Home / Posts tagged "Support"

Support 24×7 – What Saves You?

It’s 3:00 A.M. Your phone rings. You take the call and it turns out the system you are supporting is having issues all over the place and production is down. You pull out your laptop, turn it on and cringe at the bright light that suddenly appears. You try to get your brain moving towards actually coming up with a resolution, but don’t even know where to start. Here are a few very simple tips and tricks that can save you (and your customer) with troubleshooting support requests.
 
Turn it Off and On Again
 
“Turning things off and on again” is a concept that computer geeks joke about quite often. There is, however, something magical about resetting everything back to a clean starting point. It’s not always about literally cycling power to a device – it’s more about the concept. Most of the support calls that we have ever gotten have been resolved by stopping the system that includes what’s broken, making sure all of the components (data points, etc.) line up correctly and then restarting the process, whatever it may be. This is especially useful if the system falls into a funky state and cannot automatically get itself back to a good state.
 
Debugging Tools
 
Many development environments include tools to help you troubleshoot problematic custom code. Depending on how complex of a debugger the software includes, you may be able to pause the code’s run-time execution and view live values of tags or variables. This allows you to step through each line of code and view in real time exactly what the code does and where it’s breaking. If you have debugging tools at your disposal, your troubleshooting experience will most likely be significantly less painful. Perhaps this is something to keep in mind when choosing a development environment to utilize on your next project!
 
Log Files
 
If a code debugging tool is not available, log files might just be the key to restoring balance to the delicate ecosystem that is software troubleshooting. Log files allow you to potentially see a problem that has already happened in the past. Imagine supporting a system without log files. You would have to watch the system 24/7 without looking away in order to see the issue happen. I don’t know about you, but I have much more important things to do—like watch some paint dry and the grass grow. You can use your code to log important values or messages relating to an incident in order to figure out what went wrong the next time it happens. Using these values, you could trace through the code and figure out what the code would do with those values.
 
What other tips and tricks do you have for troubleshooting software issues? What has saved you on those late-night calls?

Auto, Data, Help: Manufacturing’s “Puppy, Monkey, Baby?”

At this point most people have seen the notorious “Puppy, Monkey, Baby” Mountain Dew Kickstart commercial from the Super Bowl. It promotes a new beverage called Kickstart, which combines Mountain Dew, juice, and caffeine—a hybrid of three “awesome” things that are better together. The dancing, beverage-dispensing creature, with a puppy’s head, a monkey’s tail, and a baby’s chubby legs, has polarized audiences; some claim the surreal ad is “freaking out, scaring, and terrorizing” viewers, while others praise the impact of the marketing and the connection to the brand.
 
I’m not sure if “Puppy, Monkey, Baby” hit the mark from an advertising perspective, but it did make me think about three things that progressive manufacturing customers are focusing on in 2016. What will be our industry’s “three awesome things combined?” From our perspective, they are:
 
1. Next Level Automation – Many manufacturers automate their processes. In 2016 progressive manufacturers are driving complete system integration and capturing the most granular historical information possible about their process for the potential to model and analyze against.
 
2. Data Analytics – The concept of MES has existed for more than 20 years, allowing manufacturers to look back at what has happened, but not forward at what will happen. The shift in 2016 will be to use the volumes of data available to “predict the future” regarding where OEE will drop and where Quality will slip before it happens.
 
3. Help Where Needed – The previous two trends will inundate manufacturers with systems and technologies. Manufacturers will be tasked with revising and shifting their approach to maintenance, engineering, and IT support. The strategies of prior years are not viable today and progressive manufacturers are creating internal universities, entry level development programs, online training and tutorials, tailored external support programs, and an overall commitment to individual growth.
 
For us “Auto, Data, Help” is the 2016 “Puppy, Monkey, Baby” of our industry. They are three things that, when combined, can increase your level of manufacturing “awesomeness.”
 
That’s what we see! What do you think the “Puppy, Monkey, Baby?” of 2016 is for your company?