O&M Manuals From a Newcomer’s Point of View

At the start of this year I joined O&M I.T. and have since been working to get my head around everything involved with producing O&M manuals and other handover documents. With my only previous employment experience being in retail and accountancy, my knowledge of the construction industry when starting was basically nil. However, I am now settled in nicely a couple of months into my new role. Here I will give a few thoughts and impressions of my short time producing O&Ms, what I’ve learnt so far and my ambitions for the future.

By Toby Cooke

As a Junior Manager, I’ll eventually be able to do a bit of everything. Whilst that evidently means taking on management responsibilities, I’m also learning to create the manuals themselves.

Authoring O&M Manuals is typically quite niche, and, coming in with no prior knowledge, it’s really important that I learn not only what a good manual is, but the process of producing one.

Since starting, my work has been very varied. In learning how to create the manuals, I’ve already worked on projects ranging from four to eight figures in value and for some very renowned companies. I’ve even completed a couple of the smaller ones start to finish. Whilst the content and layout of the manuals are steadily sinking in and making sense, the steepest learning curve and most important aspect I have found in creating them is keeping organised. Keeping track of what is completed, what is still to be done and what is needed to move forward is definitely challenging at first and requires a lot of good habits to be formed.

All the while I have been doing this, I have also been learning how to be a manager. Having never previously been in a management role, this has definitely been a challenge and will inevitably take a very long time and a lot of hard work before I am as good as I want to be in the role. It is, though, certainly my favourite part since joining the company and, aside from the task of learning to stay organised with incoming and current jobs, it’s the soft skills which I’ve found most interesting to take on board.

Being consistent and confident in making decisions is one of the biggest hurdles I’ve encountered, although it is now becoming more natural. What I have picked up on more than anything, though, is the importance of being aware and empathetic to those around you; without this there won’t be any long term stability and the company will lose what makes it successful.

  • Organisation – construction is a busy industry and so are its people. O&M manuals are easy to overlook for contractors who are juggling so many different tasks and deadlines. This means the earlier a manual is started, the easier it is for both us and others involved in making it. However, this goes both ways and means us keeping track of all our current jobs and making sure they’re moving – if we’re not getting what we need to make this happen, we have to pick up the phone and chase those who can help us.
  • Engagement – part of being organised and ultimately successful in producing quality manuals and hitting deadlines is keeping engaged with the client and their subcontractors. Communication is so important to keep a project moving forward – often times a short phone call can solve a whole host of problems in a fraction of the time that a bunch of emails can. Not only this, but having a direct line of contact instils confidence that progress is being made and that the product overall is top-notch.
  • Keeping current – when starting at O&M I.T., I soon realised there are multiple types of everything. Progress and advancements in construction are rapid and so becoming familiar with all the different systems and equipment involved in the construction and operation of a building will be a lot of continual learning. With no prior experience, the amount of different names, references and uses for all of these can often seem confusing, but are surely enough sinking in as I face more jobs.

Obviously, I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself; I’ve barely scratched the surface of O&Ms and the construction industry.

However, in future, the aim is to introduce new services covering the ever increasing use of BIM. Whilst traditional O&Ms are not going anywhere, we need to keep up with contemporary working methods by incorporating aspects of BIM into what we offer.

Despite this, getting to grips with the basics is priority number one. I still have a long way to go in all aspects of creating quality manuals and becoming a good manager, and continuing to offer what we do best is key before branching out.