By 1983, I’d been in the Philips workshop for 10 years. I’d repaired most things from tape recorders and top-end Hi Fi, through to TV and audio, burglar alarms and dictation equipment. There was also a brief foray into security cameras and their related switching boxes. The Golden Days were drawing to a close although 1500 and 1700 VCR’s were giving the workshop a boost and the V2000 format had been launched. Laserdisc had also made an appearance and the famous CD100 CD player had been launched albeit with a Sony chipset.
The previous year I had been put in charge of a small section comprising of five engineers and basically if any difficult sets came along, it was my job to sort them out. This had worked well and I enjoyed the challenges (the Problem TV from a previous article had been one of the factors in being given this position).
However management had changed and the ‘bean counters’ just out of nappies without the slightest knowledge of repairs or what was involved had started to tell us how we could fix things more efficiently with less staff and fewer stock spares held. On the notice board in the workshop, there were three vacancies for the Technical Advice department due to the recent retirement of a couple of senior techies. I decided to apply. The down side if successful was that it would take me away from the bench and ‘hands-on’ repairs, the plus side being a nice pay hike, monthly salary, a couple of extra days holiday (25 days instead of 23) and use of the monthly staff canteen and facilities. Several other engineers from different areas also applied including one from my team.
A few weeks later I learnt that I had got the job along with the other engineer from my team. One of the audio specialist engineers had also been successful so in fact three of us were able to move up the ranks.
Tech Advice was a revelation! A bright office with a total of ten people, a huge library of manuals and technical information and access to Product Support which was like a mini workshop about half the size of the main workshop. It was a research lab where ‘stock faults’ were investigated and problems reported back to the responsible factory. Official mods were implemented and tested and the results fed back to the factories. Pre-production models due for release were tested and potential faults reported back to the factories before the item went on sale. The result of all this meant that Tech Advice had information about almost anything and everything. Several trade bulletins were also produced and a local ‘Service Tips’ was produced for engineers to add to respective manuals that covered odd faults encountered in certain products.
Our main job in Tech Advice however was to provide service backup to the trade. They would ring us and enquire about faults they were having difficulty curing or perhaps they were unsure about how a particular circuit worked. Coming from the workshop as we did, we had a good knowledge of the various circuits and in many cases we could provide a solution straight away. If it required more investigation, we had the vast library of information and also Product Support themselves. Some of us were more specialised in some areas than others so we could transfer a call to another adviser if necessary. We built up a good rapport with the trade and felt we knew some dealers personally.
About every six months or so we went on various training courses and most of mine were in Dreux, France where there was a TV factory. This meant a few days away from the office and a company expenses paid journey on Eurostar to Gare-Du-Nord in Paris, then on to Montparnasse on the Metro and from there by normal train to Dreux…around eight hours in total. During the course, we had access to all the factory notes and we returned to the office with extremely detailed information.
The most important thing though is that we could help 99.9% of the dealers that rang us for advice and judging by the comments we received, we achieved it. Maybe if you were a dealer and you ever rang Philips for Technical Advice on an awkward fault, you will have spoken to one of us at some time.