Motherboard failures

Ever have a PC die after a couple weeks or just after the warranty expires? Or perhaps the PC never powered up! Or maybe you have features like USB, a display or camera on the PC that don’t work.  So you attempt to return it to the store where you purchased it only to find that it has to go back to the manufacturer. Ever wonder where those motherboards or laptop returns go? Or do you wonder how or why the faulty product ever shipped in the first place? 

I’ll first address the question of repair and then quality. The boards that fail are most likely sent to a contract repair center, where they work on HP, Dell, Lenovo, Apple and other brands all side by side. These repair centers often use tools provided by the OEM for fault isolation. When those tools can’t work or don’t find the problem, technicians use a shotgun approach, applying  their experience to replace the devices that have commonly failed in the past and hoping that this fixes the fault. The technician’s job is all about time. Repair centers make more money when they isolate and repair faults in the shortest time possible. There are tools on the market beyond those provided by the OEM that provide guided fault isolation. (See ScanWorks PCT Diagnostic and Repair software.) These tools provide more accurate diagnostics than the shotgun method and sometimes are an alternative to OEM tools when those tools can’t run. By using tools that guide the technician to the fault, time-to-repair is reduced. Thus, more money is banked.

Now,  why do these faulty products get shipped in the first place? OEMs do their best to see that the contract manufacturer provides them with working products. The question becomes what is a working product in the eyes of the contract manufacturer. Some manufacturers, I’m convinced, have the test methodology “if it boots to Windows, it ships.” OEMs do have failure analysis labs to look at failing products and make recommendations to the contact manufacturer for process improvements. So why do the problems reach stores?

Contract manufactures make money on the volume shipped. The fundamental element is the time it takes to manufacture, test and ship. Testing takes time and if the tools used for test do not isolate the fault quickly, the board ends up in a bone pile and slated for rework. These reworked boards need tools that again assist with time management by providing guided fault isolation. Diagnostics that guide the technician visually to the suspected faulty device are key in rapid repair and making the repairs profitable beyond just the mere salvage of the PCB and its components. It’s clear that tools that offer a visual means of fault isolation or guided fault isolation  are a great benefit to the contract manufacturer, the OEM and finally to us as consumers.

Larry Osborn