begin with.  And, FAQs are just as despicable.  A person has to wade through a literal mountain of questions to find something close to the answer being searched for.  Personally, I get a charge from some MICROSOFT websites... down at the bottom is the question, "Was this information helpful?"  How many times I wanted to throw my shoe at the PC screen, I can't begin to count!!!!!

I HATE WINDOWS and EVERYTHING It stands for!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

jtcronin
User Rank
Iron
A great story, thanks.
jtcronin   6/17/2014 3:45:35 PM
Modern washers and dryers are a great example of decades of optimization.  They have a number of sensors that often serve several roles.  How they can affect the operation of the appliance is often not obvious.  My compliments to your diagnostic skills and persistence.

Many years ago when I designed machines and used PLC's to control them we had very similar problems.  A faulty sensor could trip an important safety interlock.  Finding which sensor could be tedious.  

One day inspiration struck.  We were at our favorite watering hole debating a design on some cocktail napkins.  We looked over and saw a repairman working on the establishments pinball machine.  Inside that pinball machine was a single board computer that worked very much like our PLC's.  It had a diagnostic mode.  In that mode you could check and test ever sensor and actuator.  Stepping through the diagnostics the technician quickly found a microswitch behind a bumper was mis-reading.  Its bracket was bent.  With a little bit of finger pressure he was able to reposition it.  With a few drops of glue he was able to secure it better.  

In about 15 minutes that repairman was able to diagnose and fix a machine as complicated as ours.  It took us hours to do the same thing, and we needed a mountain of drawings too.  

Why don't we put in a diagnostic mode program in our PLC systems?  

We did and the folks in the factory loved us for it.  They thought we were genius miracle workers.  All we did was to borrow an idea from a pinball machine.

What troubles me is you don't see something like this in household appliances.  None of my appliances with electronic controls has any sort of diagnostic mode.  It would be trivial to include one.  

I'd bet that Whirlpool washer has a mechanical timer and control system.  Mine does.  The new one I just purchased has a mechanical timer too.  Given the low cost of microcontrollers, why does anyone still use the mechanical models?  

ab3a
User Rank
Platinum
Re: A great story, thanks.
ab3a   6/17/2014 8:35:15 PM
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+1000!

I couldn't agree more.  We have test modes for the systems we design. If a float switch, level indicator, or flow sensor goes bad, our staff have the technology to figure this out.


But for whatever reason, they don't do this for household appliances. I guess they want people to be frustrated when the repairman can't fix it right away so that they  go out and buy a new one instead of fix the existing equipment.

This is how waste happens.

Technophile
User Rank
Bronze
Re: A great story, thanks.
Technophile   6/18/2014 2:30:51 AM
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@ab3a, kudos for putting in test modes!  I'd guess that test modes pay off immediately during product development.

For appliances, it seems to me that companies either respond to the market or lose market share.  Contractors building a furnished house:  I'm guesing most buy on price.  Many (most?) consumers buy appliances based primarily on price (some using e.g. Consumer Reports ratings), so corporations have to keep the price down if they want to sell appliances.  Other consumers buy based on bells & whistles or plan to move every few years; they aren't interested in keeping their washer running for 30 years.  If companies spend money making appliances more maintainable, that's an up-front expense.  How do you justify that to management?  How does management justify that to shareholders?

This is in contrast to production lines, where I'd think engineers are usually picking machinery to last, and are (hopefully) well aware that avoiding down-time is worth spending more. 

Perhaps some consumer education, or a "Repairability" rating.  The more consumers buy based on repairability, the more companies will focus on it.  Could be sold as part of a "green" rating.

When a company is building 100,000+ of something, every penny gets shaved.  $0.01 x 100,000 = $1,000.  $1.00 x 100,000 = $100,000.  It's easy for management to see the immediate, up-front benefit of shaving pennies.   Harder to convince them to spend on maintainability unless it clearly and obviously will sell many more appliances.

JimT@Future-Product-Innovations
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Wrong problem
JimT@Future-Product-Innovations   6/18/2014 11:56:07 AM
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I don't have any problems with the manuals getting thinner; less paper wasted in the first place.  Hate to sound arrogant, but most manuals are not written by the design engineers, and the design-intent is never well-communicated.  The tech-publications team is (most times) not an engineering staff and they don't convey the clearest messages. (insert tab-A into slot-B. Gimme a break!) That being said, I repair all my own appliances, and found this web site to be the best work-partner you can have.

http://www.repairclinic.com/

Repair-Clinic.com, out of Canton MI, offers parts (with photos) and instructional videos for every brand of every type of appliance, and offers full returns of all parts (even electrical) up to 365 days after purchase,  no questions asked.  I have used them again and again (Washer, dryer, Stove, Microwave, DW, disposal) and cannot praise them enough! (I sound like a salesman.  But they are worthy.)

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