A Manual or Manuals? That Is The Question

The foundation of the product manual, as discussed Monday, is the list of activities (which we are calling “tasks” in this context) that must be performed by someone in the user organization or the product will not meet its objective. Now, in most manufacturing organizations, there are multiple people with differing skills that perform tasks on the equipment:

  •    Some people are assigned to use the equipment to produce a specific product, or to perform some similarly value-adding activity
  •    Some people are assigned to performing maintenance on the equipment to keep it functioning at a high level of productivity with as few upsets (i.e., breakdowns) as possible
  •    Some people are assigned to develop, test and optimize the methods of equipment operation, to increase yields, reduce variation, i.e., make more of them or make them better

If the tasks are grouped together based on who (or what function) will perform them, the result will be three smaller lists rather than one large list (recognizing, of course, some tasks may end up on multiple lists).

As a result, not everyone needs to be taught every task. And not everybody needs to be fed the same supporting information. And, maybe, the manual better serves the user organization by becoming multiple manuals, with one manual targetting the day-to-day equipment operator, one targetting maintenance and service, and one targetting the process engineer. In other words, we can “right size” manuals by delivering to each group the information they need to be successful.

Will it lead to less writing? Probably, but not because of the grouping of tasks (in some ways, that may add volume to the writing). The brevity will come from having the manual information center on specific, confirmed lists of activities, and allowing for any information that does not support task performance being eliminated (ideally, not written in the first place).

In the next post, we will discuss the organization of manuals, which follows almost to the letter the structure I used writing equipment procedures in my past employment. Because, in reality, that’s exactly what I am doing.


About Tim James "Mr. Procedure"

A communicator; all-purpose capability in writing, designing and presenting training for all facets of organizational function. While my focus has been manufacturing, my training/development experience includes supervisory and lead person development, audit processes, continuous improvement and Lean, and Quality Management System implementation.
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