I think there may be a generational chance here, Old Curmudgeon. Two or three decades ago, there were more engineers running tech companies. Since the mid-to-late 1980s, it seems the MBA became king. That means instead of a focus on customers and product, the focus becomes market and financial manipulation.
"I always revert back to the position that companies are now almost exclusively run by MBA's rather than someone who actually got their hands dirty on occasion."
I would take partial exception to that statement. In my case, I worked for two companies that were owned & headed by "engineers" in their degreed professions. Both companies were VERY successful, and a force in their respective industries. However, I've also worked for two companies that were owned & headed by "engineers" who were GREAT on the "bench", but had no marketing foresight whatsoever, and both companies failed even though their product lines were sold in the mainstream of their respective industries.
I would say that it is rarer than one suspects to find a CEO who not only has the in-depth technical knowledge of a product, but also has the mental "tools" to be able to effectively market the product. Of course, I'm not speaking of a "mpm & pop" type operation where the # of hats worn each day is countless. I'm speaking of a decent sized company where the (technical) CEO guides his Marketing staff in their dutes.
@Oldetc. I enjoy your responses because I think we both were raised in the old school when engineers actually physically assembled and trouble shot their creations. I like to remind people that Eli Whitney was a blacksmith, before he was an engineer.
To the original poster, congratulations on your tenacity and ability to solve the issue. I do remember when Troybuilt was a gold standard and am sorry to hear how it has slipped, but then again I have had numerous MTD ptoducts that performed well, so just the fact that they now produce Troybuilt would not seem to be the only problem. I always revert back to the position that companies are now almost exclusively run by MBA's rather than someone who actually got their hands dirty on occasion.
There is some question about the amount of care put into various products and their manuals. In this case the subject is about a Troy mower, and reference was made to their parent company, MTD. If you look up reviews on the internet you will find many complaints about MTD products.
I had an electric lawn mower made by one of their companies. It looked like a simple design that should be fairly trouble free. The manual included standard information about cleaning the cutting deck. When my mower overheated and stopped working I did more exploring. I found that a plastic cover over the motor was used to direct cooling air over the motor. The cover was not designed to be removed for regular servicing. I had to more or less destroy the mower to get it off. Then I discovered that the space between the cover and the mower was packed with grass clippings. Not only did the manual say nothing about cleaning this area, there was no way to do it.
I too have learned (the hard way) about MTD products. I think that my mower was designed to last a year or two, and then be thrown away. I do not want items in my life made that way. I now look at online reviews as much as possible. I also use Consumer Reports, but they usually do not have any useful information about long term use, and servicing problems.
The big problem, as shown in the Made by Monkies series is that no one brand seems to stand out for giving good service. For those of us who value good engineering and good quality it is a real problem. What can you buy that will provide reasonable service?
Like I've harped on so many times in the past ...... Maybe IF more time was spent assembling ACTUAL components of an item, instead of relying on advanced CAD software to identify the trouble spots, we'd have better products.
Many decades ago I was a project engineer for a manufacturer of sophisticated radio communications equipment. While it was a privately-held company, it was a very successful company with peak employment in the days following the first Oil Embargo 0f 1973 of 300 people.
Now, it was that the owner of the company was an avid deep-sea fisherman also. And, in that quest to satify his passion, he had a very comfortable sport fisher style yacht. It also served as a floating laboratory (I'm sure the I.R.S. was amused!). But the point is that we never introduced a new piece of radio equipment WITHOUT it being first installed & extensively tested on the boat. As a result many of these systems were installed on ocean-going freighters, super tankers & advanced drill rigs from the North Sea area to the Mideast Gulf regios.
I'm NOT suggesting that we NEVER sold spare parts, OR that some of the equipment suffered outages, but we DID catch the bulk of the oversights. faulty designs, etc. BEFORE they reached the customers' facilities, all in an effort to preserve the good reputation of the company!
In this case, Old Curmudgeon, the employee at MTD noted that the problem cited in this Made by Monkeys blog was identified and corrected -- probably due to countless complaints and returns. It seems to me a bit of testing in advance could have saved tons of trouble for everyone.
As I wrote recently in another blog, these major suppliers of appliances, consumer equipment, etc. have done a fantastic job of consolidating & shielding. Look at the sheer numbers of companies incorporated as "LLC", or "LP" ,etc., specifically for the purpose of shielding themselves from litigation! In a similar vein, consolidation in the appliance industry has led to the attitude within the corporate heirarchy that 'if they lose a customer here or there, it doesn't matter. There's more customers 'over there''. So, if someone in Ames, Iowa gets P.O.ed at MAYTAG for a lousy product, there will probably be 10 people in Santiago, Chile who will buy that exact same appliance. And, so it is with globalization......
Someone suggested that the fact that MTD reacted to this person's complaint was amazing in itself. HEY! They're human beings AND engineers too. So, I'm SURE that they're all reading these same blogs on a daily basis, just as the rest of us are. But, when the "bomb" dropped in their backyard, someone sought to defuse it promptly. Whoever that person was @ MTD, he (or she!) should have gotten a plaque AND a preferred parking space!!
My first Troy Bilt riding mower was amazing. I found it dead in a pile of trash. I asked the owner if he was really throwing it out and he said yes. He said it was a goner, but I think that is just what he told his wife so he could buy a shiny new John Deere.
I pulled it from the rubble and replaced the failed mechanical fuel pump with a 12 V generic automotive style. I also installed a new "old-school" starter solenoid and bypassed all the troublesome safety interlocks. Fired right up. A second life.
I used it on my ranch under severe conditions for another 5 years until the engine finally started billowing black smoke. I did have to fix it a couple of dozen times, but it didn't bother me as much as having to fix something that was brand new.
I refused the belt from MTD, because I already bought a new belt. It would be nice to recover several hours of my time troubleshooting this problem and hopefully helping Troy save hundreds if not thousands of customers similar grief. I'm sure the check will be in the mail.
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Conventional wisdom holds that MIT, Cal Tech, and Stanford are three of the country’s best undergraduate engineering schools. Unfortunately, when conventional wisdom visits the topic of best engineering schools, it too often leaves out some of the most distinguished programs that don’t happen to offer PhD-level degrees.
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