As Benchmark increasingly tests and assesses systems which are software-based, we find that more and more time is spent often trying to access supplied (or sometimes not supplied) drivers or utilities. Without these, a product will not operate as specified, so to our way of thinking they form a part of the sales contract, as without them the item being purchased isn’t really functional as advertised. It’s time for manufacturers to step up to the mark!
I spent a recent rainy afternoon in the company of an integrator. During one conversation whilst waiting for the weather to clear, he told me about a rather interesting contract that he had coming up. As we were chatting he mentioned that he was pleased to have got a few ‘niggles’ out of the way early on, before laughing and making a gesture of exasperation.
I was interested in what these ‘niggles’ were, and it transpired that a number of the specified products – all from one manufacturer – had issues with regard to the supplied drivers. This wasn’t a serious problem, but there had followed a debate as to who should put in the time and effort to correct things. The integrator felt that as he was purchasing the products, he had a right to be supplied them in a functional and operational state. The manufacturer felt that because upgrades had been made publicly available, it had done what it could, and the integrator was being unreasonable by not downloading and installing the new drivers to eliminate the problem.
Now, the truth is that the task of upgrading the products wasn’t difficult, but it was going to kill a couple of hours with what was a pretty dull task. However, the reality is that the drivers were necessary to make the products work as advertised. As such, the products could be viewed as ‘not fit for purpose’ without the upgrades.
Probably the most jaw-dropping fact was that at the time of this debate, the integrator hadn’t placed the order via the distributor. He just wanted to make sure that when he did, the products received would be fully operational and ready to use.
It is quite worrying that some manufacturers – and Benchmark has come across this too – actually believe that by making current and functional drivers available, they are actually fulfilling their obligations to their customers: the installers and integrators. Often this can be made more frustrating for the customers because they’re buying through distribution, who don’t have any greater access to drivers, documentation and other utilities than the engineer does!
It would be fair to say that the vast majority of down-time we experience during testing is due to incorrect utilities or documentation, or missing items which then have to be sourced. On a few occasions when we’ve had to approach manufacturers (albeit as installers rather than as the magazine), a few have responded in a manner which insinuates they feel we haven’t tried hard enough to solve the problem for them!
Whilst most manufacturers do take these issues seriously, it is still a common problem. We know that, because we’re experiencing the same results as many installers and integrators.
Often when we raise this, manufacturers say they don’t get that feedback. If we ask whether they get many returns which they view as ‘no fault found’, they’ll admit they do. Of course, when we point out that if their test benches have the right drivers loaded they’ll see no faults, which doesn’t reflect the experience when doing a clean install, the penny finally drops!