This is a very timely story for me because I just spent my Saturday morning replacing a broken switch in our Washer, so this article caught my eye right away. You have to wonder about process flow in appliance manufacturing, as your example indicates a sever break in communication between development engineering (the product), technical publications (the manual), and manufacturing (Magnet-? What magnet-?). It's also very confusing today as to whom the actual manufacture is. A closer look into Corporate Names will show very blurred lines between the major plays, Whirlpool, Maytag, Kenmore, Frigidaire and others. Folks in the industry know the interrelationships but the public doesn't.
Good point on the brand name blurring, JimT. It is hard to tell. And if it's hard to tell what brand name blends with other brand names, then the whole notion of the value of brand names seems to go away.
It doesn't surprise me that the troublehooting guide was worthless. Too often, tech manuals and troubleshooting guides appear to be afterthoughts. By the time someone puts the manual together, the company is already itching to get the product out the door, and they end up doing a poor job on it.
What happens more often is that the manual is an afterthought, and the next version of the product is already on the production schedule. Product lifecycle for many of these products is very short. easier to extract money from those folks who have to have the latest and gretest, if for no other reasn than it is the latest and greatest.
Those of us who have the ability to make a part or troubleshoot some electronic component are getting far and few between, what with most of our education system abandoning hands on tech for the much safer and cheaper theoretical tech. When I was in school we still had some shop classes and such. Today many kids have never used a tool and have never even assembled a model car. Many in the educatonal establishment think that any training that gets a students hands dirty is beneath them. If we want future engineers and technicians we need to have more classes doing dangerous stuff like building gocarts and kitcars where they can actually find out that things are made by people and not just bought at the store.
For instance - I have made a pulley for a high end color printer that was no longer made and no parts available. My church was able to use it for 6 more months and didn't have to replace it in a rush with money they didn't yet have. Replaced a transistor in the ignition module on my sons motorcycle. Module was limited availability and over $200. Looked up the part number and got a $2 FET at Radio Shack and got it going. Most folks just have to throw things out over a simple part, but they have no skills to be able reproduce it.
The manuals are generally crap. I have hundreds of manuals that I have downloaded, purchased or scanned in the last 40 odd years and the quality of them has slowly dropped to being almost useless. Schematics are getting to the point where a complete system is on half of an 8x11 sheet, too small to follow (or is it just my eye sight?). With a bit of digging around and knowledge, a lot of this stuff can be repaired quite inexpensively.
However, with the widespread use of lead-free solder and bal grid array chips, more and more consumer products are going to end up in the recycling centres or dumps. Most people can not repair these products. I have tried with some success. The problem seems to be the lead free solder as it either cracks or developes microshorts over time, rendering a product useless. Refowing with a heat gun, or if your lucky, through a reflow oven, will get a lot of these devices working for a while, but they all seem to break down again. It's great for the manufacturers as it means that they get to sell a new device, but bad for the environment. WASN'T lead free solder supposed to be beter for it?
I do a lot of repairs in my off hours on vintage audio equipment. Most of my part time customers ask if their antique gear is worth fixing. Hey, if it was working for 40 years and just failed, I would say for the few dollars it takes to get it going again, it is probably worth it. The quality of the older product is much better than anything produced today. The new stuff dies within months of the waranty expiring, the old stuff will last for another 40 years. The person doing the repair just has to have some smarts and the desire to do it. I have a radio that is over 80 years old, and it still works!
Getting back to the washer in the article, I forgot to mention that there was obviously a magnet in this thing at one time, otherwise it would never have worked. There was no obvious place on the detergent tray for it to go, other than beside where the switch was (but on the detergent drawer). I was able to squeeze a cylindrical magnet in this area and then GLUED it in place. For an extra penny, this could have been done in manufacturing, but I guess manufacturer figured that friction fitting it would be enough.
Then there are the manuals that blur out the details of the schematics to protect their intellectual property! No way to use it to flesh out a problem. The I/O edge pins are shown but that's about it! Why they bother to show any images in "the manual" is unfathomable to me.
The manuals are not very good these days. One reason, I think, is that the repair philosophy is to simply replace FRUs (Field Replaceable Units) instead of evaluating the problem at the component level. This makes field repair faster and simpler (thus you can use less highly trained labor), but it also makes it more expensive.
I think I have written before about a double oven I had. We had the vendor's repair guy come out. He isolated the problem to the FRU (the control module). The problem was that they no longer made that FRU. His solution was to replace the whole oven. That would cost $2,000 or more. Oh, and by the way, the new ones were slightly larger, so we would have to cut a bigger hole for the unit. Now, I isolated the probem down to a power transistor or two. I did not fix this myself, as I found that there were places that would repair the FRU for a fixed price. Since there was one near by, I took it to them. The price was under $200, and the work was warranted for at least six months. I did the removel and replacement myself (it was not hard) and the unit has been work great ever since.
That is just a long way of saying that, for the manufacturer, the manual is not important.
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