Thursday, December 13, 2007

Outsourcing a test station, part 2

Last month I posted about my experiences with outsourcing test systems. Here's another update: training.

The schedule has slipped - they usually do - but it was a result of scheduling conflicts and money issues. The system was ready. Regardless, I did have an engineer from the contract manufacturer fly out to be trained on the system. He seemed like a good guy & knowledgeable, but there was a definite language gap. Furthermore, I only had two days to show him a system I've been using for a couple of years.

Speaking slowing and struggling for words, I think I eventually taught him enough so that he can run the station when there are no big problems. We started with an overview of what the system does, the separate components, and the basic procedure. He spent a 1/2 day just testing devices. We also went over common maintenance issues and problem points to check when it won't run. But there were some things that didn't translate well.

But now I think I have the answer. I'm using my digital camera (a nice 5 megapixel Canon) to film common tasks and maintenance fixes. Maybe my narration will help, maybe not. But if a picture is worth a thousand words, how much is a high res avi file worth?


Anonymous said...


I am a test engineer for Cel phone company and I am telling you about training CMS engineers on test system: Your job is on the line. The better you trained the monkey, the sooner you will loose your job.

In my opinion, it is unethical to ask the engineer to train his/her replacement, for various reasons. At first, it seems to be fun and innocent, but as time goes by, you will realize that the monkey learned from the best and will work for one tenth of the cost.

You can control the situation by not doing brain dump on the monkey. This will at least delay the job lost, and incurres more cost to the company that decides to outsource engineers.

Quality by Verification.

Greg said...

First, don't call other engineers monkeys. You can get mad at your company for being greedy, or at your political leaders for being short-sighted. But the engineers in other countries are just trying to make a living and feed their own families. Don't blame them.

Second, what I am doing is training people to run a system that I have already built. I don't WANT to spend all my time running the system - that's boring. I would rather build new (and better) systems, or analyze the data from the systems.

Third, my company is outsourcing their existing manufacturing because a) they have already applied for numerous patents on the technology, b) they are at least a year or three ahead of the competition, and c) money.

I'll probably blog more about this next week.