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JPM, my view from the inside. Frank Bird.


Frank Bird
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As an aside to the product per se we had couple of issues to deal with that were not down to the design of the products themselves but were down to the industry we were in and products appeal to those less scrupulous characters

One such issue that JPM experienced was the new products susceptibility to Static electricity and the result of that ‘attack’.

We found quite early that the machine could give unexpected results to static but this was not just the gas lighter piezo cell that was being used by the public to upset the controller.

Even walking across a carpet could cause an issue and this was being exacerbated by two fairly new concepts that just happened to occur at more or less the same time.

With the advent of ‘banked wins’, punters ( I always hated that term) were allowed or encouraged to bank their wins.

As a manufacturer JPM realised that this was a good thing as the resulting payout always seemed significant rather than the staccato clank of smaller wins, believe me a lot of people were persuaded to play when they heard that advert!

Anyway, JPM had a major issue with static and it got to a head and was proving to be so troublesome that I was bundled off to an establishment called ERA Technology where we subjected the machine to a series of tests in an anechoic chamber.

I don’t think the sound quality or lack of it in the room was anything to do with the tests it’s just that was the only room available at the time.

It was a very strange environment in which to hear a machine payout!

So we sat there for hours hitting the machine with static but nothing seemed to be getting past the earth bonds and when they did the level 3 interrupt(?) circuit performed as it was supposed to.

Then suddenly the machine went haywire, pulsed out a coin and the test equipment registered a huge spike - from out of the blue.

Scratching our heads we continued to play and then it happened again, but this time just as the machine was paying out, one clunk and reset and the test equipment showed a spike.

As we discussed the subject of static over a coffee, as you do, the engineer from the establishment explained a little about static and how simply raising a coin from your pocket to the machine could induce static but not enough to cause any issues and in any case the new Mars mech was plastic and so it could not dissipate the charge.

The answer struck me like a streak of ……….

The coins were entering the coin guides and coin tube, unearthed, and then standing there like a great big capacitor ready to jump that gap between the payout slide and the casting of the payout mech when the charge was sufficient and believe me it was huge!.

We tried earthing the tube with an insert and overcame the problem but then any of you that have had site experience will know that anything in the path of a coin WILL cause a coin jam, no matter how careful you are.

So I took out the payout slide, inserted a rivet through the slide and filed it down, again after refitting and testing it sorted the issue, however this was not an answer.

I contacted Coin Controls in Oldham and persuaded them to add a measure of graphite ( I think it was graphite ) to the plastic material before injection moulding, this gave it the conductivity of a peace of wood.

After explaining what the problem was and negotiating for JPM to take the first consignment, we agreed to uniquely test it for three months before releasing it to the industry.

That’s how we overcame that particular static problem first.

 

Edited by Frank Bird
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I would like to personally thank frank for sticking with the mecca and sharing his very interesting life with us all.. 

 

Looking forward to more stories from the birds beak 

 

We are indeed lucky to be able to share franks experience in the industry in such great detail and 1st hand.. 

 

Thanks again mr bird 

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8 hours ago, niftynudger said:

Yes it’s amazing and I hope he sticks around enjoys the Mecca and there’s many more stories and he dosen’t  give us the bird....

sorry couldn’t help myself.

i will be perched here for a while longer yet...(😅)..more insights i'm sure, but also some 'dark days' to go through yet.

 

Cheers guys.

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A good insight on Charles Weekes role in JPM.

With the picture you posted a while back of the R&D team I had the image of a grand old gentleman with the aroma of pipe tobacco or cigars and likes a drop of the old scotch after work on a Friday.😀

it looks like his knowledge and experience over the years brought a great deal to the table for JPM.

sounds like he was a great mentor.

Edited by Road Runner
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On 9/25/2021 at 8:50 PM, riche100 said:

I would like to personally thank frank for sticking with the mecca and sharing his very interesting life with us all.. 

 

Looking forward to more stories from the birds beak 

 

We are indeed lucky to be able to share franks experience in the industry in such great detail and 1st hand.. 

 

Thanks again mr bird 

Hear, hear.

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On 9/26/2021 at 8:33 AM, Road Runner said:

A good insight on Charles Weekes role in JPM.

With the picture you posted a while back of the R&D team I had the image of a grand old gentleman with the aroma of pipe tobacco or cigars and likes a drop of the old scotch after work on a Friday.😀

it looks like his knowledge and experience over the years brought a great deal to the table for JPM.

sounds like he was a great mentor.

Now there's a memory I'd forgotten, Taliskers!

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Posted (edited)

And there's more.....

Electro Mechanical (EM) - Versus - Stepper Reel Unit (SRU)

As already mentioned I had succeeded in filling a vacancy in JPM's After Sales Service and had a shiny Blue Ford Cortina estate.

It was one of the only estates that would get a machine in the back with the seats down, sort of guaranteed to kill you if you were rear ended but I digress. (another welshman).  Work days were now in a 3 piece suit as we were ‘an extension of Sales’ as Ernie Beaver, the sales director at JPM let us know on frequent occasions.

This was a new venture for me and involved, amongst other duties, taking calls from technicians in field who were stuck with a problem and couldn’t fix the machine and those were the calls we enjoyed taking!

It was always a pleasure to speak with a like minded engineer who wanted to fix a problem and needed another pair of hands to assist so to speak. We would pore over the schematic in the office asking the engineer to try various things and offering our suggestions until we eventually nailed the issue!

Believe me the last thing we wanted was to have an engineer left in the field with a machine that was still OOO as we called it and no idea of how to fix it. In fact several of us had been know to jump in the car after work and drive to site to be there for the next day and check out the problem ourselves if the answer was not found. 

This was especially true in the case of a new machine just in case it was a production issue which would be replicated.

We sometimes took calls from executives of influential Companies pointing out the shortcomings of a design or a flaw in the product and demanding that we come and ‘sort things out’.

Both these types of calls resulted in us often taking a two pronged approach, perhaps going to site to see the issues first hand as a PR effort, but also checking on the production facility and seeing if we could see the problem first hand and persuade Dev or production to change things.

We were expected to man exhibitions stands as well in such places as Alexandra Palace, back in the day before it burnt down, Olympia and also the NEC.

That last venue based near Birmingham was used only once and was the stage setting for the culmination of an important (head banging) period in JPM’s history and proved to be a turning point.

More of that later

Lets just step back over 40 years here

Everything is no longer in black and white but it’s still sepia coloured.

It’s early evening, it’s raining, and a machine is out of order.

The call was made earlier in the day and the engineer turns up.

First thing he does is light a fag and ask the landlord about the nature of the problem and checks out the machine.

Let’s not forget before we go any further, there is no test routine per se!

So, drag the machine away from the wall, create a space around the back to try and get some working space, open the beer sticky back door to the tobacco stained inside, perhaps kneel in the beer soaked carpet and wait for the usual comments from the crowd.

“Ooo it’s like a telly in there,” 

“look at all those wires,” 

“can you make it win for me,”

“come to stop it paying out have you?”

And dozens of other well know comments

He’s heard them all a hundred times 

If it’s payout related it’s easy, get some credit, move the reels to a payout position, hold them, hit start, wait for the game to finish, payout should happen, simples.

More game related issues? He played until it came up.

But then of course there was a schematic supplied with every machine and furthermore most canny engineers had a folder with the latest schematics in.

By looking at the schematic, cycling the machine and following what should happen the engineer could trace the circuit and find the faulty component and here is the big difference between those days and today or at least when I finished in the industry and more’s the pity .

He either went back to the car or delved in his tool box and pulled out a micro switch, a relay, perhaps even a timer motor.

He might even look at the schematic and in the case of a relay related fault, check out if the contact was broken or pitted  and perhaps search for another that didn’t utilise that contact or open the relay and even abrade the contact.

Whatever it took.

The point is in the vast majority of cases, unless there was vandalism, fire, or some other physical issue the engineer fixed the machine.

He was proud of that fact, he was known for that trait.

Of course with the introduction of the electronic systems many engineers, well in those days anyway, became worried.

And rightly so, but their fears had to be allayed.

I had already been, quite literally, "sent to Coventry" as the one person who was prepared to repair a new machine on site.

The first breakdown of JPM's prototype electronic machine, the Each Way Nudge was in Thomas's Showboat Arcade in Coventry.

I had a spare board with me obviously but I found that a transistor had blown and although I wasn’t prepared to actually de-solder the defective one, I scrunched it up with a pair of pliers and soldered the new one on to the legs of the old one. 

‘JD’ as we say. (Job done)

Lets not forget it wasn’t LSI in those days and there were many discrete components on the board.

Crude?………Yes!

Effective?….Definitely!

Happy?……..Ecstatic!

This first “repair” of the electronics in an Electronic machine on site was no small matter and was deemed as the crossing of a major hurdle for the company.

I can already hear the snorts of derision here, and I don’t blame you guys, but try and figure that this was all new ground and there was a lot riding on this.

In itself it proved unquestionably that the product ‘could’ actually be repaired by anyone (gee thanks), a fear that everyone had borne since the inception of the product. 

In practice of course (it has to be said) that the reality proved to be a lot different.

The electronics system was without question more reliable.

However with the delivery of the new machines and the inevitable issues with peripherals still cropping up, many of our customer's site engineers all over the country were desperately trying to fix broken bulbs etc, on this initial batch of machines by taking out (aka ripping out) the controller and ordering a replacement part in sheer terror of the unknown.

This was because they had lost the traditional testing or ‘exercising’ methods that they had learnt over many years on the electro mechanical machinery.

They did not read the manual, I mean what real man ever reads a manual!

All of the calls to After Sales were recorded on a ‘Call Log’ and the vast majority that started the line with EWN (Each Way Nudge) had the immortal phrase RTFM written against them

They didn’t know the machine could be exercised via a test routine.

Engineers were far more used to robust systems and were playing havoc with the more delicate connectors, which with later hindsight admittedly were not up to the job.

It became obvious to everyone that the industry would need to educate these guys, or this product and the very future of JPM and the massive investment already made would in turn fail.

It goes without saying that the success of a product meant it was taking more money than any other machine and an old adage by Mick Foster of Associated Leisure was that a charity box took more money than a dead fruit machine.

Due to the previously mentioned mind set it seemed that every fault was being blamed on the new technology and the product was getting bad press.

JPM quickly came to realise that it was fear and ignorance as much as anything else that was fuelling the transplant epidemic which itself was introducing the aforementioned damage to connectors coupled with the huge number of circuit boards being returned with NFF but damaged connectors.

So after devising a training programme with Charles Weeks and several other colleagues we went around all the ‘majors’ in the Industry pointing out how the product could best be serviced, exercised and how to fault find!

Often this was on a shift by shift basis as Engineers would be on call out Rotas.

My colleagues and I were tasked with travelling the length and breadth of Britain and eventually much of Europe, setting up training road shows in Hotels, Village halls, Cinemas in fact anywhere that could hold 20 or more engineers and a few machines for them to work on.

I was promoted (?) to Training Officer and this constant exposure ensured that my face was well know throughout the industry.

Due to my experiences I was eventually offered the job as After Sales Service Manager.

Bob Old had left the role as my manager and moved over to open a new venture that JPM had entered into, supplying spares to the industry for our competitors products as well as our own.

Bob Old eventually left JPM and went on to work in a Sales role for Aristocrat in London and then Australia and became truly successful in that role.

So I inherited the Spare sales team as well 

He unfortunately passed away a few years ago.

RIP Bob you taught me how to drink!

 

 

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Edited by Frank Bird
found this photo!
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There was an article posted on here(by ron)a while back about that new parts department opening at JPM and iirc it mentioned Bob Old.

 

 

Edit

 

its on page 3 of this thread

Edited by Road Runner
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What a fascinating thread. Must have been exciting to work somewhere on the up, unfortunately (though it was fun a lot of the time) my experience of the industry was the dying days, the fag end of PCP in the late nineties.

We also used an estate car incredibly dangerously to transport single machines though, a Volvo which was the bosses ex motor.

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Love the description of the electro engineer, That was me exactly.😁

15 hours ago, Frank Bird said:

The point is in the vast majority of cases, unless there was vandalism, fire, or some other physical issue the engineer fixed the machine.

He was proud of that fact, he was known for that trait.

Always been my sentiment.

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Thanks again guys, the original 'JPM' still had several good years left. However there were some rocky rides along the way which us 'old school' guys had to face before the directors eventually sold up and capitalised, which they truly deserved after giving so many of us such a good living for so long.

Expect some vitriol and phrases like "In the opinion of my peers" " and "In my personal opinion"

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2 hours ago, Frank Bird said:

However there were some rocky rides along the way which us 'old school' guys had to face before the directors eventually sold up and capitalised, which they truly deserved after giving so many of us such a good living for so long.

Yep you can't blame them for that and so often they are given promises regards the company and workforce that aren't kept or aren't enforceable, especially if the company gets sold on again in a short time. I found out years after I Ieft that the MD of PCP had a huge stroke I believe just weeks after the doors shut for the last time and spent the rest of his life in a care home. Carpe diem....

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1 hour ago, Sir Dunelm Mill QVC said:

Yep you can't blame them for that and so often they are given promises regards the company and workforce that aren't kept or aren't enforceable, especially if the company gets sold on again in a short time. I found out years after I Ieft that the MD of PCP had a huge stroke I believe just weeks after the doors shut for the last time and spent the rest of his life in a care home. Carpe diem....


JPM would have been no different to most companies that is sold by the original founding members.The new owners want a quick return on the investment along with bringing  their own people in which more than not upsets the apple cart(staff get pissed off and leave or are pushed out the door).

As said before I have seen this a few times and usually more than 50% of staff are gone within 2 years.

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On 10/6/2021 at 8:08 PM, Frank Bird said:

This was a new venture for me and involved, amongst other duties, taking calls from technicians in field who were stuck with a problem and couldn’t fix the machine and those were the calls we enjoyed taking!

Did JPM operate machines, or were these customers' technicians?

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2 hours ago, daveo138 said:

Did JPM operate machines, or were these customers' technicians?

Hey daveo, to answer your question properly, we did have our own operations that was ostensibly to quietly test our gear and more importantly the machinery inside rather than the games, after all a canvas can have any picture painted on it and a system can have any game dropped on it!

But After Sales supported the engineers in the field and our number was in the cabinet and on the manuals and schematics as I remember (?) no matter what company they were with.

We we would take calls from techs to assist them in their endeavours and many remained friends over the years.

   

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1 hour ago, Frank Bird said:

But After Sales supported the engineers in the field and our number was in the cabinet and on the manuals and schematics as I remember (?) no matter what company they were with.

One of the many schematics I still have.

lucky horseshoes schematic date.jpg

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