Before they DO anything . . .


troubleshooters need a PLAN.

This requires . . .

CREATIVITY to find possibilities

ANALYSIS to determine the cause

These skills are developed in this program.

To acquaint you with the principles
of "Systematic Troubleshooting",
please take 5 minutes to view this video.

(Right click to download to RealPlayer)


Systematic Troubleshooting (STS) is for people in any type of work and at any level of skill or knowledge.

People learn by doing. A real machine, called the MIMIC (not a computer simulation), allows learners to work with their hands on equipment that isn't running properly. The Mimic requires no understanding of electricity or electronics. It’s used throughout the workshop and is included with all STS courses.

Mimic small

Students get to your class and find this little machine on their desks.

They can't wait to get their hands on it.

You tell them that when the machine is running right, the red, yellow and green lights are all on.

They try. Some are sucessful. Some not. They know they are guessing.

Seeds of doubt have been sown.

Using the Mimic, students learn early that guessing is not the best troubleshooting strategy and that understanding of the machines or processes with the problem is essential.

An early step in troubleshooting is producing a list of possible causes. This mental skill must be developed.

Using the Mimic as controller for various processes and determining possible causes for these problems provides a pattern for developing this critical skill on the job.

The sketches and tables introduced in this course provide a resource for obtaining this skill.


How does a MIMIC machine help in learning troubleshooting?

Learning materials included in the troubleshooting course

FAQ's (Frequently Asked Questions) about the troubleshooting course

Curriculum for
community colleges

Mechatronics for community colleges

Links to information about maintenance and troubleshooting

IDEAS! on training and troubleshooting

About the creators of these courses

Available packages and preview materials


STS involves activities that require working with machines and processes, making sketches, interpreting information, filling out tables and teamwork with a partner.

The first requirement for troubleshooting is the right kind of knowledge about the equipment or process. For this reason, Systematic Troubleshooting presents three types of sketches and four types of tables. Students make drawings, identify systems and controls and operate the machines in the required sequences. They enter data produced by the machine in the information tables.

These activities develop confidence in drawing the features of machines. They help to develop the complex mental skills needed for identifying possible causes of problems. They produce the understanding of equipment that is essential for analysis.

These sketches and tables are explained thoroughly in the course. Students get hands-on experience in using them with the Mimic and with a variety of machine and process examples.

sketch and table

Above are three types of sketches; Process, Physical Layout and Systems and four types of tables; Settings-Measurement, Systems, Input/Output Sequence and Process. These supply essential information for troubleshooting.


Finding causes of problems is learned by using a form called the Troubleshooting Action Guide or TSAG. It guides people through the thinking process an expert uses. The TSAG, with all its valuable information may be retained as a resource.


The Troubleshooting Action Guide leads students through the process of finding and ranking possible causes in order of probabilty.

It works by first focusing the brain’s attention on the problem. Then it guides the troubleshooter in listing facts and possible causes.

The next step, which is critical, is analyzing the effect that each fact has on each possible cause. A plus, minus, X or zero is written in a box at the intersection of each fact and possible cause. This indicates the result of the analysis of each fact-cause relationship. Totals for each possible cause are brought down. The highest totals show the most likely causes. If further investigation is needed, the TSAG provides a section that stresses consideration of parts, labor and downtime costs. Boxes for entering the planned fix, test of repair and root cause are also included in the TSAG.

People won't need the TSAG on every problem, because the process becomes part of the way they think. They find themselves going through the mental steps it teaches.

The form can also be used by the supervisor as a checkpoint to verify thinking before action is taken that's expensive or that may create extended down time.

The main example in the course is a process called an enrober that coats candy bars with chocolate. The MIMIC represents the control systems of this process. Students label these systems on the Mimic drawing to create a Process Sketch.


A machine unknown to most students,
an enrober that coats candy bars with chocolate,
is used as a troubleshooting example.

The last activity in the course is a team project in which one person is “observer” and the other is the “troubleshooter”.

To prepare for the observer role, students complete the sketches and tables needed for full understanding of the equipment. Next, they set up a problem on the MIMIC and complete a TSAG analysis to find the cause of the problem. Then they set up problems for their partners and critique them as they troubleshoot.

Using switches on the mimic, students introduce problems in the machine and find causes using mental analysis. Then they verify their findings using test points on their Mimic. They must also consider factors affecting the making of chocolate and the coating process.

People learn most in the observer role. That's when the leader will hear the observer explaining to the troubleshooter the principles you have been teaching during the course. This activity is where everything in the course comes together . . . the epiphany. The leader can see that the students realize the value of Systematic Troubleshooting.


There are three options that an instructor can use in presenting this program: Instructor on a Disk (IOD), Trainer’s Development, and STS Bootstrap.

INSTRUCTOR ON A DISK - video and hands-on activities
This format combines the best features of many teaching techniques to produce a highly effective experience that is easy and enjoyable for both the leader and learner. Course content is delivered on video using film, photos, artwork and text to improve attention and learning. The format makes it easy to present the course to small groups of two to four at field locations as well as for larger on-site classes. The video includes 62 pause points to provide for student discussions, questions and activities. Positive reinforcement is given for student answers. This stimulates participation. The Leader’s Guide explains what to do or say at each pause. It also includes a full script of the video and the running time of each segment to enable the leader to anticipate each pause. There is a box in the leader’s guide at each pause point with instructions for the student activity or questions for the leader to ask

TRAINER’S DEVELOPMENT - conventional, instructor-led classic classes
This format is the for training presenter who likes a detailed outline format with optional Powerpoint and also wants flexibility in designing and presenting the course. He or she uses the self-instruction Text-Workbook to learn course content. An appendix includes information on how to prepare for your class and set up the Mimic. There are optional activities for explaining how the TSAG works, for playing the odds in crapshooting and for making systems sketches. Handouts for the concluding team activity, answers for all activities and a section of how to explain the TSAG using a lawnmower that won’t start are provided in the appendix. The Trainer’s Toolbox includes 15 cases in manufacturing, field service, and HVAC, a Training Planner on how-to develop technical training on your equipment, a root cause analysis guide, an STS performance test and descriptions of the available application activities.

This format provides a copy of the self-instruction Text-Workbook that enables the course leader to learn the program content on his or her own.

BOOTSTRAP - self-instruction (one person or teams of two) with optional group meetings.
This program includes all the methods and activities in the classroom learning programs. Individuals work on their own; or teams of two work together. It is the only format in which data can be entered in tables and sketches using a computer. Its great for road warriors. Pencil and paper can also be used. The Leader's Guide faciltates meetings in which coursework can be discussed and reviewed. Several types of tests are available to evaluate the performance of graduates.


When they complete this program, your people will be able to produce relevant documentation on the equipment they maintain and will have experience working in teams to solve problems using the Troubleshooting Action Guide.

What happens after that is up to you, their supervisor.

Link to course users

(c) Copyright 2016

phone: 847 729 4550

E Mail: