The developer Ronald Meyer explains how we advise our customers on the available options and the best way to proceed.
You are in contact with clients every day. What are the issues that they ask you about?
Customer enquiries vary enormously. Some people know exactly what they need, and others have already tried many different approaches to finding a solution. And then after searching for some time, they start asking whether acoustic methods might do the job.
How do you proceed in cases like that?
The first thing is to get an overall impression of the situation, so that we can start to understand the problem. An initial discussion, which is generally by phone, often enables us to identify important parameters and collect information. We ask about the planned throughput of pieces to be tested, for instance, about the characteristics of the material, product tolerances, range of variants or acceptable defect rates. From all this information we can then get a rough idea of what the solution could look like. A standard solution is often no use to customers who have already tried lots of different things. At the beginning, many of them do not really know what the key criteria are for us to deliver an acoustic testing solution quickly and efficiently. But we are prepared for that and we sort it out.
How do you work towards a solution?
I’ll give you an example: often we decide in the course of the first conversation that we will get a better understanding of the feasibility by carrying out a test series or a preliminary investigation beforehand. Customers often then send us a number of samples, and we analyse under laboratory conditions how we can best tackle the problem and what we are likely to need for it. These kinds of feasibility studies are part of our standard repertoire. Building on those results, we can quickly give our customers feedback about the chances of success.
All that takes place in the laboratory. How is the sensor later adapted to real-life conditions?
In some cases there is no alternative to testing at the customer’s own premises. Intensive testing is a vital part of the process when a sensor is being set up for a specific task. At industrial workplaces the ambient noise levels are often impressive, for instance, and so of course we have to filter out any noises that would distort the results. Then we reach the limit of what our laboratory conditions can simulate, so we pack our things and relocate to the customer! Initially that can sometimes mean a bit more work for the customer too, but ultimately it gets us to our target faster and at lower cost.
So the testing is then complete. What else is needed for it to work smoothly?
We help our customers to put the solution into operation and run training courses on how to handle the software and the product, to prepare the employees who will be working with the solution on a daily basis. That is vital for ensuring that it stays operational on an ongoing basis. And if there are ever any operational hitches, we are also available to carry out repairs or maintenance work.
What are the important things for you when you are working with the customer?
The whole process of finding the solution is always very individual. We talk in detail about what makes sense and the order in which we are going to tackle the problem. Our aim is to be a reliable and transparent partner, no matter whether the job is some quick remote maintenance on one of our sensors in the field or a larger project to develop a customer or application-specific solution.
What happens if you can’t find a solution?
Well, even if we are not happy about it, it does sometimes happen that we find out in the first discussion that we will not able to solve the problem. Then all you can say is, “if you fail, fail early”, and we tell our customers that right from the outset. In this context the personal contact is very valuable – for both parties.