There’s not a lot you can do in the field without your instruments, so it’s important to keep them in good working order. Maintaining and repairing instruments is a necessary surveying fact of life. We wanted to know how you were affected when you had to deal with instrument repair and how satisfied you were with the available options. Here’s what you told us.

Evidently, instrument repair for most of you comes up sooner, rather than later. In fact, 45 percent (61 of the total 138 respondents) had an instrument repaired in the last 3 months. Another 26 percent had an instrument repaired in the last 6 months and 12 percent had an instrument repaired within the last year. The remaining 17 percent were lucky enough to have had an instrument repaired over a year ago.

As far as frequency goes, about 51 percent of respondents had their instruments repaired only when they needed it, while 4 percent repaired them regularly every 6 months and 37 percent repaired them every year. Unfortunately there was some ambiguity with this question, as we received some comments indicating that people were unsure as to whether we were referring strictly to repairs, or to maintenance as well.

Not only are repairs necessary, someone to do those is also a necessity considering only 4 percent of the respondents knew how to repair their instruments by themselves. Fifty-three (53) percent did know how to repair at least some of their instruments. However, 43 percent didn’t know how to repair their instruments at all.

Now, are you satisfied with the service you get? It seems to be pretty mixed bag. Opinions on turn-around times were pretty evenly split with 24 percent saying they see a fast turn-around and 23 percent saying they don’t get a fast turn-around time at all. The other 53 percent said they usually saw a fast turn-around time. And qualifications? You were pretty satisfied in that department. Almost 60 percent said that the technicians were qualified to do the work and 36 percent felt that the technicians were mostly satisfied. Were repair firms prepared to do you repairs? Thirty-three (33) percent responded that parts were available when the instrument was sent in for repair, and 58 percent said they were usually available. Pretty good. Only 9 percent said they weren’t available when the instrument was sent in.

So what do you do when your instrument is in the shop? It’s not like the work disappears, so were repair firms able to help with that? Well, yes, most of them could help in some way. Fifteen (15) percent said that the shops they used provided loaners, 45 percent said they provided both loaners and rentals and 26 percent said they provided rentals only. The remaining 15 percent said that they provided neither.

Here are some of the comments we received about instrument repair:

“I have a geodimeter 600 robot that has had so many repairs that you could call it regular tune up service. The technology in this equipment is so complex that it is often difficult to determine if problems are software or hardware. Apparently manufacturers’ technicians have the same problem or I have a lemon. This is very expensive procedure.” Fred Zahn, Illinois land surveyor

“We get routing maintenance and repair from the same firm we purchase equipment from. They do minor adjustments in house, but send away for larger jobs. They act as though we don’t really need the equipment. If we get really upset they may provide a loaner. We have a “go-between” but never take ownership of the problem and see that it gets fixed. Currently our SDR will find only one solution for a bearing/distance intersection. There are no “tricks” like entering the points in reverse order to get the other solution. It seems as if nobody cares. As a surveyor, I’ve provided customer service since the early seventies. Companies now compete solely on price, if you want service or satisfaction, you are on your own.” Alan Latham, North Carolina land surveyor

“Our firm has both conventional survey equipment and GPS units and it is difficult to compare routine maintenance with emergency service. Our GPS repairs are handled by a factory authorized repair service who has saved the bacon more than once, but I prefer to return conventional survey instruments to the factory.” Kenneth Sorrels, Virginia land surveyor

“We have a Robotic total station that had to be shipped from Ohio to New Jersey for repairs. It was taken to a local dealer for the repair, but their techs weren’t qualified. Turn-around was over three weeks!” Ohio engineer

“The changes in the industry and equipment manufacturers are causing confusion and delays in servicing instruments. Factory authorized service centers are not as convenient as previous dealers or service centers. The high cost of Robotic equipment does not provide the luxury of having backup equipment. Rapid turn around times for answers to questions warranty repair as well as service is vital.” Kenneth Wilkerson, Michigan land surveyor and engineer

“I believe that regular service and repair of equipment is best performed by specialists. I personally can do minor repairs on levels and theodolites, but I don’t regularly work in the field, where emergency repairs would normally take place. The reason I have my equipment taken care of by specialists is that they are, in my experience, much better suited to perform adjustments and most importantly in my area, re-seal the equipment for water and dust protection.” Monte Monteith, Washington and Oregon land surveyor

“Our instruments are exclusively electronic, which requires an expertise we respect.”