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Operation and Maintenance Manual: Definition, Benefits, Creation

Posted by
Julia in Technical Writing on 1/19/20226 min read

woman in white shirt wearing eyeglasses

How to regulate the work of a large company? Let’s say a factory? Technical writers surely know the right answer: with the help of technical documentation. To be more specific, an operation and maintenance manual is the right thing for a factory. In small companies, one doesn’t need so much time and effort to make things run correctly and everyone to work in compliance with standards. But this is not the case with businesses where thousands of employees are not even acquainted with each other. They need a unified source of information to perform their tasks equally efficiently. Let’s learn more about this type of documentation.

What Is an O&M Manual?

An operation and maintenance manual, also known as an O&M manual, is a comprehensive and detailed document that provides maintenance employees with information on how to check, repair, and upkeep machinery and equipment.

The main aim of an operation and maintenance manual is to standardize technical processes in a company to improve their quality.

Apart from that, it contains best practices and safety guidelines. Not only maintenance employees and technicians rely on this document but also managers, executives, and external contractors.

Benefits of an Operation and Maintenance Manual

If you still overlook the importance of creating operation and maintenance manuals, let’s figure out how exactly they can improve the performance of your company:

  • Create one repository for information. That’s a huge mistake when all instructions that a team uses are stored in different places, and it takes a lot of time to find them. Employees must have quick access to the database not to lose time.
  • Avoid unplanned downtime. Everyone knows that unplanned downtime leads to revenue decline. Probably, one cannot foresee all the unexpected breakages, but at least one can drastically reduce downtime by creating clear instructions on how to fix the equipment and who is responsible for that.
  • Contribute to safety standards. The safety of employees has always been one of the main priorities of all businesses, no matter how large they are. An operations and maintenance manual is a great solution to instruct employees on how to maintain equipment safely and show them what shouldn’t be done. Following safety standards helps to avoid accidents and, as a result, legal actions.
  • Contribute to quality standards. An O&M manual gives unambiguous guidelines on all the work processes in a company. When all the employees follow the same instructions, they complete their tasks equally. Unified processes are free from errors and inconsistencies. That provides their high quality.
  • Speed up learning and onboarding. When new employees are hired, they definitely need a tutor at the beginning. But that’s not right to be fully dependant on a tutor. Some information can be learned from a manual or instruction. That saves time for both parties: tutors and newcomers.

grey machine

Operation and Maintenance Manual Types

There are several ways of storing information: in one huge manual or in several separate manuals. It is a common practice for large companies to create different types of operation and maintenance manuals. These are different subsystems. Let’s say different teams are not always supposed to be involved in each other’s workflow. That’s why one can say that there can be different types of O&M manuals depending on the type of work or activity, functions, and audience:

  • Installation, operation, and maintenance manuals
  • Emergency procedures manuals
  • HR manuals and employee handbooks
  • Helpdesk manuals
  • Software manuals
  • Manuals for data administration
  • Backup and recovery guides
  • Technical assistance manuals
  • etc.

The main purpose of this division is to provide an employee with information in a particular sphere and for a particular situation.

What Is Included in an O&M Manual?

Of course, O&M manuals can be quite diverse (machinery, construction, software, etc.) and their content can be different, but here are the things that you will most probably find in one of them:

  • Information about the company
  • General information: audience, terminology, the scope of a manual, etc.
  • Machinery operational characteristics
  • Equipment technical specifications
  • Plans and maps to indicate positions of equipment pieces
  • Engineering drawings of machinery and equipment
  • Schedules for maintenance
  • Contact information of equipment vendors
  • Emergency maintenance documentation
  • Safety guidelines
  • etc.

How to Create an Operation and Maintenance Manual?

It takes time and effort to create an operation and maintenance manual. It is not just gathering all the information into one document. It is highly important to make your manual clear, easy to understand, and helpful. So, let’s figure out how to achieve this.

Choose a Technical Writing Tool

Today, one can surely find a huge list of diverse technical writing tools. Each of them has its own advantages and disadvantages and is aimed at solving particular problems. Keep in mind that you should choose a tool that will suit your individual writing process and meet your unique needs.

The ClickHelp Team, more than anyone else, knows the pains that technical writers face daily. That’s why we recommend you pay attention to the following things:

  • Easy team collaboration. It is a common practice when a huge manual is written by a team of technical writers, and several reviewers check it. They all can do it simultaneously. Does your help authoring tool make the collaboration smoother? If not, that’s a good reason to change it.
  • Quick update of existing topics. Manuals change with time. They should be updated, and it should not be as time-consuming as building documentation from scratch. Does your tool allow you to update topics in a couple of clicks? If not, find a tool that will cope with that.
  • Simple versioning of technical documentation. One of the most challenging things is to create different versions of the same document. How do you do that now? Do you have to copy and paste pieces of text that are common for several topics? That would be much easier to store them in a separate repository and use them when you need.
  • Deep analytics. Does your tool allow you to track the readiness of your project or whether users find your topics helpful or not? Which of the topics are most popular and which are not? Detailed statistics can show you all the soft spots of your documentation.

These are just a few benefits that you can get using a suitable tool. That’s why it is a big issue to make the right choice.

Make a Plan

Building an efficient and enjoyable piece of technical documentation is a challenging task. It cannot be done on the spot. One needs to think about what should be included in a document, why this information is vital, which format should be used, which layout is the best, what should the architecture of the document be like, and many more things. A consistent and well-thought-out plan will show you the existing information gaps and how they can be eliminated.

Collaborate with SMEs

Surely, a technical writer cannot be aware of every single process that takes place in a company. That’s why it is important to collaborate with various stakeholders to get as much information as possible and create comprehensive documentation. Make sure you get everything right and don’t forget to document the so-called tribal knowledge - the common practice that exists in every team but has never been documented.

Gather Feedback

When you ask the stakeholders and reviewers to read your drafts, don’t forget about feedback. It is highly important to make sure that everything works exactly the way you’ve described and your manuals are clear, unambiguous, and can be used as a reliable source of information.

Update your Manuals

We’ve already mentioned the importance of timely updates of technical documentation. The best option here is to create a schedule for updates to keep the documentation current all the time. Of course, it is not that difficult if a manual is not large; but updating O&M manuals for a huge factory is not that easy.

factory inside

Conclusion

Now you know everything about an operation and maintenance manual and how to write one. Tips enumerated in this post are relevant not only for this type of technical documentation but for any instruction or manual. I hope these guidelines will help you improve your writing techniques and if you need even more tips on writing technical documentation, have a look at this post - Health Checklist for Your Technical Documentation.

Good luck with your technical writing!
ClickHelp Team
Author, host and deliver documentation across platforms and devices

 

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