Spares, warranty parts and RMA authorisation
Harbeth UK is an ISO9001 registered manufacturer. We are obliged to follow certain well-defined procedures throughout our business from sales orders incoming right through to after-care. We have been making speaker systems since 1977 - that's over thirty years - and with careful use, every one of those speakers should be in working condition. We make Harbeth speakers to a high quality and extremely few spare parts are needed by our customers which proves our basic quality. Many companies (audio, computer, car etc.) operate their spare-parts operation as a profit centre, often generating far more profit from spares than the original product. The customer requiring spares may be paying for poor design, unstable QC and corner-cutting suppliers.
At Harbeth we've never believed that spare-parts should be a profit-centre; we don't even itemise spares in our accounting system because we consider spares to be a cost centre for us not a profit centre. However, even though spares are only rarely needed the selection, matching, pairing, packing, invoicing and despatching does take time, and takes time away from production and that cost has to be covered. Now the key point is this: our ISO inspection mandates that we identify the real reason for parts needing replacement. The questions the ISO inspectors ask all ISO9001 registered companies include the following:
1. Is the fault certainly 100% due to customer damage such as overload, amplifier failure etc. (i.e. beyond Harbeth's influence and control)?
2. Is the fault most likely to be a design problem?
3. Is the fault age-related so that even though the design is solid and the customer is careful is there a latent issue which at some point in the future could cause the item to fail?
4. Is the fault indeterminate so that neither the customer nor the manufacturer can be identified as the source of the fault?
As I've said before the number of spare parts that we issue in a year from here is insignificant as a proportion of the total number of speakers that we make and this proves Harbeth's are reliable. But we really need to understand precisely which of the above for categories accurately classifies a defective part. If the problem is (1), customer related, we cannot control that, but if it's (2) or (3) then we have a duty to investigate immediately. But we can't investigate (2) or (3) or even (4) unless we receive those parts back for inspection! Now we have been stressing the need to have these few parts returned to us for some years but customers are seemingly unwilling to send them. But we really do need these here. So, with immediate effect we have a new system, the same one that most other companies use: pre-registration of the need for a spare part called an "RMA" (Returns to Manufacturer Authorisation). This kicks-off the entire spares process and is mandatory.
It works like this:
STEP 1: If you need a part please contact your retailer or if necessary your importer/distributor. Explain the issue and give them the serial numbers of your speaker, confirm that they are Registered on the Harbeth website (this extends your warranty).
STEP 2: This information will then passed to us here, we will allocate an RMA number and discuss how to supply a replacement.
Note: if the user admits that the fault is definitely class (1), then we do not need the unit returned and we will supply a replacement at the lowest possible price. This would, for example, include those drivers destroyed by amplifier overload.
STEP 3: A spare part of matching characteristics will be found and provided.
Alan A. Shaw
Harbeth Audio UK