December 29, 2000
It was the middle of the day, in the middle of the week, and I was working on one of those jobs for my wife, where you can turn off your brain and do a little daydreaming. I know what you're thinking, but it's something we all do once in a while. So, other than having to recheck piping tightness of the sink socket, I was on auto-pilot and daydreaming of the future, as well as thinking about the past. For instance, the subject older style rotary screw compressor had, in the past, caused concern regarding drive housing seal leakage. The seal is not the problem, but what's behind the seal is. I wonder if some people listen to what they are saying. I'm not sure they do. Because if they did, they wouldn't say half the things they do. Oh, they look deep into their own thoughts, like "What's wrong?" "How much will it cost?" "How long will it take?" "Why did it have to break down today?!" And, those thoughts can be pretty scary at times. Case in point: some time back, a customer spent a large sum having the subject older style rotary screw compressor rebuilt. After a year of operation, he was experiencing the same seal leakage problem. Twelve years ago I specifically retrofitted the drive housing in another compressor similiar to his, at a machine shop on the West Coast, and it is still in service with the retrofitted drive housing. How do I know? Because I service this rig with parts and service. The retrofit consisted of double thrust bearings and modification of the seal area. In the past, I have not always used original equipment parts, such as when they are not available on short notice, and aftermarket parts will suffice, as such was the case in this retrofit. The answer is simple enough. I strengthened the weak point of the drive housing so it would withstand wear. I guess there is a kind of proverbial logic that might imply weak points have to be made serviceable. How seriously are you supposed to search for a problem? How much time should you dedicate? How many minutes or hours do you spend looking? As long as it takes should be the correct answer. But, what do you do when the customer isn't willing to invest in diagnosis or repair? It's a matter of "mixed messages." "I have a leak and I want it fixed... until I find out how much it'll cost!" What kind of message is that? Business is tough enough - and there is a lot of competition looking for work. What is satisfaction? Satisfaction is the result of having your wants, needs and expectations met or exceeded at reasonable cost. If you don't know what those wants, needs and expectations are, satisfaction is impossible. What about problems we are able to isolate? What about them? This customer has had over 12 years of trouble-free compressor maintenance, and has been changing compressor oil & filters on scheduled basis. Yesterday I received a call from an individual with the same model older style rotary screw compressor having the same seal leakage problem. As he said to me "You gotta help me! I'm in a real jam here! I'm really worried! I have lots of wells to drill and I need this drill working!" I took down the information from him, then asked him "How long will it take you to pull the compressor off the rig and transport it to our repair shop so we could get involved?" Under the circumstances, we have to get a time scheduled with the machine shop that does our work and purchase special bearings and parts, so a satisfactory long-term repair could be made. After the customer agreed with our arrangements for repair of the compressor, he asked if we had any other type of compressor in stock, that he could purchase, that could be installed on this rig quickly (in the next couple of weeks), which we did, and he purchased it. This individual knew what he needed, and being satisfied that he was going in the right financial direction, to get the job done. He had people in his organization that could install this rebuilt compressor on the rig with no problem - as we agreed to answer any questions regarding the installation. We are professionals, and it's up to us to manage our interactions with customers carefully. Consequently, our communications must be crystal clear. Nothing less will do. There can be no room for misunderstanding, no room for miscommunications, no room for "mixed messages".