This month preeminent diagnostician and magazine regular James Dillon has written an article in which he sets out a strategy for making diagnostics pay (pages 42-43). For the more dramatically-minded amongst you, this sentence could be construed in a rather sinister fashion. However, let me reassure you that this is no tale of revenge; James is not the Count of Monte Cristo and he has no desire to ‘make diagnostics pay’ in any other way than by helping you to increase profits through a more efficient diagnostic approach.
Having said this, alluding to fiction’s most famous count is not as nonsequitous as it may at first seem. Just as Edmund Dantès was stripped of all that he held dear and unceremoniously sentenced to a life in prison, a diagnostic technician can feel equally as imprisoned when chained for needless hours to an intractable fault code: abraded of dignity and resoundingly perplexed as to how to remedy the situation.
In our analogy James Dillon assumes the role of the Abbé Faria, Dantès’ fellow prisoner and the man who provides hope when all appears as hopeless as a Diane Abbott 'masterclass' in conducting the perfect media interview. Just as the avuncular Abbé guides Dantès out of the Chateau D’If and straight to a whopping pile of treasure, follow the advice outlined by James and, instead of innumerable lost labour hours, you could find hitherto unknown streams of revenue.
The Count’s revenge was planned over many painstaking years, yet its enactment was swift and efficient. And this is exactly how the diagnostic process should work. The secret to successful diagnostics is inherent in the word – one must ‘diagnose’ the problem. James has frequently talked about what could be termed ‘diagnostic laziness’: the reliance on the machine not the procedure.
Experience leads me to assert that this affliction is endemic. Recently I was forced to visit multiple establishments – both franchised and independent – to get a diagnosis on an illuminated airbag warning light. Despite this, not one comprehensive diagnosis has been provided and I will probably have to scrap my car before its next MOT as the light continues to shine – a constant reminder of modern technology’s ephemerality. The only semblance of a solution offered has been to replace the instrument cluster at a cost that would actually exceed the value of my car – and still not provide an absolute guarantee of a fix! Using a second-hand instrument cluster is a possibility, but the chances of finding someone with the equipment to programme it other than the main dealer (who will only fit a new one, thus extracting maximum profit), appear rare.
This unfortunate situation will not be an isolated event. Increasingly a lack of training, the monstrous costs of diagnostic equipment, and the computerised essence of contemporary vehicles are combining to create a perfect storm for vehicle repairers. The result – a bonfire of perfectly functional cars condemned to premature obsolescence.
To return to my analogy – although it flags like an over-whipped nag approaching the final furlong – like Dantès’ destiny, that of technicians’ is being altered by uncontrollable factors. The difference is that whilst Dantès’ world was upended without warning (light), the troubled future of vehicle repairers could have been predicted by a sozzled fairground fortune teller. So, set upon diagnostics as the Count set upon his mission for revenge – and start by reading 'Abbé' Dillon’s excellent article. It isn’t a silver bullet, but it is a sliver of optimism in the most challenging of times.