Monday, October 15, 2007

An Unusual Service Engineer

I love the innards of machines. And given half a chance I'd love pry through to see the world hidden by painted sheets of cold rolled steel.

Yesterday we had a service-engineer over for checking our washing machine for unusual vibration and sounds. After removing the top panel, when Mukesh saw me taking a closer look at the dusty interiors, he volunteered to explain the components inside, "Those are the solenoid valves that control water flow; those are the water level monitors, the switch console; the concrete blocks on the side and top help keep that help keep the machine stable at high spins."

"The motor of a front-loading machine is powerful - 850W compared to the 400W (max) that goes into a top loading machine...they consume more power but are more efficient in terms of water consumption and cleaning capacity...a full cycle consumes 1KwH and costs about Rs.1O (Rs.3 electricity; Rs.7 for washing powder)".

This guy was unusual. It is not often that you get to see an SE who loves his job, so I asked him how he had got into this profession. He was an ITI pass out who who had fallen in love instrumentation engineering. He had been working an electrician earlier, repairing odd household appliances until one day he landed at the house of an IIT professor for repairing a ceiling fan. The old man was so pleased with his work that he went on to personally make some chaai for Mukesh and asked him to drop by whenever he needed help.

"Prof. Rajinder Singh Mahana is my Guru", says Mukesh, "whenever we get into a discussion, time just flies!". The knowledge and skill shows. He had identified design flaws in IFB machines, which, if rectified, could save the customers and its customers millions. While visiting a friend working with LG, he had suggested changes in a component that collected dirt and debris - another design flaw for which customers had to replace the part (Rs.1700 apiece) from time to time. The flaw was noted and duly corrected by an LG manager who took all the credit and didn't even bother to thank Mukesh.

This struck me as an instance of a certain type of mean-mindedness and deficiency of grace and generosity that is the mark of many an Indian manager.

Many manufacturing companies would give and arm and a leg to get people like Mukesh. Instead they just wither away under petty managers.

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