Troubleshooting Machines

Nov. 7, 2013
How Do You Troubleshoot an Industrial Machine When the Device Thinks It Is in Trouble?
About the Author

Katherine Bonfante is senior digital editor for Control and Control Design. You can email her at [email protected] or check out her Google+ profile.

I find it very irritating when I try to use my devices, be it phone, camera, printer or any other electronics, and the display screen gives me an error message. Most of the time it shows a message that makes no sense. The little screen says, "Out of Paper," but there is more than enough paper in the drawers; "Paper Jam," but there is nothing obstructing the machine; "Battery Low," but the device is plugged to the electric outlet.

Many times I've tried to follow whatever the paper or online manual tells me to do when it comes to troubleshooting my machine, but nothing I do ever works. I get so frustrated I consider smashing the devices against any wall. If troubleshooting my devices drives me nuts, I can only imagine what machine operators must feel when they encounter their machines behaving erratically.

SEE ALSO: Benefits of Remote Diagnostics and Monitoring

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How do you troubleshoot an industrial machine when there is no real problem, but somehow the device thinks it is in trouble?

Our Control Design editors and contributors have written informative pieces on troubleshooting machines, and this month I want to feature to a few essential pieces.

"A Taste for Troubleshooting" is an article written by Joe Reilly, Comtec Industries' vice president of technology. In this article, Reilly talks about the benefits of troubleshooting machines via the cloud. The key item here is establishing a well-thought-out database that enables machine users to find correct answers to their questions without involving experienced engineers or maintenance personnel. You can read the entire article to see how Comtech came up with a useful database that not only saved money, but time as well.

"Troubleshoot From Afar" is another article that helped many of our readers with machine automation diagnostics and troubleshooting questions. A reader asked our experts which of these strategies would be best: having a service provider host the troubleshooting service platform through a third-party, cloud-based database, or hosting the services internally on their own. At first it seemed that hosting the services would be more economical, but is it the smartest choice for long a long-term investment?

Lastly, "Trouble-Free Troubleshooting" talks about the way machine builders learn to troubleshoot such different machines as vision systems, motion controllers, vibration analyzers and communications systems, especially when they're interconnected. For the most part, the process starts as trial and error, but things get more complicated when different systems work in conjunction to complete a process, and then the process fails. How do you know which machine is at fault?

What have your troubleshooting experiences been in the past? Do you have as little patience as I do, or do you enjoy exploring your machine and getting to the root of the problem? Have you developed any unique solutions to solve particular problems?

Please let us know.