What is an operation and maintenance manual?
An operation and maintenance manual is a comprehensive document that provides all the details necessary about a physical plant as well as individual pieces of equipment to help the maintenance staff keep everything running smoothly.
As soon as a company gets large enough to have some standard operating procedures and requires different team members to be responsible for separate tasks, it could benefit from an operations and maintenance manual.
In the case of a small company, this may be very brief. However, the advantage of starting early is that you won’t have to invest a lot of time upfront. But you will have a core to build on as you add operating procedures in the future.
For medium- and larger-size companies, an operations and maintenance manual is even more critical because so many more people and processes are involved. First, inefficiency multiplies quickly as a company grows. Every time an employee needs to perform a new task, there might be mini-training happening over and over. Second, without a manual, you can lose the consistency of work. Different employees can complete the same job in inconsistent ways. And, finally, a lack of documented procedures can result in workplace errors, accidents, or injuries that can cost the company a significant amount of money.
Components of an operation and maintenance manual
A comprehensive operations and maintenance manual have several common parts:
- Overview: This section provides a general overview of the physical plant being discussed as well as the components covered in the manual. It includes personnel information, organizational charts, company history, or other background information.
- Physical building: This section details important information about one specific facility. Ideally, this information is collected during the construction of the facility itself and contains floor plans, building materials, finish data, building code and specification information, and site survey.
- Operating procedures: A comprehensive, detailed explanation of all major operating procedures should be documented so that a new employee can learn quickly and a seasoned technician can double-check work.
- Maintenance procedures: The preventive and corrective maintenance programs should be explained thoroughly including schedules, procedures, responsibilities, trouble-shooting and test requirements.
- Emergency procedures: It’s important to think through emergency situations before they happen because it can be difficult to remember details in the middle of a chaotic situation. This section outlines all the people, steps, agencies, and other organizations that need to be notified as well as a primer on how to handle crisis communications internally and externally.
How to create an operation and maintenance manual
The challenge with creating a usable operations and maintenance manual is to make it comprehensive without being boring. Put some thought into planning the manual so it can really impact your bottom line in the long run with increased efficiency and organization.
- Select a platform. With today’s technology, you should be able to find a platform that allows you to continue to update and change your operation and maintenance manual as needed. Printed manuals or even ones written in word processing documents are very difficult to update. You also run the risk of outdated manuals floating around the organization. Instead, look for software or templates for manuals that can serve as a platform and a starting point.
- Create a consistent, easy-to-read layout. You’ll want your manual to be easy to scan, and you’ll want your employees to be able to locate needed sections quickly. By ensuring consistency throughout, you will make the manual more valuable to all its users.
- Involve managers in manual development. Be sure to ask your front-line managers for input when actually creating the guts of your operation and maintenance manual. They are the ones fielding the questions and seeing inefficiencies and errors so you want to understand what they deem as most important to communicate. If they are involved in the creation of the manual, they will be more invested and help encourage their use and improvement.
- Encourage suggestions and improvement. Be sure to solicit feedback, especially in the early days of manual usage. As employees turn to this resource, they will have additional questions or suggestions. Have a system in place to review and implement the best suggestions so that you are always making your operations and maintenance manual more useful over time.
O&M manual templates
To have a great starting point, you can download one of many O&M manual templates. Search for templates by the industry for even more specific organization and content suggestions.
Here are a few to consider:
Operation and maintenance manuals can be a valuable resource for your whole maintenance team. Invest the time in putting one together if your organization does not already have one. Remember that you can upload it to your maintenance software program for easier access.