What to include in your building operation and maintenance manual

by FM Media
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Keeping the correct, current, information in your O&M manual provides long-term benefits and avoids wasted time and funds. Bryan Christiansen knows what to include.

Operating and maintaining a building is not an easy undertaking. It requires consistent monitoring of physical assets and coordinating of staff. Every system needs the right attention at the right time. Also, building owners and managers are obliged ethically and by various regulations to keep their buildings functional and safe. To help them achieve this, building maintenance teams need multiple resources. For example, operation and maintenance (O&M) manuals. These are comprehensive documents that provide all the details necessary to help maintenance personnel keep machines and building systems running efficiently.

That said, it’s important to have the right information in your O&M manuals as you don’t want to leave out vital info, nor do you want to overwhelm and confuse the reader with excessively voluminous information. We’ll look at the essentials of what to include in these manuals below.

Benefits of having building O&M manuals

Utilising building O&M manuals can significantly improve your operations by helping you achieve the following:

1. Streamline your training and onboarding process

Onboarding new maintenance staff could arguably be the most important process for ensuring business continuity. This stage often influences the new staff’s performance on the job long term. 

O&M manuals facilitate this process by arming new hires with the essential information for success in their new roles. In addition, they help improve productivity by reducing the need to micromanage – your more experienced employees and technicians can get on with their work while the new staff are learning from the manuals with support from other staff at intervals when required.

2. Consistency in maintenance standards

They are an integral part of proactive building maintenance programs. Operations and building manuals help your maintenance team reliably and efficiently carry out their tasks with uniformity and deliver consistent results repeatedly.

A good manual will help reduce human error and inform everyone precisely what they need to do, when, how to do it, and what not to do. They offer a higher level of detail and better quality of information to repeatedly ensure the highest level of operations and maintenance performance over and over again.

3. An easily accessible repository of maintenance information

They serve as a central point for the systematic recording of maintenance data, which would solve many of the problems associated with this work. You can choose to store them in different formats (hard copies or digitally). Although digital storage has the advantage. Digital manuals minimise time lost searching for information, and they eliminate the need for unnecessary movement since they can be accessed by your staff from remote locations.

What to include in your building’s O&M manuals

  1. Scope
    The scope is typically the first thing that the reader sees. It serves as a summary of what the manual covers. The scope gives the user information like the manual’s intended audience, appendix, references, revision history, definitions, and explanations of any terminology needed to understand the document.
  2. Usage and operations guidelines
    These are instructions for using the specific system or piece of equipment. For example, the usage and operation guidelines for an industrial saw, would contain the original equipment manufacturer’s instructions for effective and proper operation, cleaning instructions, health and safety precautions, emergency protocols (for example, using emergency stops, etc).
  3. Maintenance guidelines
    These instructions come with more details about everything required to keep your physical assets running smoothly. This section will include charts and images for activities like parts replacements and routine servicing, these instructions may also include demolition, decommissioning, and disposal steps for when the asset inevitably reaches the end of its useful life. If you already have SOPs for routine maintenance, include them here. Other additional information to include are recommended maintenance schedules, troubleshooting procedures, test requirements, spare parts lists, and preventive maintenance checklists. 

    Furthermore, no matter how efficiently you run your facility, it’s safer to assume that things may go wrong from time to time and then take precautionary steps to handle those situations. Even the best maintenance programs can encounter problems. So, remember to include corrective maintenance procedures and explain each corrective procedure thoroughly.

  4. Miscellaneous information
    This section usually wraps up your manual, you can include general supporting information like existing warranties, contact information of the OEMs, a list of both internal and external parties that need to be immediately notified if the equipment malfunctions (this is especially important for some types of high-risk industrial machines), a list of maintenance vendors, and other brief information about the equipment that you deem necessary to include.

In conclusion, a word of advice. Ultimately, O&M manuals are not a done and dusted part of your maintenance strategy. Your facility is dynamic. As it grows and technologies continue to improve, equipment will be upgraded, retooled, or completely replaced. As a result, your O&M manuals will require reviews and updates at intervals. One way to ensure that you’re including the most meaningful updates to your O&M manuals is to ask for feedback from your maintenance team.

Find out if there are areas they struggle with, new information they’d like to see and consider other suggestions that they might have. If you can implement most or all of the information we have discussed above, you can effectively remove ambiguity about what to include in your building manuals and have a set of O&M manuals that will provide many benefits long term.

Bryan Christiansen is founder and CEO of Limble CMMS.

Photo by Arren Mills on Unsplash

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