Updated: Sep 12, 2019
Harvesting The NTF Printer Parts Opportunity
NTF printer parts carry high direct and indirect costs, bloated parts inventory, excessive warranty claims, wasted callbacks and poor customer satisfaction. No wonder NTF is a closely watched printer service operation metric, and service organizations work hard to reduce the frequency of NTF parts.
Breaking out a printer fusers warranty rate of 2%, we historically find 30% of them are NTF. While printer circuit boards like the printer formatter and DC controller have a 60% NTF rate. I have witnessed and researched this pattern for close to 20 years at 2 of the top printer parts vendors in the USA. It is easy to see the value of improving this number for the supplier and the printer service provider.
When there is no clear printer troubleshooting conclusion to an intermittent problem, what often happens is that printer parts are simply replaced. For example, a enduser complains about intermittent “paper jams.” Because the printer technician cannot find a problem, he or she may feel that replacing the printer fuser or maintenance kit is the only service-friendly option.
The printer fuser is returned to the vendor, but with very little contextual data to help determine the problem (no diagnostics, no printer error codes, no print samples, and few, if any, mating parts).
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There are several factors responsible for producing NTF printer parts. Among the most common:
In the course of the repair activity, the technician replaced multiple parts. However only one was the actual root cause for the failure. This could be caused by suboptimal diagnostic methods and poor service information and training, but can also be encouraged or required, for example, when equipment uptime is more important than the cost of the repair (and of NTF parts.)
Growth in the complexity of laser printer subsystems.
Marginal design leads to “tolerance stacking” in which a component printer part will cause a failure in some systems in the field but not on the test bench. The printer technician made incorrect diagnosis and the system appears to operate correctly, but is likely to fail again. This problem is often made worse by a marginal design.
Media variations. There are over 100 different types of 80 brightness, 20 lb paper
Toner particulate inconsistency.
Pushing In The Wrong Direction Boiling it down to a single denominator can compound the problem. Knowing that management is concerned about the high rate of no fault found printer parts, but, at the same time, having high confidence in their troubleshooting skills, some technicians adopted a habit of making sure the parts they replaced "fail' at the repair facility. This way both the customer and service management got what they wanted. This issue is frequently reflected in the return of allegedly failed parts. These items often arrive damaged and/or incomplete. Accompanying descriptions of failure symptoms are rare or just bad information. The net effect, of course, is a default “no trouble found” situation. Faced with the absence of meaningful information with which to perform root cause analysis, we and other suppliers have little choice but to absorb unnecessary costs or enter into protracted and confrontational negotiations. Regardless of who wins that battle, warranty trend data is “polluted.” I can confirm that the above problem is Metrofuser's most serious warranty-related issue. Our position is that absent, untimely or incomplete data are concerns that more printer parts vendors must take seriously.
NTF levels also reflect an increased number of complex laser printer subsystems since, as the complexity of these subsystems increases, so does the difficulty of determining problems’ root causes.
The “noise” in the warranty process also contributes to NTF problems. Even though NTF often means different things to different organizations, there is little disagreement that more collaboration between suppliers and dealers is needed to reduce NTF levels.
Incremental Improvements We have integrated new forms of SBL scenario based learning into our printer repair training program to help develop the diagnostics skills for technicians.
Increasing the detailed narrative about incidents has shown incremental improvements along with new end-to-end approaches to diagnostics and forensic outcome reporting.
The more common and obvious methods employed by service organizations strive to improve the efficacy of troubleshooting through improved diagnostics tools, up-to-date service information, effective printer technician training and utilizing third party printer technical support.