Some Basic Checks to Improve Your O&M Manuals

You’ve done the hard bit; your O&M Manuals are nearly finished…

Before celebrating too much, though, hold your horses!

Aside from any glaringly obvious problems, spending just a little time checking your manuals for our points below might save future headaches and help increase the professionalism of your handover documents.

You’ve got this far – don’t fall at the final hurdle!

This one is self-explanatory. Poor spelling and grammar put into question the overall quality of a manual so getting it right first time will give off a good impression and build a viewer’s confidence in the accuracy of the content.

It may take a little more time, but proof reading your content for spelling and grammar will pay dividends at the end of your project and make the finished article both easier to read and to understand. Better yet, get someone else to have a quick check of your content; a fresh pair of eyes is much more effective at spotting mistakes.

Make your designs relevant to the project or company. Logos should be good resolution, clear and unobstructed on the front of volumes and present on all subsequent content pages. Companies spend huge resources on their colours and designs, so make it easier for yourself and just use their branding.

Having first obtained your client’s agreement, take the images from their website and tweak if necessary, but try not to deviate too far from the originals. A company’s design is a large part of their identity and a great start to producing a professional looking and high quality set of manuals.

Always run designs past whoever has you are working on the documentation for. They may have high-resolution branding material that hasn’t been compressed, or particular stock photos set aside for a specific project. Equally, they may have their own designs in mind already. As tempting as it may be to produce you own elaborate designs, it’s the end recipient’s opinion that really matters.

A set of manuals for the same project or company should be consistent.

Matching designs, colours, fonts and formatting across multiple documents suggests the information contained in all volumes is also well organised and presented. Make sure that any graphical designs are lined up identically across volumes, regular text and headers all have matching fonts and sizes, and line spacing is consistent. Also, page and section breaks are your friend; if you get some funky formatting on one page, this should stop it affecting the rest of the document.

Matching designs are also very useful when taking on multiple projects for the same company. Not only does this save time and money in avoiding having to create new designs for each different project, but it gives a consistent identity, and expectation of outcome, when ordering new manuals.

On top of this, facilities management teams will often be contracted to maintain multiple sites of the same company. With a familiar and consistent manual layout, engineers will be more efficient in sourcing the information they require and spared the time they could be using to get on.

This one is especially important when pulling information from a template or generic data sheet. Check that all equipment or works detailed are actually applicable to the project and remove any information that is not. Too much information, or even worse inaccurate information, is nearly always more detrimental than no information.

This will also help eliminate overly bloated manuals. Unless you’re enthralled by the maintenance procedures of a VRV fan coil unit, or paint codes used in the ground floor plant room (no judging!), nobody reads an O&M Manual for the thrill of it. The less unnecessary information, the better.

Make sure that items in asset registers and manufacturer’s literature match to those mentioned in scope of works and other parts of the documentation. It’s not uncommon for plans to change during construction and specific pieces of equipment can change between what is specified and what is eventually installed. For this reason, unless you are certain what make/model will be used, it is often wise to describe the type of equipment in the O&M manual scope, but omit any specific reference to make/model.

You can always add information once it is confirmed, but remembering to take something out at the end is much more easily overlooked and can end in inaccurate information.

If there’s a breakdown of all the volumes contents listed in the Introduction and User Guide, make sure that this reflects what’s actually in the other manuals. A set of manuals should be easy to navigate, and hunting for hidden information is the last thing the end user is going to want to waste time doing. Further to this, make sure that your sections are bookmarked properly. Tables of Content won’t pick up sub sections if they’re not included in the corresponding bookmark!

Keep a look out, too, for section breaks. Orientating a page will almost always create a disconnect in the overall document. Make sure, if inserting a landscape page, that you redo the headers/footers and links to previous pages. Pay extra attention to the page numbers; these will most likely need to the fixed and will mess up the tables of content if not.

Like tables of content, hyperlinks are essential to allow ease of navigation in a digital set of manuals. This one is simple: check they work! Also, it is worth advising that, if receiving as a downloadable ZIP file, the end user will need to extract the files before viewing, else the hyperlinks won’t work. This is one of the most common problems our clients run into.

Are there any works or trades that seem to be an odd omission from the project? Some trades go hand-in-hand, e.g. if you are dealing with partitions, you may expect, also, to be including ceilings in you manuals. There is no hard and fast rule for this point, but try and view the project as a whole. No harm can be done in querying a missing trade, if you’d expect it to be there, and it could have quite possibly been overlooked by mistake.

In addition to this, keep an eye out for details such as warranty lengths. Many pieces of equipment will carry a 12 month warranty, but for something like a roof, the warranty will likely be much longer, generally up to 25 years. Try to get the correct warranty information by contacting the installer and/or manufacturer and check.

Whilst this one is much better addressed at the beginning of a project, it is always worth checking during the building of the manuals, too. If the client or project has specified a certain layout, through a specification, A37, or anything similar, check your work against this and ensure it matches. You may have gathered all the necessary information, but, if it is presented in a different layout to that asked for, this will lead to problems when navigating the manuals.

To avoid having to do a lengthy rework of the layout at the end, try and adapt any templates at the start and make sure they follow the client’s requirements. Often times, layout requirements will all be very similar. However, spending just a small amount of time early on, clarifying the layout details and addressing anything that may seem vague, can save huge amounts of time later on when all the information has already been compiled.

This may not strictly qualify as a check, but will certainly help in all other points already outlined. Do not wait for information to pile up before adding it to your manuals! If there is one good habit to get into when making O&M Manuals, is to keep them moving.

Leaving information to sit, before putting it all in in one go, opens the possibility of getting confused and missing things. Lumping everything into one folder and letting it stew can result in a jumble of cryptically-named files that all relate to different volumes. The conclusion of this may be not knowing what you already have and what you will still need.

By adopting the habit of little and often, you will always have an overview of where the project is and the information still required to move it forward. Not doing this can often result in wrong, inadequate, or outright missing information going unnoticed until it’s too late.

On top of this, detailing what has been done, what has been requested and what is missing is a useful tool for those who ordered the manuals. Seeing a snapshot of where the project stands gives the client reassurance that their resources are being used appropriately and deadlines are on track.

Apart from organising our own work. we find it very useful to keep detailed records to clarify any questions that tend to crop up towards the end of a job.