How to Optimize Your Machinery User Manuals
A precise, quality user manual is crucial regardless of how simple equipment might be for operators to use. Manuals are an essential extension of your machine and are also its most visible product document.
A quality manual needs to clearly and effectively communicate instructions and information. That’s a necessity to fulfill its two main objectives: protecting the safety of all users across the equipment’s complete lifecycle and fulfilling your legal duty to warn.
Is Your Current Manual Enough?
Does your equipment manual clearly communicate all the details of how the machine operates, as well as all the key safety instructions? Does it include the required information given by relevant legislation and product safety standards? The design process for your manual may have included a compilation of information from instruction sheets or sessions with stakeholders experienced with the machinery’s daily operations.
However, because instructional guides are important documents for user safety and protection against liability, this design method isn’t always enough. It’s common for these instructions to miss needed safety information, which can cause costly equipment malfunctions, accidents, and injuries.
Typical flaws that manuals often have include:
- Not conforming to ANSI/ISO best practices for content
- Poor writing or organization resulting in unclear communication
- Missing maintenance instructions
- Missing warnings and instruction information
- Not considering audience comprehension or language requirements
- Failing to include mandatory elements required by legislation or standards
How Can a Manual Audit Help?
A manual must be well-designed and clearly communicate the instructions and safety information associated with the equipment. It must also adhere to the current applicable safety standards and best practices. Our clients are mainly concerned with making sure their collateral materials meet international or U.S. standards.
It can be a challenge to produce a complete yet concise set of information that communicates the safe use of a machine. A thorough audit can help ensure you are meeting today's requirements for safety and risk reduction.
Our Audit and Design Services
We offer trusted, effective manual audit and design services as an extension of our product offerings. Whether you have existing material to be audited, or have a new product without a manual, we can help.
Using ISO 20607, as well as ANSI Z535.6 (Product Safety Information in Product Manuals, Instructions, and Other Collateral Materials), as a guide, our trusted team of experts thoroughly examines your manual from various angles with safety in mind. This includes harmonization with the rest of the ANSI Z535 standards, as well as ISO - which also includes user guides, assembly instructions, employee information, and any additional written material.
We then make recommendations to improve structure, content, and design. After implementing our recommendations, you can choose to take advantage of our technical writing and design experience.
We address all aspects of your manual, including:
- Content structure and organization
- Key principles of instructional design
- Writing style and legibility
- Audience and translation requirements
- Updates and version control
- Analysis of residual risks
- Overviews of the machine and general safety/operating instructions
- Warnings, instructions, and safety symbols
- Machine transportation, handling, and storage
- Machine inspection, testing, cleaning, and maintenance
- Compliance with ANSI manual standards
- Compliance with ISO requirements
For more information and insight on our audit and design services, as well as best practice recommendations from our expert consultant, Pat Robinson, visit our posts on the following:
- Preparing Your Machinery Instructions For International Markets
- Bridging the Gap Between Manual and Machine With On-Product Warnings