What Is an Operation and Maintenance Manual?

January 11, 2022

What Is an Operation and Maintenance Manual?

An operation and maintenance (O&M) manual is a document that provides essential details about property and equipment upkeep. O&M manuals provide maintenance personnel with detailed guidance on extending asset life cycles, minimizing unplanned shutdowns, reducing maintenance costs, and keeping workers safe. O&M manual users include organizational managers, executives, maintenance technicians, and third-party contractors.


Operation and maintenance manuals are crucial for organizations wanting to optimize asset management. They outline how to complete tasks related to proactive maintenance, reactive maintenance, safety inspections, standard operating procedures (SOPs), inventory management, and more. 

The larger the organization, the more heavily it will rely on an O&M manual to ensure consistency in processes and production. However, even smaller teams can benefit from scaling O&M manuals as operations grow. 

Put simply, O&M manuals help eliminate ambiguity by providing step-by-step instructions for tasks that are susceptible to misinterpretation and mishandling. Without an O&M manual, organizations risk experiencing increased workplace accidents, decreased quality control, and inefficient department resources. 

Types of Operation and Maintenance Manuals

It’s common for large organizations to have multiple O&M manuals for different activities, work functions, and divisions. The most common types of O&M manuals include:

  • Product installation and maintenance manuals
  • Programs and processes backup and recovery manuals
  • Software and data administration manuals
  • Human resources and personnel manuals
  • Help desk support manuals
  • User manuals from manufacturers and suppliers
  • Emergency and safety manuals
  • Work assistance manuals
  • Quick reference guides

A primary benefit of O&M documents is simplifying the onboarding of new hires. Also, operation and maintenance manuals ensure employees have access to consistent guidelines for any given situation. 

Operations and Maintenance Manual Components

A comprehensive O&M manual has the following components:

  • Overview: Includes background information such as company history, organizational charts, and personnel information.
  • Maintenance Procedures: Outlines proactive and corrective maintenance programs to ensure important assets remain in good working condition. Procedures summarize equipment test requirements, troubleshooting processes, and scheduling protocol. 
  • Emergency Procedures: Lists the steps to take in emergencies, including the people and agencies to notify and how to handle crisis communication. 
  • Physical Building: Contains detailed information about the facility, including site surveys, building codes and specification information, floor plans, and types of building materials. Contractors and subcontractors provide this information during construction.
  • Operating Procedures: Provides detailed explanations of SOPs so employees can quickly adapt to new roles. Additionally, SOPs make it easy for maintenance technicians to double-check work.

The long-term viability of assets depends on effective operations and continuous maintenance. By outlining how and when to perform processes, O&M manuals make it easier for team members to understand operation and maintenance activities. 

How to Create an Operation and Maintenance Manual

Creating a comprehensive O&M manual isn’t an easy task. However, it’s essential to recognize that your first document doesn’t have to be perfect. It will continue to evolve as your department learns, grows, and gathers feedback from key stakeholders. Here are some tips for creating an effective O&M manual:

  • Use Software: According to the 2019 Plant Engineering Maintenance Study, 39 percent of plants still rely on paper records alone. This is problematic for several reasons, but primarily because printed manuals are difficult to update. Several digital platforms are now available to help managers create, edit and distribute their O&M manuals more easily online. Choose a software option that streamlines the entire process.
  • Develop a Simple Layout: To be valuable to all stakeholders, your manual should have a consistent layout. The best document designs are simple, scalable, and easy to follow. Use headers, subheads, bullet points, and font elements (i.e. bold, italics) to break text into digestible pieces of information.
  • Collaborate with Stakeholders: Consult your front-line managers, field technicians, and relevant department employees when developing your document. Such collaboration ensures that the O&M covers all aspects of the business so there are no blind spots, inefficiencies, or errors. It’s also easier to get the entire organization to accept and implement the manual when everyone plays a part in its development.
  • Ask for Feedback: As the business grows, the organization will always phase-out assets while acquiring new ones. This means the manual will need periodic reviews and updates. Organizations need to involve their employees in the review process and factor in their feedback. They will have additional suggestions and questions that can improve the manual so that it becomes more useful over time.

Additional worthwhile details to include in your manual are:

  • Warranty certificates
  • Descriptions of asset design principles
  • Design drawings and specifications
  • Details of facility construction components, such as doors and windows, roof construction, cladding, and finishing, among others.
  • Inventory lists of equipment and parts
  • Health and safety guidelines for operation and maintenance
  • Manufacturer guides for effective and proper service
  • Guidelines on decommissioning, demolition, and disposal

Your manual also should contain guidelines for facility access, facility security, and environmental controls. Finally, every employee should have a hard copy or digital copy of the O&M manual for easy reference. 


Organizations should develop O&M manuals that provide clarity and encourage employees to be productive. The manuals and the information in them should be derived from critical departments’ input, such as product development and testing, operations, projects, maintenance, and customer service. They should factor in feedback from all stakeholders. Lastly, organizations should use digital tools to develop O&M manuals that can be easily updated to reflect facilities and equipment changes.

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