Several years ago, Zack found himself at the dining room table, hunched over his laptop searching through stacks of plan drawings, data logs, and application program files. He had been at it for hours now, but he could still not figure it out. Managers and operations kept calling him to get an answer from him about what was not working, but he just couldn't find the root cause. Every time he thought he had a lead, he would follow the path of that one bit all throughout the logs, only to find out an hour later that it wasn’t the cause of his problem.
Why was he at home rummaging through piles of data to figure out what was wrong with the signal system, while his family was out having fun? Why could he, with all his education and experience, not figure something out that should be so easy? Then it dawned on him that it wasn’t his fault or, but a failing of modern technology. You see, it used to be easy to see if a relay was up or down, just by looking at it. One person could look at the plans, while another would yell out the status of the relays to verify them with the plan. It used to be that clear and simple, but not anymore. All the data is now hidden within the microprocessor of the signal controllers. So not only do you need to be somewhat handy with computers to get that data out of the signal controllers, you then also need to verify it with the plans, the program and the I/O. No wonder he was getting overwhelmed when trying to keep all the data from the different sources straight! It had nothing to do with a lack of knowledge or experience, but everything to do with the fact that the data was hidden and spread out over multiple sources. At that moment he realized that even though the way signals are controlled has been modernized, in all those years nobody had modernized the process to troubleshoot those new controllers!
After this big epiphany, Zack decided he had to do something to not only solve his own problems, but that of many others like him as well. The only problem was, he had no idea how to go about it. So he tried it the only way he knew how, which was to make an Excel Macro, so he set out to do just that! Knowing that the Excel Macro would automate many of his troubleshooting tasks, he thought this would be his solution. When he finished it, he was very excited to get his next trouble call. This was the first time in his career, he was actually looking forward to figuring out what had gone wrong! So, you can believe how disappointed he was when it turned out that his Excel Macro was helping him somewhat, but not nearly to the extent he was hoping for. Yes, it did simplify some things, but he knew it should do so much more to actually make troubleshooting effortless. What he truly needed was something that combined all his data into one place, so he could easily see what was going on at any given time. Something, that would navigate him through the troubleshooting process, just like a Google Maps guiding us to our next destination. That’s when he came up with the idea for Signal Scout! This time he knew he had to go all-in to come up with the perfect solution that would be helpful for everyone, from that new hire all the way up to the Signal Director. Because, let’s be honest, even with many years of experience it can still be very difficult to troubleshoot correctly the first time around.
Once again, he found himself staying home when his family went out to have fun, but all those evening and weekend hours put into programming were worth it this time. When he used Signal Scout the first time to troubleshoot, he was amazed at how simple the process can actually be. There he was, in the signal house, downloading the data he needed and within 5 minutes, he knew exactly what was going wrong! What he didn’t realize at that moment, was that he wouldn’t do his troubleshooting in the signal house anymore in the future. Because why would you go out in the field, if you can troubleshoot from the comfort of your own house? Just take a few minutes using Signal Scout to figure out the root cause and give the maintainers a call to let them know what is wrong, so they know what to bring from the warehouse.
Overwhelmed by excitement about this first version of Signal Scout, he started to share it with his coworkers. Not only were they amazed, but they started to ask for more and different features to make it even better.
Over the last 5 years the companies that were early adopters have given some amazing feedback and ideas, which has only helped to increase the value that Signal Scout brings today. As a new hire, you can be trained on relay logic with Training Mode, so that everything you learn is specific to your property and not some generic class. When this new hire goes out on his own to troubleshoot for the first time, he can use the same software that he was trained on to figure out what is going wrong. And his boss? He is using Signal Scout remotely, logging in to the signal controller to help troubleshoot and give directions on the fly. And because Zack started this whole idea when he was a Systems Integration Manager, he has certainly not forgotten about the cutover crew. Especially for them there is LiveView, so they can see what is happening LIVE, to help them see quickly what is going on and stay within their cutover window. And don’t worry about that new hire if the cutover crew is putting in new signal controllers. All the different signal controller data looks exactly the same when using Signal Scout, so no need for another class to learn yet another different type of equipment.
Signal Scout, as you know it today, is the combination of Zack’s many years of experience as a signal troubleshooter combined with the feedback from our all of our users.
If you would like to know what it is like to have access to all that knowledge when you are troubleshooting, just send me an email and I would be happy to send you a free trial key.
P.S.: Remember that Excel Makro I was talking about? It’s not nearly as amazing as Signal Scout, but if you are interested, I am happy to share it with you for free.