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Lightning-Fast Circuit Board Repair

Learn how Circuit Board Medics are getting fleets back on the road faster after circuit board-caused breakdowns.

Episode 250: With the constant advancement of trucks and electrification, circuit boards play a bigger and bigger role every year in the performance and uptime of a truck. Having a circuit board fail can be devastating to a fleet, especially if there is a shortage of replacement parts. However, Circuit Board Medics are the solution that can get fleets back on the road lightning fast.

My guest today is Ed Edwards the President of Circuit Board Medics.  

Ed Edwards is the President of Circuit Board Medics.  In this episode, learn how Circuit Board Medics are getting fleets back on the road faster after circuit board caused breakdowns.

Ed is passionate about building teams that believe in remanufacturing parts to quality standards that are better than new. He has cultivated a problem-solving environment at Circuit Board Medics where team members believe that “everything is figureoutable.”

Guest Website: CircuitBoardMedics.com

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Transcript of Episode:

Jamie Irvine:

You are listening to The Heavy Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine, and this is the show where you get expert advice about heavy-duty parts that keeps trucks and trailers on the road longer while lowering costs per mile.

If you’ve been in the trucking industry for any length of time, you have seen a tremendous amount of change in the commercial equipment that we use every day. I think back to when I first started in the industry and everything was mechanical and pneumatics, and now it is a very different world. With new technology brings better performance sometimes, but it also can bring additional challenges and sometimes we just need to get hooked up with the right person to be able to solve a problem and to be able to get the most out of the parts that we’re buying.

So today we’re going to talk about circuit boards and we’re going to talk about their role in commercial trucking. In order to have that conversation, I’ve invited Ed Edwards, the President of Circuit Board Medics on the podcast. Now, Ed is passionate about building teams. He really is passionate about remanufacturing parts to quality and to making them better than new. So we want to meet or exceed that OEM specification. To me, that’s the hallmark of a true remanufacturer, not just someone out there trying to rebuild stuff.

And Ed has cultivated a problem solving environment at Circuit Board Medics where team members believe that everything is figure-outable. No, that probably sounds funny. Coming from a Canadian, welcome to The Heavy Duty Parts Report. So glad to have you here.

Ed Edwards:

Yeah, it’s good to be here, Jamie. And I’m not sure if you can even see that small sign behind my desk, but that’s what our team, I say that so often, everything is figure-outable. That’s one of the gifts that our team got for me and put it on the desk behind me. It’s just a phrase we’ve coined around here, but it’s good to be here.

Jamie Irvine:

It says a lot about your perspective on things and that you’re really focused on solutions and solving problems. So let’s talk a little bit about the trends that we’re seeing. How have supply chain shortages that’s been top of mind of everybody for a couple years now? So how have supply chain shortages of electronic components impacted the trucking industry?

Ed Edwards:

And everyone’s tired of hearing the phrase supply chain, especially supply chain shortage. The supply chain shortage has from our unique perspective, has really opened the door to a lot of the ESG. The environmental sustainability and governance policies that we’re starting to see is pushing us in a world that has typically been anti-remanufacturing starting to push a lot of people towards embracing remanufacturing. Cause quite frankly, in the last year or two, there are a lot of products, especially in the electronics world that are only available through remanufacturing.

We’ve had customers over the last decade that have been very anti-reman because everyone’s got a story around how they’ve been burned by remanufactured product in every industry. There are good guys, there are bad guys. In the remanufacturing world, it feels like there’s a lot more bad guys than good guys. And what we’re seeing is that in the trucking industry, that supply chain shortage has really, really put a cramp on things like the CPCs for Freightliner, like the MX 13 ECMs. Things that anyone in the heavy-duty trucking industry would roll their eyes or shake their head at. They know how difficult these items are to find.

Jamie Irvine:

Ed, you might not know this, but I started my career in remanufacturing the first 10 years and we were remanufacturing pneumatics and hair over hydraulic components and things of that nature. But you’re right, even 25 years ago, there were people who loved reman and there was a lot of people that just said, no, I don’t want that rebuilt crap.

But the reality is that there’s such a big difference between someone who’s cleaning up a part and reselling it and someone who’s actually going through a remanufacturing process. In fact, one of the benefits if you are a true blue remanufacturer is you get to see what happens with the OEM products and where they fail. So speaking of that, why are there high failure rates with OEM circuit boards? Like what’s going on there?

Ed Edwards:

We live in a very fast evolving, fast-paced world that’s embracing technology at the speed of light. And I applaud the OEs for adopting technology. And there’s so much safety built in the new vehicles these days that did not exist a decade ago. But to be on the cutting edge of technology, you’re going to have to take risk. You’re going to have to try things that can’t be proven.

If you spend too much time in a test bed environment proving things out, then they’re obsolete by the time you release ’em the market. So the benefit we have, you just nailed it, Jamie, is that we get to see the product after it has hundreds of thousands of miles on it. We get to see what actually didn’t go as planned. Something that worked great on paper, but in the real world there were factors that were variables that just could not be considered, could not be forecasted, could not be predicted.

And the effect and toll that takes, especially on the electronics. So we get to collect that data, we get to see all the failures and then truly make that better than new. It’s not that I’m saying that we have bigger resources than an OE and that we can create it better than new. We just have the benefit of having all that extra information. We have the benefit of it coming in and us seeing what the failure mode was so that we can then take the weakest link of the chain, make it stronger, take the entire chain, make the entire chain stronger.

Jamie Irvine:

And just figure it out. When it comes to what you just said about the OEs and how there’s a lot of pressure on them, I don’t think people realize that a lot of these government mandates, a lot of the regulations, especially in commercial, it’s so heavily regulated. They come down and just say to the truck manufacturers, you have to meet this spec and the truck manufacturers are left to figure it out.

So there is room there for error, there’s room for, and like you said, it’s also about that kind of cost benefit analysis. It’s like how far do we go and if we can get it to work, is that going to be good enough? And I don’t see them purposely trying to build in obsolescence or premature failure, that doesn’t make for happy customers who want to drive their badge.

So they’re very focused on trying to make it work. But reality is reality. So when it comes time for you to take a look at a circuit board and say, okay, it’s time to remanufacture this and to what we’ve already discussed, you’ve had the benefit of being able to look at all of those failures and say, okay, where’s the weakest link? What challenges do you run into when trying to remanufacture a circuit board?

Ed Edwards:

Oh, the challenges that we have is biggest challenges that we don’t have the original schematics, we don’t have the original data, we don’t have a lot of the design information around the circuit board. So I hate the term reverse engineering cause it kind of has a connotation of a Chinese knockoff product of something. But that is truly what we have to do is go in and reverse engineer the circuit board to figure out why is it doing what it’s doing, how’s it doing what it’s doing?

Just mapping that control board out and understanding more about it so that we can find the failures and can predict even future failures. When we remanufacture something, we’re not only looking at the failure that disabled the circuit board currently we’re trying to get a broader understanding and predict what’s going to cause us to fail in the next three or five or 10 years and what can we upgrade while we’re in there rebuilding it.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I know when I was working in remanufacturing, we also ran into the issue of certain things were proprietary to manufacturers and we had to come up with new designs that were different enough to get around that. When you were remanufacturing, do you run into anything in that nature?

Ed Edwards:

For what we typically remanufacture, we’re not changing anything that’s proprietary about the circuit board. There are a lot of proprietary parts on the circuit board. There’s proprietary means of it performing certain functions that just make it a little bit harder to figure out. That kind of gets back to the everything is figure-outable phrase that we started with. But what we also see in the automotive world, now we service other industries outside of automotive.

But one unique thing about the automotive industry is there is a lot of collaboration. There is a lot of focus on the customer. We’ve had OEs come to us and just kind of open up their design books to say, Hey, we have these problems. We do want your help. We want your unique perspective and point of view on this. So there is a lot more collaboration from that standpoint.

But for the most part as far as dealing with anything proprietary it’s harder to figure out. And that usually puts us in a position where it surfaces in a test environment. It’s harder to build a test environment for things. We have can bus networks on vehicles these days that require many different modules to communicate with each other in order for the module to function properly. There’s a lot of anti-theft built into modules where they have to have communication with other modules. All those things to build a test environment that does fully test that module that we’re working on, it definitely creates challenges.

Jamie Irvine:

Well that makes a lot of sense. I’m looking forward to learning more. And we’re going to take a quick break and when we get back, we’re going to talk a little bit more about what Circuit Board Medics is doing for the trucking industry. We’ll be right back.

Commercial Break:

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Jamie Irvine:

We’re back from our break and before the break, Ed, you’re doing a great job of giving us an overview of where we’re at with circuit boards in the commercial trucking industry. Let’s talk a little more specifically about your service. So when I was remanufacturing, we were able to build up a large core bank and we were able to remanufacture products ahead of time, put them on the shelf and then ship stock orders to our distributors. And then they sold them. Once they sold them, they got the core back, they send it to us and the process repeated all over again. What’s it like remanufacturing circuit boards? Is it that environment or is it something different?

Ed Edwards:

Yeah, we have a mixed environment. So we consider those two different value streams. From a lean manufacturing point of view, we have a repair and return value stream where you send us the product, we remanufacture it, send it back to you. And then we also have the exchange or remanufactured value stream as well where we have exactly what you just described, the product on the shelf, we ship it and it’s we get the core in return.

There are challenges with both. If we had a perfect world, we would choose to do the fully upfront remanufactured exchange option for everything that obviously serves the customer the best. The products that we have in our finished goods inventory that are ready to ship, all orders placed by 3:00 PM Eastern Standard time shipped same day. So that is definitely honoring the customer’s best interest. There are situations though that involve programming.

One of our goals is that when a customer gets a product from us, they don’t have to deal with programming. A lot of customers, a lot of end users do not have the means to program the device and the world of instrument clusters. Even some of those have to be ordered from the OE pre-program because of mileage programming, engine hours, those type features on the cluster. So if there are some programming restrictions that keep us from doing that on the bench, that’s usually when we offer repair and return service. Or even going back to the mix model. A new product for us is typically always a repair and return.

In the case of the CPC modules, finding those was next to impossible, finding core for those. So we offered a repair service and we slowly along the way, we’re able to purchase until we could have enough core to offer the exchange service. So we actually have a mixed model for those. There are a lot of aftermarket programs with CPCs, and I’m just using the CPC as an example, but there are a lot of aftermarket programs that the driver wants to maintain and not lose. He would lose it with an exchange module. He’d get stock programming. So they’re sending those in for repair so we can serve their needs best.

Jamie Irvine:

It’s funny, I haven’t heard the expression repair and return for many years. I used to be in charge of the repair and return department at the remanufacturing plant that I worked at. So I’m very familiar with that process. People want their stuff back and they want it back ready to go. So describe for me who your ideal customer is, because I mean, depending on how old the vehicle is, depending on whether it’s a fleet or a repair shop, there’s got to be kind of a sweet spot for who you’re looking to do business with.

Ed Edwards:

Sure. And we are very unique from the standpoint that we service just about everyone in the supply chain. So we have do it yourselfers that go to Circuit Board Medics.com and place an order for just one product and we serve them with one repair and that is it. They’ll never need us again. We have all the way from there to bulk remanufacturers like turbo remanufacturer that are sending the actuator to B G T actuators to us, to remanufacture as they remanufacture the turbo all the way to the does.

We do have some work that we remanufacture for the OEs as well. So when you talk about an ideal customer, really it’s not a persona of where they are in the supply chain. Obviously every different area of the supply chain has different target margins and things like that. That’s not really what I think of when I think of ideal customers.

For me, an ideal customer is someone that is going to partner with us and just share information openly. A great example of that is we partnered with a trucking fleet. When the CPCs were brought to our attention, which was last year around this time at HDAW in Dallas that’s when the CPCs were brought to our attention at that trade show. We started doing some industry research, realized just what an industry-wide problem it was. But we knew we were going to need help to develop that at a lightning fast pace.

We moved very quickly. We are big enough to have great capabilities, small enough to be agile and move quickly. And we were able to partner with a fleet that we had never done business with before. A national fleet that had 85 trucks down just due to CPCs. And they were instrumental in us getting to market first with the CPCs.

They allowed us to use their trucks for testing. They allowed us to destroy several CPCs just from a exploratory surgery type point of view. But we have x-ray machines here. We can x-ray things and we can do all kinds of, we can use technology to accomplish a lot, but there’s a certain amount of destructive testing that needs to happen to truly map out and develop a circuit board. So we just really partnered with them. We shared information very openly. At one point we even threw out a price to these guys that we thought we were going to be able to hit and they came back and said, I think your price is too low on them. I mean, we have a customer that tells us that, right?

And that’s just the ideal. We’re honoring their best interest. We are in it for them. They’re honoring our best interest, they’re in it for us. And that is really what the ideal customer to us looks like. I mean, that is a name that we continue to use around here often. They helped us develop the testing.

Obviously I’ve mentioned that we were able to use their trucks, but they also helped us by using those trucks develop bench testing because it’s just not feasible to throw every unit on a truck and drive it. And since then over during 2022, they were also bringing us more products, more of the problems that industry’s plagued with. So someone that’s going to be in it with a long haul with us, that is very, very helpful.

Jamie Irvine:

And that is so true. You’re solving a real problem when your customer cares about your profitability because they want you around for a long time so that you can keep helping them. That speaks to economic impact. So you look at a fleet with 85 trucks down from just one circuit board issue at the CPC. What kind of economic impact is that having on a company like, oh wow, that’s a significant dollar amount.

Ed Edwards:

Yeah, I mean this is the downtime. One of the differentiating factors for Circuit Board Medics versus a lot of other remanufactured in the electronics industry is we just move lightning fast. I mean, developing the repairs, 99% of what we have listed on our website as well, on a repair and return basis, we guarantee a one business day turnaround. That’s just that, that’s been in our DNA since day one because I hate downtime as much as the customer hates downtime, it’s not fair for things to sit.

I hate idle time. I don’t hate non-productive time. And everyone here on our team kind of shares that same sentiment. So if we can perform a repair in five or six hours, then why would we allow it to sit on our shelf for four days before we got to it? And we certainly wouldn’t allow it to sit on our shelf for four days after it was repaired, before it shipped. So just incorporating that lean manufacturing, things have to be moving, things have to be value added. Things have to be anti-forms of waste. That has really infiltrated our customer, our culture because the economic impact is the downtime. I mean, people depend on these things to work and to work well.

Jamie Irvine:

So a colleague of mine, he went to school and became an engineer, decided that he wanted to go back to school and became a psychologist. So what does a psychologist with an engineer background build, he builds a personality profile assessment tool. Right? It’s funny how people arrive, where they are at, and oftentimes it’s the cross section of several things that gets them to where they’re at.

I think of me going, starting out in heavy-duty parts and remanufacturing and then getting into distribution and then leaving the industry and building my service company and doing a whole startup to m and a experience and then coming back in the industry and getting in media. A lot of things had to happen to get me to this point. What was the cross-section of education, experience and background for you that got you to this point? With this company? I’m fascinated to know that.

Ed Edwards:

But Jamie, it’s, it’s very funny that you mentioned the personality profile. We use a personality profile software as well that has been instrumental in the way that we hire and the way that we develop people. You know, can’t teach a fish to climb a tree. You’ll think that the fish that’s not as native genius. So we tap into people’s native genius here.

We identify gaps in teams of what we need in our next three or four hires for those teams. What are the gaps? We help balance each other out. If everyone’s has a sense of urgency and everyone’s hairs on fire, probably not a good analogy to say hair on fire with me, but then it’s not a fun place to work. You have to balance that before you just create a bunch of unnecessary chaos. So I’m a big fan of the personality profile and the self-awareness that we get with that and the way that we can build teams.

What it was for me is I am the kind of person that a good vacation for me is adventurous. I want to be moving the whole time. I don’t want to sit on a beach and just read a book. I have a hard time kind of slowing down and resting. And I think that has been built into, I don’t have a hard time with recreation. I love doing the fun things. It’s just the slowdown and the rest and that is what there’s some good parts to that.

There’s also some bad parts to that without letting that get too corrupted. That’s the part for me that just wants to keep driving and minimizing the downtime for customers, keeping things moving keeping projects moving internally, just always thinking what’s the next step? I mean, we’re just a few days into 2023 right now, and already I’m thinking 2024 where do we go? What are we doing next?

Jamie Irvine:

So from one person with high pace to another, I totally understand where you’re coming from. What was it that drew you to the circuit boards and remanufacturing and our industry? That’s more what I was asking.

Ed Edwards:

Yeah. Quite honestly, what that was is I was my own first customer. I worked in manufacturing for Parker Hanen fantastic company to work with. My background was in mechanical engineering. I was like once again in manufacturing engineering with them. And I just realized I had this that was always helping the maintenance team out with electronics failure.

If it was a circuit board, if it was an AC drive on a machine, but out on the production lines, I always was, I drawn to electronics failures and just had a knack for helping troubleshoot that. You fast forward till I had two small children at home, and when you have two small children under the age of three, you do a lot of laundry. And we had a washing machine that failed and the replacement control board for it, which was the failure was $400. And I mean, this is 15 years ago, we’re looking at a $400 circuit board for a $500 washing machine.

I knew that just wasn’t right. We’re also looking at a washing machine that was less than two years old. So there was some of that kind of better than new responsibility I felt of our grandparents didn’t buy appliances that lasted two years and then had a service call on them. We still have the refrigerators in our garages that kind of outlast us from earlier years.

So I did fix the control board myself, realized that there was probably other people that were having the same failure. I just didn’t know how to find them. So I put a service on eBay. That in itself kind of exploded into my garage starting to transform into somewhat of a laboratory for testing. I was buying everything I could to continue troubleshooting more and more and more of these circuit boards because the failures weren’t always the same.

About that time, I had a power stroke 60 and probably know where this is going, but we had a fuel injection control module failure FICM, right? So I would claim to have been the very first repair service for FICMs on eBay, which is flooded with that right now. But that was about 13 or 14 years ago at this point and started repairing FICMs.

And that’s where I really saw, and that’s kind of the roots of Circuit Board Medics, is we’re very heavily involved in the appliance industry, very heavily involved in the automotive industry and they both came from there. But where the crossroads really came is not, that was our first two products that grew out of my garage crossroads really came to be that those are industries where people don’t go through a long decision making process of, am I going to repair this, when your car breaks, you know, have to fix it.

You’re just looking for the best option to fix it. When your refrigerator fails, when your washing machine fails, people don’t go through this long decision making process would, if it’s a mountain bike that’s been hanging in their garage for three years and only been used twice in those three years, it’s items that we depend on daily.

That’s really where that speed of service and that turnaround time was a great anchor point as Circuit Board Medics began to form of, hey, we’re going to do a one day turnaround. Part of that, once again was getting back to that lean mentality of, I just don’t want to get I overwhelmed and stressed out by backlog. I don’t want the backlog. So how do we prevent the backlog? We jump on it as soon as we get it, we get it repaired, we get it right back to the customer. And those are the appliance world, automotive world are two things that we need done quickly.

Jamie Irvine:

I’m just going to go out on a limb here and guess that there’s probably not big stacks of paper on your desk or a lot of unanswered emails in your inbox correct?

Ed Edwards:

There’s more than I’m comfortable with.

Jamie Irvine:

Okay. But it makes you uncomfortable when that number gets too high. Exactly. That pace characteristic just dominates people’s lives when it’s as high as it is for people like you and I. I think that’s funny. Well, thank you so much for taking the time, for coming on the show and just sharing that story. I think it’s important for people to understand the origins of your company.

You’ve been listening to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine, and we’ve been speaking with Ed Edwards, the President of Circuit Board Medics. To learn more about circuit board medics, go to circuitboardmedics.com, the URL and the link will be in the show notes. Ed, thanks for being on The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I look forward to having you on the show in the future.

Ed Edwards:

Yeah, it’s great to be here, Jamie. Thanks again for the opportunity.

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