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Welcome to my blog for all things related to business quality (processes, systems and ways of working), products and product quality, manufacturing and operations management.

This blog is a mixture of real-world experience, ideas, comments and observations that I hope you'll find interesting.

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January 2012
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Eddie Mair rattles my speakers

Intermittent problems are a real pain. They never show themselves when you are in a position to do anything about it.

I have been disappointed by the Bose sound system in my Mazda; it under-uses its sub-woofer, fails to automatically adjust to changes in ambient noise (one of its key selling points) and, for several months, has produced an intermittent rattle from the right hand side front speaker.

However annoying the rattle, and however pervasive on long journeys, every time I took it to the garage to be fixed… nothing. Whatever I did to prove its existence led only to ‘here he goes again’ looks from the polite but bemused garage staff. “It does rattle, honest, and it’s really annoying”. “Well, Mr Gaskell, when it does it again, you be sure to bring the car back to us…”

I have just completed a quest to get the rattle to appear.

Volume and tone settings have little effect; if it’s going to rattle, it’s going to rattle, if it’s not, it’s not.

Speech seems to be the culprit, but only a few male voices cause it: Radio 4 mid-morning at the garage had no chance. Melvyn Bragg and his guests – nothing. Ladies’ voices – no effect. Local radio – only the occasional voice, nothing consistent. I even tried Richard Burton (via Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds); no effect.

But now, courtesy of BBC Radio 4’s PM programme, I have the answer.

The most consistent speaker-rattler in British Radio is… Eddie Mair. All I had to do was stick a Radio 4 ‘PM’ podcast on my iPod and I now have all the proof I need – anything that man says makes my off-side front door speaker try to turn itself inside-out. He has a pleasant voice and there’s nothing about it that makes him stand out as a speaker-rattler, but speaker-rattler he certainly is!

So thank you, Mr Mair, for making proper diagnosis and repair possible. I’m not sure it’s a second career with as much potential as your day job, but it has helped me enormously.

And that goes to show the best route to fixing an intermittent problem – find a way of making the problem happen all the time (or at will), or you can waste a lot of time chasing ghosts.

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