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Quarterly Bulletin
 
RMA procedures for long-term quality improvement
 
 

The Hectronic support team performs functional testing, stress testing and temperature cycling to identify problems and perform corrective actions. There are six fully equipped work stations in the RMA lab with individual test systems for every product and product version.

 
These resources are a necessity for fast and accurate response, according to Erik Flodin, Support Manager. He seizes the opportunity to highlight another aspect of his work.

– My goal is always to return a working product as fast as possible and a rich description of the problem by the customer is always highly appreciated in order to succeed.
 
Hectronic runs a separate, fully ESD protected, RMA/support lab with it’s own, independent computer network. The facilities are planned in detail to meet the needs of the support team.

– The many 220 V electric sockets are all connected to the same single phase conductor. If the computer board power supply and the test rig is not connected to the same phase conductor there may appear differential voltages that damage sensitive components, typically in the power supply and interfaces.
 
The testing procedures include verification of for instance power distribution, EEPROM programming, wireless connectivity and Ethernet port data communication. If fully operational at normal temperatures it’s time to increase the load, stress the boards and systems to increase the working temperature and put the unit to the test over a prolonged period of time.

– We use a large set of tests to verify functionality and check components. Lead by the information from the customer we are able to focus our efforts on a subset of relevant test cases.
The RMA test system identifies failing functionality to be further investigated by support or product development engineers.
Boards and systems from Hectronic are used in a variety of demanding applications and environments. Each time problems arise and technical support is requested Erik Flodin is curious about the details of the case.
– I’d like know about the operating system used, type and version, all the events and actions that lead to the problem, connections to other systems and of course the customer’s own thoughts and suspicions on what caused the failure.
 
The problem description is entered by the customer into the web based support request form, a form that is filled in and submitted as a first measure in the RMA procedure. The form is always submitted prior to shipping the unit. The information in the form is filed as a separate support case in our RMA/Suppport Issue Tracking System.
 

Alternative shipping addresses

One of the first activities at Hectronic is to decide upon the place of service, which is where to ship the unit. The customer is notified of the shipping address through a PDF sent by E-mail. Places of service are Hectronic’s support department in Uppsala, Sweden or one of our manufacturers . It’s decided upon the product, the problem and the foreseen measures needed to solve the problem. A few cases are solved through communication via e-mail or over the phone, without shipping the unit.
 
The documentation in the RMA/Suppport Issue Tracking System introduces traceability through serial numbers and the support and RMA history of the product. The database is an invaluable source of knowledge and experience to support the work to continuously improve quality according to our ISO9000 certification.
 

Learning from experience

Conclusions about the quality of products, building blocks, separate components and production are drawn from the information in the database. Close communication with the development department, suppliers and manufacturers ensure quality improvement over time. 
 
It all started with the description of the problem, a piece information crucial to focus efforts and solve the short term problem. In the end every RMA case is one piece of the puzzle in continuously improving product quality in the long run.
 

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