What Is An O&M Manual? Why It Matters For Facility Upkeep

Managing facilities isn't easy.

You've got to do so much to keep people, processes, and systems in harmony. For example, you want to reduce unplanned shutdowns and maintenance costs while keeping workers safe and extending asset lifecycles.

Can you achieve all these without standardization? Probably not. That’s where an operation and maintenance (O&M) manual comes in.

An O&M manual offers a comprehensive single reference point to help maintenance staff know everything about a physical plant, individual pieces of equipment, and overcome potential setbacks.

O&M manuals drive efficient maintenance management by telling you when and how to use each machine, how to maintain them, and ways to reduce workplace errors.

If you’re looking for ways to standardize business activities and minimize disruptions with strong operating procedures, this article shows you how to do it right with O&M manuals.

What is an O&M manual?

An operation and maintenance (O&M) manual explains how to manage and maintain a facility or property. An O&M manual can also include best practices and safety guidelines.

Subcontractors in the construction industry use operation and maintenance manuals to share detailed information on a building’s operation, decommission, maintenance, and demolition.

These documents also feature warranties, certificates, built drawings, and similar specifications. It is often required to create an O&M after a project is completed or for contractor handoffs, even though it isn't mandatory by law.

Now, let’s look at different types of O&M manuals that large companies use to streamline different work functions and activities.

Different types of O&M manuals

Larger organizations with multiple divisions use O&M manuals to reduce workplace accidents, control quality, and utilize resources efficiently.

You can create one large document for complete facility operations or separate ones for different subsystems. Whatever you decide, here are the common types of O&M manuals you can choose from.

  • Reference guides
  • Work assistance manuals
  • Human resources manuals
  • Help desk support manuals
  • Emergency and safety manuals
  • Manufacturer and supplier user manuals
  • Software and data administration manuals
  • Product installation and maintenance manuals
  • Programs and processes backup and recovery manuals

O&M documents provide consistent troubleshooting guidelines for any situation. Plus, they help you train new hires better and establish transparency throughout the organization.

Why create O&M manuals?

Wondering if you should spend time creating O&M manuals? Absolutely! Check out these O&M manual benefits in case you’re still unsure.

  • Aggregates data: A handy O&M document prevents your employees from running around the facility looking for information or instructions during critical situations.
  • Provides clear-cut steps to follow: O&M manuals answer all operational questions, easing for everyone to understand what needs to be done and when.
  • Speeds up training: O&M manuals help new trainees ramp up faster.
  • Reduces variance in quality: O&M guides clearly define standards, processes, and protocols, meaning there’s very little room for varying output quality.

O&M documents also help you foster team collaboration during predictive maintenance projects.

For example, you may be working on emergency repairs, tracking materials inventory, and managing vendors at the same time. Operation and maintenance guidelines help you streamline these complex facility management activities.

Read also: How to Proactively Manage Facilities

Who creates O&M manuals?

Collaboration is the key to producing good O&M manuals. While you can hire external facility consultants, don’t forget to include these stakeholders while creating O&M documents.

  • Supervisors
  • Safety managers
  • HR representatives
  • Finance controllers
  • Plant executives and engineers
  • Operating technicians and managers
  • Original equipment manufacturer (OEM) representatives

Consider taking insights from every department as they’ll help you spot objections you may not notice otherwise.

Looking for solutions to optimize O&M for your business?

When to create O&M manuals?

Creating an O&M manual while setting up a facility may not be a good idea. Because you’re still establishing initial processes and making changes. The best time to start creating O&M manuals is when you have set up regular schedules.

That way you can everyone knows about maintenance procedures and you can easily codify processes. However, make sure to update manuals as you set up new operating procedures.

Now, let’s look at what to add to these manuals and how to create them.

What’s in an O&M manual?

A comprehensive operation and maintenance manual contains all info about machines and processes in a building or plant. Below are the key sections that generally go into a manual.

  • Overview: This section covers general information about the plant, company history, organizational charts, and personnel data.
  • Scope: It defines key terms, appendix, and intended audience of the manual.
  • Physical building: This part of the manual includes facility details such as building code, finish data, floor plans, building materials, site survey, and floor-specific info.
  • Operating procedures: This chapter covers all the major operating processes in a way easily digestible to seasoned technicians and new hires alike.
  • Maintenance procedures: This section explains all preventive and corrective maintenance programs in detail along with schedules, responsibilities, troubleshooting, procedures, and test requirements.
  • Emergency procedures: This is where you’ll find everything related to internal and external crisis communication along with steps to follow during emergencies.

If you’re looking to add more granular details, you can add the following to a manual.

  • Machine operation charts and tables
  • Asset register with all machine specifications
  • Floor plans and maps of the facility and assets
  • Detailed engineering drawings of the equipment
  • Emergency maintenance protocols and procedures
  • Physical asset decommission and disposal information
  • Standard operating procedures (SOPs) for routine maintenance and daily operations
  • Recommend machine schedules, troubleshooting processes, checklists, and spare parts lists
  • Original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and maintenance vendor contact info

Nothing is set in stone when it comes to adding chapters to an O&M manual. The content of this manual largely depends on the company creating it.

Step by step guide to creating an O&M manual

Creating O&M manuals in one go can be challenging. You aren’t just documenting processes but also guidelines that everyone will refer to during emergencies.

It’s best to take time to create these manuals, complete one chapter at a time, and improve content continually. If you are unsure where to start, follow these steps to get started.

1. Plan, outline, and gather data

Start by defining the purpose of creating a manual and the audience you’re creating it for. Taking inputs from key stakeholders can help you find those answers and create an outline.

Once you have a plan, start interviewing engineers, operators, and technicians to gather data. Also, start gathering flowcharts, warranties, and guidelines you want to add to the manual.

2. Write the first draft

Now, you’re ready to segment all the data into chapters based on the outline you created earlier. Make sure you add flowcharts, relevant drawings, and formal procedural steps to help readers easily understand and visualize important information.

The first draft should be ready once you compile and review these chapters.

3. Get feedback and finalize the manual

You'll receive a lot of feedback once you share the first draft with stakeholders. Address those inputs and collect more data if you need.

You can go for multiple feedback rounds until you’re ready to polish and finalize the document. Now, publish it and make it available to all users.

4. Update the manual regularly

Publishing the manual isn’t the end of your job. You need to keep updating it as you expand operations, purchase new assets, and modify workflows. An updated manual is key to making informed operations and maintenance decisions.

Now the question is whether to store the manual in a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) or keep a hard copy of it. Let’s look at both.

Are O&M manual hard copies still relevant in 2022?

Many contracts require you to provide O&M manual hard copies due to standard specifications within the Employers Information Requirements (EIRs). Maintaining hardcopy O&Ms, however, involves multiple challenges:

  • Can be lost or damaged
  • Requires physical storage
  • Makes it difficult for employees to find information quickly
  • Expensive to produce and update, especially for large enterprises
  • Goes out of date as soon as you buy assets or create new workflows

These reasons are pushing construction industry players to improve construction information handover standards with the latest technology.

Still need to maintain hard copies? Use these O&M manual templates to get started.

A CMMS is your best ally if you'd prefer to move to the cloud for project data delivery.

Leveraging a CMMS for maintenance manuals

Moving from manual to digital maintenance manual management is no easy feat. It's likely you already have a manual creation and management process in place.

Moving to the cloud means you need to buy CMMS software, import data, set up user credentials, and teach users to use the software.

Moreover, you’re probably thinking if your IT staff will be able to support the implementation. Well, it’s worth the effort if you are willing to endure some short-term pain for long-term gain.

Whether you have a dedicated IT staff or not, a nimble operations platform like Facilio eases CMMS implementation. With Facilio, you can keep facility and machine maintenance manuals separate.

Moreover, your team can access those manuals from anywhere at any time. On-site technicians can easily access asset information simply by scanning the asset barcode.

Store O&M manuals where you can find them

Effective facility maintenance starts with easy data accessibility. Why keep buying file cabinets if you can’t find O&M documents when you need them?

Instead, opt for a CMMS system that uses a hardware-agnostic approach to connect real-time data with core O&M functions.

Join a demo to see how Facilio sets up your building for operational efficiency