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Don’t forget a key member of your audience

Sorry for the delayed post.  This theme has been in my head for two weeks, but work and life have been busy between the Thanksgiving holidays and ensuing shopping season.

I got a call from my wife one day that our washing machine would no longer start.  It would fill with water, but not start the agitation cycle.  I knew it was a safe bet that the lid switch was having trouble.  When I got home, I gave the washer a “Fonzie” hit and it started right up.  This worked for about a week before the switch failed completely.

I ordered the replacement part.  Using nothing more than a screwdriver, I opened the control panel, removed the bad lid switch, and installed the new one.  Five minutes of work and the washer was good as new.

I will admit I was a bit surprised the switch was so easy to access, but not completely shocked.  This washer is 20 years old this month.  I know that the siphon nozzle lasts 9 1/2 years before it is worn out and water will puddle on the floor.  I know this because I have replaced that part twice.  It is also inexpensive and only requires a screwdriver to replace.  Kudos Maytag!

My truck is 8 years old now and has almost 200,000 miles.  It is a great truck and we have many more miles to look forward to.  Of course, with age comes some typical part failures, most notably, the lights on the instrument cluster.  When the second light went out, I decided it was time to act.  “I’ve replaced cluster lights in my life, no problem,” I thought.  I pull out the cluster only to discover the incandescent light bulbs are soldered to the circuit board.  The only replacement option is a new cluster for $400.  Thumbs down GM!  There is a tiny niche industry for replacing the bulbs with LEDs, but even that is almost $150.

As engineers, software or otherwise, we have to know our client and know that there is always more than one.   End-user, business owner, and paying clients are all very important.  However, don’t forget the maintenance guy down the line.  Make sure your system is well organized and accessible.  This will pay dividends later.

My youngest daughter, a high school junior, plans to pursue a mechanical engineering degree, so I called her in to observe the excellent design of the lid switch and to always remember the maintenance man as she designs products in the future.

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