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21 Aug 2013
Stephen Kalafut

“You clown’s don’t have a chance in hell! You can’t stump me!” I ranted to our team after successfully solving another challenge. The competition heated up. Just days before I had set up a linear slide system with a servo motor and drive, and challenged each of my teammates to ‘break’ the system and challenge me to fix it. The ‘winner’ who stumps me gets lunch, on me. Essentially they were contract saboteurs.

I was changing roles from Sales Engineer to Technical Specialist. I found out in November, and come January I was moving my life and career to a territory full of customers with needs and no local support. How do you prepare for something like that? This same question is asked by managers everywhere when an engineer is hired. Training can become repetitive and lackluster, PowerPoint slides get old, and being told to ‘play’ with a system you are just learning is like playing water polo before knowing how to swim. So I thought up a little game to help me learn how to swim. I’m passing it on to you to use either for your new Tech, or as a new Tech to help you start treading water.

My friendly trash talk brought out my teams competitive nature. Weeks later and I’d seen it all. One by one they approached the sabotage differently. Incorrect motor data in the drive, reversed motor phases, encoder wiring issues, etc… One challenge included a settling time target that required tuning of the system. Another required me to find a missing pin in an Intercontec connector (this saboteur made the cable’s owner very unhappy). Each time, they tried something different. And each time I tested, toiled, and troubleshot until I figured it out.

Compliance Demo with AKM Servomotor

Time for the Real World

I moved in January and took my shiny new troubleshooting knowledge to the field. I had won our little game for the time being, as I was un-stumpable and gained a great deal of ability from it. Though customers have a tendency to bring you a brand new issue every single time, this game laid a good framework for approaching any system. I recommend it for any office hiring a support engineer. And just like in the field, if you can’t solve the problem, you’re definitely buying lunch.

About the Author

Stephen Kalafut

Stephen Kalafut - Author
Steve has been with Kollmorgen for 6 years working in the Training Department, Sales Engineering, and Field Applications Engineering. He enjoys a challenging field visit, team sports, and the great outdoors. He is always studying the latest technology and is excited for what the future holds. Steve can be reached at [email protected]

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