What Is an Operation and Maintenance Manual?

July 13, 2022

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. 

Types of Operation and Maintenance Manuals

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

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. 

Transparency in operations is vital to businesses today, not just for reining in inefficiencies and waste, but also for troubleshooting work models, identifying areas ripe for training, and generally developing opportunities for improvement. As companies look increasingly at areas to automate—and contemplate spending big sums to do so—the need for such transparency becomes ever more important so that leaders don’t make decisions blindfolded.


Operations and Maintenance Manual Components

A comprehensive O&M manual includes 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 protocols. 
  • 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 easier 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 preventive maintenance, O&M manuals make it easier for team members to know what to do and when. 

How to Create an Operation and Maintenance Manual

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

Use Software

According to a Plant Engineering Maintenance Study, 39 percent of plants still rely only on paper records. This is problematic for several reasons, but primarily because printed manuals are difficult to update. Digital platforms are available to help managers create, edit, and distribute 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. Collaborating ensures 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 may phase-out assets while acquiring new ones. 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.

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, preferably, a digital copy of the O&M manual for easy reference. 


Organizations should develop O&M manuals to provide clear standard operating procedures. The manuals and the information in them should be derived from critical departments’ input, such as product development and testing; operations, 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.

Ready to create your first O&M manual? Check out MaintainX. It’s free and a great place to start!

Operation and Maintenance Manual
Caroline Eisner
Caroline Eisner
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