Spares ‘Off The Shelf’ And Quick Repairs

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Member: Sideband

Tv sets were ever changing. During the 35 years I was at Philips, I was directly involved in TV servicing and developments and it underwent many changes. Colour was already well established when I started at Philips Everyone hears how bad service is these days and times have certainly changed. This short item is a taste of how it used to be, at Philips anyway, when most companies took pride in the after-service they offered.

From mid 1973 onwards, I was working in the very well equipped workshop at Philips in Waddon. Despite the fact that it was a converted aeroplane hangar on what had been Croydon Airport, it had air-conditioning and a coffee room and an extremely good canteen. The front of the building had a reception area and a self-service spares section…can you imagine going into a major manufacturer and being able to buy a tripler off the shelf…literally? All the ‘fast-moving’ spares were held in the front spares shop, anything else you could order over the counter and, if it was in stock over at main spares, it would be in your hands within 10 minutes. In those days, Philips also manufactured and sold ‘white goods’ so if you wanted hoses, pumps or motors for a washing machine you just called in at front spares and went out with the part. The counter was open to trade and private customers although in the case of a private customer there were conditions on spares.

If a customer had a faulty Philips radio, TV, tape recorder or Hi Fi system, pocket memo, shaver, hairdryer, etc they could bring it in to the front shop and book it in as a repair over the counter.

We also had a ‘first-line’ repair section, which was designed to ease the burden on the main workshop. For example if a customer brought in a tape recorder with no rewind, rather than book it in straight away, it was sent through to first line and assessed. If it was something simple like a belt, a new one was fitted (from the ample belt stock in the workshop) and given back to the customer with a modest charge. If it was more complex, it was booked in to the workshop in the normal way. In this way, mundane faults like dirty heads, pinch rollers, broken belts etc could be repaired quickly, leaving the main workshop to get on with all the big jobs.

Spare parts were stocked behind the building in a huge warehouse. The system of how the smaller spare parts were actually delivered to the front counter and the main workshop was, I think, unique to Philips. For example, a line transformer was required that wasn’t in the front spares shop. It’s in stock at the main warehouse. The part number is typed (yes) onto an order form and this is placed in an aluminium cylinder about 18” tall by about 12” across. This is then placed into an airtight hatch, the door closed and a red button pressed. There is a hiss and the aluminium container is then sucked up a tube, shoots across the top of the workshop and travels over to the warehouse where a similar hatch is waiting. A green light shows and someone at the other end opens the hatch, removes the container takes out the order(s) and gives them to the ‘picker’ who’s job it is to locate the required parts, place them in the container and send them back to the front shop. The system with the aluminium container was all operated by compressed air and was referred to as the ‘puff tube’. It had a more complex name than that but ‘puff tube’ suited us! It also worked very efficiently.

Larger spares could not be carried this way and that was the job of the ‘spares trolley’, an electric truck with a flat back that could carry cabinets, CRT’s and other heavy items. The guy that drove this truck was a happy Jamaican fellow who had a huge stereo player in the cab with him. It was in the days before ‘ghetto-blasters’ and was actually a semi-portable Hi Fi unit that had a 12v input. One of us had fitted a lead to it and connected it to his truck battery. He had a speaker in each corner of the cab and considering the cab was probably only about three feet across and there probably wasn’t much more than 18” above, his head was placed almost right between the speakers. You could tell when he was returning with the spares as the sound of reggae music got louder….!

Due to the fact that customers were allowed to bring their faulty items in, we had a few strange encounters and there was one quite eccentric one…but that’s a different story!

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