View Full Version : You did nothing - why such a big bill?

Ronnie Sullivan
March 20th, 2017, 04:53 AM
So, here's a 'good un' for ya

I like to post here with some of the problems I find out in the field...it's not all programming and happy customers.

Customer phones me - says a plc is faulty and keeps going off.
(I say customer, they have called me twice in 7 years and this is the second time)
I get there Friday afternoon and it is already dead. They tell me if they cycle power on/off several times it sometimes comes back on for a while.
I do what I can to the plc - re-seat all the I/O units, check connections, artificial respiration etc but no life.

They tell me 'the man' who normally comes in to do their programming is on holiday abroad - but has advised them that he needs me to get the program out as there is no back-up in existence.
Hours later it comes to life and I manage to get the program out - it then dies again but no worries, I have the program.

The PLC is a very old A series Mitsubishi. Long since obsolete but I tell them it can be converted to Mitsubishi's latest Q series.

They don't want to know when I tell them the price for this. They want to leave it to 'the man' to see what he can do.
I browse ebay and amazingly, find the exact model and show them it.(it is also only 10 miles away) and tell them if they want quick and dirty someone can pick it up.

NO, 'the man' will be back Monday, he'll sort it out.

'the man' lives at the other side of the country and due to being on holiday for two weeks is snowed under with a backlog of work.
He calls me - can I email him the program. He has a brand new A series plc in stock (he keeps stock of all the old ones he tells me - but not backups ???)

He tells them that he will put the program in the 'new' plc and express post it to them and I can swap it out (whoopee for me)

I am called again when it has arrived - to swap it over.
The plc is the exact one that was on ebay (it had a sticker on the CPU in the photo - that is still there)

I change it but now the screen (HMI) is showing all the wrong figures and the machine will not work properly. (apparently it used to have 10 recipes but now they only ever use 1 and this is not the right one.)

I can't get into the screen as I don't have the software for it and the screen appears to be disabled - no buttons work. (The HMI is a model I have never heard of)
They tell me 'the man' has disabled it to stop operators changing things but he can get into it. (He has now become un-contactable)
I have to leave without the machine running properly.

I phone them a few days later and they tell me everything is running fine now. On further probing 'the man' could still not get to site so he talked them through getting it back to recipe 1. (secret button that needs to be held in for 10 seconds - or something like.)

So the crux of the matter; They do not want to pay my full invoice as I have overcharged them and 'the man' really fixed it anyway.
I have charged them just one full day rate which they say I was not on site for 8 hours in total. They do not like the term 'day rate' and no one else charges them like that.
To them, I did little more than swap the plc and nothing more constructive.
The little mater of retrieving the program does not count.


What do you think?

March 20th, 2017, 05:09 AM
Whether or not I could collect on the invoice, I would 'un-customer' this 'customer.'

Peter Nachtwey
March 20th, 2017, 05:20 AM
We charge day rates because often the day is shot when going to the field.
We also charge travel time.

Basically you diagnosed the problem and that is the biggest part of fixing things.
You also found the solution to the hardware problem.
The rest of the delays were caused by incompetence on other people's part.
Not having backups is unforgivable.

We once solve an actuator not getting into position problem. Our guy flew across the country just to find a lot of saw dust behind a chipper head ( Saw mill equipment ). When the saw dust was cleared the actuator moved into position. The problem was fixed within 30 minutes. The customer didn't like being charge for a whole day and travel time for 30 minutes but that is the time our guy spent away from the office.
We were not going to eat it. This is what happens when the electricians aren't able to measure the current going to the servo valve to see if the controller output isn't 100%. If it is then something mechanical must be keeping the actuator from moving but you all know it is always the controller's fault first.

Chris Taylor
March 20th, 2017, 05:23 AM

You knew this was going to be trouble as soon as you got the call!
You're mistake was to email the software to the "man", having said that, I'd probably done the same as we all want to help out.

BTW, I only have a day rate, its good for one minute on site or 14 hours, its swings and roundabouts.

March 20th, 2017, 05:25 AM
Typical **** from somebody trying to run a plant on a shoestring and ripping off a one man operation in the process, i bet they turn over millions ?

Did you get them to sign a site visit report to state you had actually been on site ? If you did then send that in with the invoice again, if they don't pay it again just tell them you will small claims them.

What industry out of interest ? No problem if you don't want to say, i understand :whistle:

Ronnie Sullivan
March 20th, 2017, 05:59 AM
I realised I was relinquishing power when I emailed to program.
I thought about it but just did it.

I actually thought I was being decent in only charging them 1 day rate.

I was actually on site 3 separate days including Saturday morning
(thats when I got the program out - they phoned me to say it was alive again - get here quick)

I just billed them a standard invoice to put a quick end to it despite my feelings.

In reality, I was actually only a couple of miles away each time they called working (and getting paid) on another job.
It was a bit like - I was just nipping out to help them.

Niceness sometimes bites you in the backside eh.

March 20th, 2017, 07:11 AM
In reality, I was actually only a couple of miles away each time they called working (and getting paid) on another job.
It was a bit like - I was just nipping out to help them.

Not good for the party that WAS PAYING you.

March 20th, 2017, 07:42 AM
@!#$%^&*((&^$#@!!@#*&%&^%# customer

March 20th, 2017, 07:52 AM
For the same reasons posted here, I don't do service calls anymore for equipment unless I commissioned it.

March 20th, 2017, 09:21 AM
Not much to say other than I have been there myself and I feel your pain, just to bad you can remote in.... I think this is why/how virus started

March 20th, 2017, 09:40 AM
Wow! Can I please get 3 Ronnie Sullivan callouts, including an emergency callout on a weekend at short notice, for a typical day rate? Without a pre-negotiated service contract?

I think some people just have a deep seated need to haggle for things. I am reminded of the Monty Python - Life of Brian scene where he tries to purchase a gourd.

March 20th, 2017, 11:59 AM
Sadly, I'm working in a place just like what Ronnie described. Luckily not in the plants, but the "engineering" ""manager"" wants stuff like:

- Re-use instrument cable that has been left out in the sun (nearing 5 years now) in operation in southern Europe to avoid the expense of 15 meters of cable. Any discussion that the cable in the plant is a bit dry and straightening those bends will crack the isolation is met with disbelief.

- Get quotes for a heavy modification in an equipment from a vendor... when the quote comes in, he asks for the cheap modification of software without additional instruments and it has to be done remotely (which I suppose will be his way of dodging payment).

- Siemens offers a three day workshop with an expert in Spain for free and I'm not allowed because there is no certificate. Siemens UK offers training with certificate for their regular price and I'm also not allowed because it's expensive (in this case, it's a PCS7 training which is a requirement for their goal of being Siemens partners).

- Ethernet cables are run, through industrial environment at lengths very close to 100 meters... when I say that fiber optics or a different physical medium would be best, I'm laughed at because Fiber is very expensive... and obviously, asking other vendors to put a Profibus card on their S7-1200 is even more expensive.

Needless to say that I'm looking and hope to get out of here fast. If anyone in the UK wants to avoid this place, let me know.

March 20th, 2017, 12:34 PM

there was an engineer who had an exceptional gift for fixing all things mechanical. After serving his company loyally for over 30 years, he happily retired. Many years later the company contacted him regarding a seemingly impossible problem they were having with one of their multimillion dollar machines. They had tried everything and everyone else to get the machine to work but to no avail. In desperation, they called on the retired engineer who had solved so many of their problems in the past. The engineer reluctantly took the challenge. He spent a day studying the huge machine. At the end of the day, he marked a small "x" in chalk on a particular component of the machine and stated, "this is where your problem is." the part was replaced and the machine worked perfectly again. The company received a bill for $50,000 from the engineer for his service. They demanded an itemized accounting of his charges. The engineer responded briefly: "one chalk mark $1. Knowing where to put it $49,999" submissons by: Dundastephen

source: http://www.jokes4us.com/peoplejokes/engineersjokes/retiredengineerjoke.html

March 20th, 2017, 12:51 PM
Great one Mickey!!!

Steve Bailey
March 20th, 2017, 01:08 PM
A slight variation on Mickey's fable. And, since all fables have one, the moral.
At the end of the day, he marked a small "x" in chalk on the side of control panel and stated, "this is where your problem is." He then pulled a pencil from his pocket protector, tapped the "x", and the machine worked perfectly again. The company received a bill for $50,000 from the engineer for his service. They demanded an itemized accounting of his charges. The engineer responded briefly: "Hitting the spot, $1. Knowing where to hit $49,999"

Six months later, the machine had once again failed and the company called in the engineer. As he approached the machine his eyes grew wide. The "x" he had so carefully inscribed on the side of the control panel and so gently tapped with his pencil to get the machine working again was now in the center of a welter of dents, dings and other indignities laid upon the poor control cabinet by the increasingly frustrated operators and technicians.

March 20th, 2017, 01:32 PM
I thought of that joke the minute I started reading the OP, it's a classic for our industry.

It occurs to me that some of the actions / inactions of "the man" suggests that he was treated the same way at one point and has found a way to manipulate them into paying him.

I had a "customer" once who screwed me on the 10% retention of a project because I "missed the deadline", even though I missed it because he insisted on supplying the parts and bought a SLC500 off of FleaBay that didn't work, which I didn't know until I went to load the program. He insisted on dealing with getting a replacement too, again from the same crappy FleaBay seller, and by the time all the dust settled, I had 1 day left to commission the system. Couldn't make it happen, there were too many other bugs with I/O wiring and bad parts (all from FleaBay). So he shorted me $1K, saying that I should have done 100% testing of HIS incoming parts as they arrived... even though nothing of the sort was stipulated in the contract.

Fast forward 2 years, he calls me for another project; rush rush emergency shutdown on a similar machine. I quoted him $16k for this one and only if I supply the PLC; he balked, but I knew that he must have called everyone else in town before calling me and I was right, he said OK. I then insisted he put 10% cash up front for me to start. He balked again but he did and at the end of the project when I sent him the invoice, I showed the $1,000 retention of the previous project as a line item within the $16k bill, just so he knew I had not forgotten. I know we rarely get that chance for a do-over, but I couldn't pass it up. He never called me again, but I heard from other guys in town that nobody wanted to do any work for him and everyone over charged him.

What goes around comes around.

March 20th, 2017, 01:34 PM
Don't waste any energy harboring ill-will toward this client. We all know there are many of these frugal clients out there that don't understand value and worth. This isn't your ideal customer anyways. This isn't in anyway a customer you'd want a long term relationship with, so just move on. If you were to modify your invoice in a way to increase the probability you might actually get paid for this effort, perhaps ditch the day rate and revise it to show the actual hours worked, my 2cents (yankee here).

In any event, barring they change their perspective, just hope you don't hear from them for another 7 years.

March 20th, 2017, 04:54 PM
We have a rule here, get a PO before you walk out the door!

March 20th, 2017, 06:01 PM
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When they say "it only took you a few hours", the response should quite rightly be "it only took me a few hours and 20+ years experience. How much of that 20 years would you like me to charge you?"

March 20th, 2017, 10:39 PM
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Ha! That's the funniest thing I've read in some time! The man's a wizard with pie charts. :lolis:

I've added The Internet is a Playground (http://https://www.amazon.com/Internet-Playground-Irreverent-Correspondences-Online/dp/1585428817%3FSubscriptionId%3DAKIAILSHYYTFIVPWUY6Q %26tag%3Dduckduckgo-d-20%26linkCode%3Dxm2%26camp%3D2025%26creative%3D165 953%26creativeASIN%3D1585428817) to my reading list.

March 21st, 2017, 12:23 AM
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March 21st, 2017, 02:47 AM
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March 21st, 2017, 08:58 AM
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