FAQ: 4 questions for an experienced technical writer

What's so special about ONEIL's technical manuals (TMs)? Aren't all TMs the same? You might be surprised. While some organizations may choose to produce their own material in-house (or, worse, inadvertently partner with an unqualified firm!), ONEIL has a long history of setting ourselves apart. Our secret sauce? A multidisciplinary approach and knowledgeable staff like Pete Kurtz, Senior Technical Writer, who answers four common questions about technical writing:

When converting existing customer data into a quality technical manual, where do you start?

Typically, our writers will receive an existing TM, such as an engine shop manual or parts catalog, that has customer changes/markups, or instructions to add, remove, or change something. Each project has a customer-approved style guide which the writer adheres to while making the changes. Text changes are handled by the writer in whatever publishing form has been agreed to with the customer (e.g., Arbor Text, FrameMaker, etc.).

Illustration changes are reviewed and marked up by the writer, then delivered to the Illustration Department for electronic revision. Writers will reference engineering blueprints and technical data sheets, study electronic renderings of the equipment, or pull information from vendor sites. When written engineering is insufficient, the writer may disassemble equipment while taking notes and photographs, then later document disassembly or assembly. Once the writer implements the manual change, a lead writer then reviews the document(s) for technical accuracy. The writer corrects any errors the lead writer has found.

The document is reviewed by Quality Assurance. These last reviews are primarily non-technical in nature, but more thorough regarding style, format, grammar, etc. The final product is then delivered to the customer for their review. Depending on the project and customer, there may be up to five in-process reviews (IPRs) by the customer at various pre-publication stages: for example, a 35 percent IPR, 75 percent IPR, Validation/Verification review, and pre-publication review.

What considerations do you take into account when producing technical documentation for unique industries, say, aerospace?

Aerospace uses parts and equipment, processes, tools, etc., that are often exclusive to the industry. ONEIL has a dedicated aerospace group of technical writers who have mechanical experience in this industry and are very familiar with these things. Manual structure is also different in aerospace and there are specific standards and regulations that must be followed. For example, ATA iSpec 2200 is a referencing standard for commercial aircraft documentation that dictates formatting and data content standards, and manual chapters are associated with a specific ATA number. Our writers for these manuals have field and/or professional writing experience with ATA and other specs.

How does the end user benefit from your work as an experienced technical writer?

Our customers benefit from our work in numerous ways, and increased safety and decreased downtime are just two. But particularly with safety, customers rely on us to provide documentation that is precise, pertinent, cutting edge, and free from error. Otherwise, significant harm could result to personnel or end users. Environmental concerns and emissions controls have also become significant in recent years, and more and more customers are seeking ways to minimize their products' impact on the environment.

What are the characteristics of successful technical documentation?

Successful technical documentation is a team effort. There are so many aspects to producing a quality piece of work, that no one person can do everything. First and foremost, we need to satisfy our customer. They expect us to produce high-quality documentation, and we honor that trust. Second, we need to be aware of "the big picture." Next, we need to comply with the standards of the industry in which we work. Military specifications (or "Mil-spec") have certain standards for documentation, and commercial ATA has other standards. Lastly, we need to be cognizant of legal and ethical issues and safety requirements while maintaining an emphasis on quality, since it's quality that truly sets us apart from our competitors.

Pete has a reputation for quality, so he fits right in with the rest of the ONEIL team (in case you missed it, check out ONEIL's "Exceptional Quality" Award from the Harris Supply Chain Conference!). We're always happy to answer questions about our technical manual development process so feel free to get in touch at any time.

Q&A: Working with an experienced Logistics Support Analysis partner

Heavy equipment manufacturers know most of their equipment's lifetime cost is incurred after it's fielded. Scheduled maintenance, repair tasks, manpower, and other requirements should be well-defined and properly analyzed from the beginning to get the most value over its lifecycle and realize true return on investment.

Successful Logistics Support Analysis takes a structured approach in defining, analyzing, and quantifying maintenance and support requirements to optimize equipment performance. At ONEIL, our dedicated team of Logistics Support Managers work with military and civil customers to ensure their mission-critical equipment is safe, reliable, and properly maintained from early concept to end of life. We sat down with Paul Marx, ONEIL Logistics Support Manager, to discuss this process and the value he and his team bring to our customers each day.

As Logistics Support Manager, you help ONEIL customers save time and money. What types of research and analysis do you perform to help them get the most out of long-life equipment?

Product Support Analysis (PSA), formerly Logistics Support Analysis (LSA), involves research of nearly every aspect of equipment that needs maintenance support throughout its useful life. I most frequently perform Level of Repair Analysis (LORA) which is a software-supported algorithm and reporting tool that determines the most cost-effective level of maintenance where the repair of equipment should occur.

The LORA provides insight to customers, allowing them to make budgetary and future equipment and facility decisions for a projected number of years. The LORA is also a tool used to gain political budgetary allocations for new equipment and support for the life cycle costs of the equipment. With some information about the equipment entered into the software, algorithms are run that produce tangible reports and repair-level decisions. A human can then make an "informed" decision.

In line with the LORA, often a Maintenance Allocation Chart (MAC) is developed to assist maintenance writers with a set of known tasks to be written and to give the end user of the manual the ability to see what tasks they will perform on a given piece of equipment. This report is often a section within a maintenance manual and can change over time.

A third product of analysis and one that goes hand-in-hand with the MAC is a Maintenance Analysis (MA). Typically a spreadsheet, this report is a one-stop place to see the overall PSA that has been performed throughout the logistics analysis process. This report usually contains equipment component parts information, who can repair it, how long it should take, tools needed, failure information, cost, and reflects what PSA was performed.

All three of these PSA processes are living documents that can morph as equipment conditions, age, history, usage, and geographic location change. For that reason, analyses are repeated every few years during the life cycle of the equipment. These reports often go from "Predictive" in nature to "Measured" analysis and become more accurate over time.

How does Product Support Analysis contribute to customer success?

PSA is critical to the success of a customer in that decisions on the cost of maintaining a piece of equipment for many years can be made early on. These decisions can be made while the equipment is still in development and the manufacturing phases of a life cycle. The PSA on a piece of equipment can lend insight into what support equipment will be needed, what facilities will be needed to repair it, personnel requirements, their level of training, and on and on. With that in mind, a piece of equipment may be designed slightly differently based on knowledge that a trained workforce and facilities are already in place for it, and that means cost savings for everyone.

How do end users benefit from Product Support Analysis?

PSA is a means to see into the future and know what you and taxpayers will spend to keep equipment working and performing at its best. Engineers and manufacturers can pre-plan much of what they're doing based on solid historical evidence of similar types of equipment and the analysis of its performance. This can be significant cost savings to manufacturers and taxpayers. Any project that realizes cost savings in both areas can be sure of future work coming in the door.

What does a successful Product Support Analysis program look like?

A solid PSA program reaches out to get analyses done at the most thorough level based on the complexity of the equipment and the length of time its use is anticipated. With a solid team of people and many years' experience in maintenance of equipment at ONEIL, the best and most cost-effective way is often already known. In a nutshell, a simple piece of equipment may not need as much analysis to know how it will perform, but the more a customer invests in its engineering and development, the more important PSA becomes.

Realization of the cost of equipment development and maintenance ahead of time ensures the focus is on customer satisfaction. That is a win-win.

Each day, Paul and his team perform a wide range of critical analyses to optimize support strategies for customers of all sizes and product lines. Learn more about how ONEIL supports the complete product life cycle with Logistics Support Analysis and, as always, contact our product support experts with your questions. Chances are, we've answered them before.

What's it take to develop top quality Mil-Spec manuals?

Mil-Specs (aka military standard, MIL-STD, or MIL-SPEC) are a defense specification used in standardization by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to ensure the compatibility and consistency of logistics systems and equipment. In technical manuals, Mil-Specs ensure a reliable experience for the end user.

At its core, a quality technical manual for any complex piece of equipment provides effective maintenance and operating instructions for the reader. Since end users of varying skill levels rely on this information, it must be accessible, concise, and easily understood. Additionally, Mil-Specs establish technical content and functionality requirements as well as mandatory style and format for equipment and vehicle system technical publications. A critical element of a quality Mil-Spec manual is its adherence to these standards.

At a minimum, authors of Mil-Spec manuals should be very familiar with the DoD standard practice for the development of such publications, with a solid understanding of all military specifications, standards, and handbooks. These are updated regularly and include a summary of revisions with each release. Still, novice technical writing firms are at risk of overlooking key details. Standard practice for developing Mil-Spec manuals comes with its own set of considerations that even a seasoned author might overlook from time to time. After decades in the product support business, we like to think we've seen it all from customers and competitors.

From stylesheets, matrixes, and callout rotation to initial setups and verbatim text, there are many elements that could be missed. We've seen this happen when customers attempt to develop content in-house with inexperienced staff, and we often help organizations who previously outsourced the work to other technical writing firms who ultimately failed to meet requirements.

Bottom line: authoring Mil-Spec manuals requires a level of expertise you can't find just anywhere.

Remember the regular updates mentioned above? At ONEIL, we have protocol in place to ensure all content we develop adheres to the latest standards. With years of experience following military specifications and handbooks, staying up-to-date on DoD revisions is our priority. And, once content is developed by our seasoned staff, it undergoes stringent internal quality and compliance review. We understand that ultimately, Mil-Spec manuals are intended to keep our warfighters safe with effective product support information they rely on.

Customers old and new contact us when they have a need for new Mil-Spec manual development, or when they have existing technical publications that require revisions as standards evolve. Whatever the circumstance, our team of experts takes pride in getting it right.

Outsourcing technical publications: why customers turn to ONEIL

We're often contacted by publications managers who've found themselves in the weeds managing their organization's technical publications initiatives. Often, they already have in-house personnel capable of creating some of the material, but they soon realize bandwidth is limited and they're in over their heads when it comes to meeting quality, delivery, and-- especially-- compliance needs. Specification types vary by industry, but this scenario isn't uncommon.

Take the defense sector, for example. Why do customers turn to ONEIL for help with their technical publications?

Finding experienced and qualified staff can be difficult, so ONEIL customers appreciate our robust team, expansive campus, and years of hands-on experience working with military equipment and personnel. We understand the impact and importance of quality content for the warfighter. Safety and quality will always be our primary focus when developing technical content and supporting mission-readiness in the field.

Building the necessary infrastructure to properly and efficiently produce technical publications takes time and money. Customers rely on ONEIL's existing technology, software, licenses, and best-in-class information security standards to deliver the right product support information at the right time. Whether it's in the form of a ready-to-use paper manual or an electronic environment, busy publications managers count on us to meet all quality and delivery criteria, allowing them to focus on other efforts.

Complying with DoD standards and specifications can be overwhelming for those unfamiliar with current requirements, but developing compliant product support information is part of the ONEIL mission. Customers know we have a reputation for meeting standards their own teams may inadvertently miss (sign up for our newsletter to read about some of the most commonly overlooked Mil-Specs!). We've even helped organizations whose previous strategic business partners unfortunately failed to meet requirements.

Across defense, aerospace, and commercial markets, we've seen it all... and we take pride in being the compliant choice. Get in touch to hear more about our unmatched product support experience.

Keeping our warfighters safe with world-class IETMs

For decades, we've produced all types of technical material, including an increasing number of Interactive Electronic Technical Manuals (IETMs) for our customers in commercial, defense, and aerospace markets.

When developing IETMs, we prioritize keeping the end user safe and their equipment performing optimally. While this doctrine holds true regardless of industry, the defense arena comes with its own nuances we must carefully address to keep our warfighters safe. How do we do this? The key is easy interpretation of procedural steps accompanied with vivid graphics, animations, and interactive schematics, while keeping the different levels of warfighter Military Occupational Specialty (MOS), training, and experience in mind. This allows for quick access to useful information when it's needed most.

What else does ONEIL do to deliver world-class IETMs to our warfighters?

→ IETMs are written to military specification and standards which ensures content is listed in an applicable and effective order. General warning summary, equipment description, and theory of operation are purposely ordered before procedural content to ensure the warfighter has information needed to familiarize themselves with equipment and systems. IETMs provide the warfighter quick content access, part information, and efficient procedural step-by-step instructions for operating, maintaining, and troubleshooting equipment.

→ IETMs identify potential personnel and equipment hazards, risks, and safety concerns in each work package. They contain warnings and cautions with visual icons and detail of the danger that must be acknowledged prior to the warfighter continuing to the next procedural step(s). Warnings and cautions are used reasonably to preserve their value and to avoid overuse.

→ Individual work packages contain information listed in an initial setup section providing the warfighter materials, parts, and tools needed to perform each task. Any other procedural tasks needed to be completed before beginning a task are listed in the initial setup as well. This allows the warfighter to prepare and ensure all items are accounted for prior to operating, maintaining, or troubleshooting equipment.

At ONEIL, many of our employees are military veterans, adding a wealth of field experience when creating IETMs that keep warfighters and military equipment safe. Learn more about our our technical manual development process and download the brochure for more information.

3 parts management problems; 1 intelligent solution

When you're responsible for parts management, you'll likely run into the same data problems time and time again. A bottleneck in productivity can be caused by any number of disruptions--inaccurate data, inefficient processes, and human error are no doubt familiar themes.

With so many moving (literal and figurative) parts to manage, operational malfunction seems unavoidable on the back end, but consumers expect orders will be timely and hassle-free. The last thing customers want to do is call to check on their order status because there's a delay in fulfillment. Ultimately, your organization's reputation--and bottom line--are at risk because of daily inefficiencies in parts management.

Seamless fulfillment requires a proactive approach in day-to-day parts management. After all, preventing these problems is easier (and often less expensive!) than reacting to them as they arise:

  1. Parts data is inaccurate, missing, or outdated
  2. When your client's mission-critical equipment is down, it's imperative that you have accurate information on-hand so you can quickly order necessary replacement parts. Keeping this information up-to-date can be a tall order as new models are introduced, updates are made to existing models, and older part numbers are superseded with replacements. Submitting an order with incorrect part numbers will cause delays in delivery and frustration for all parties involved.
  3. Business systems aren't integrated
  4. As your business grows, you may find it needs more systems to better support the parts management lifecycle and operate cross-functionally. But if one system doesn't "talk" to the others, you could be setting yourself up for an entirely new set of problems attributed to disjointed data. These integration concerns are especially prevalent when dealing with legacy systems which rarely "play nice with others."
  5. Parts content is lifeless
  6. Maybe you're ahead of your competitors and have successfully centralized your parts content by now. But is it inclusive of all data from various sources? Can you link service manuals and multimedia documents to it to facilitate future troubleshooting and training? If the answer to either of these questions is "no," you may not be as far ahead of the competition as you think.

Remaining organized in the parts management field has its challenges, but a centralized system that intelligently manages your inventory's lifecycle in a unified environment can reduce cost, downtime, and confusion. Get in touch with the ONEIL experts to learn more about our ONePARTS™ parts management and delivery system and how it can help your organization continue to delight your customers.

Reflecting on 2018 and looking ahead to the new year

Happy new year from ONEIL! We worked hard in 2018 and had a little fun, too. Here's a look at some of the highlights, plus a sneak peek of what's on deck for the new year:

Hosting and attending events

Our team traveled coast to coast in 2018, from AUSA in Washington, D.C., to the Aerospace & Defense Manufacturing & R&D Summit in Pasadena, California, with plenty of stops in between. Why do we maintain a busy travel schedule year after year? As experts in the product support field, sharing industry insight with peers is an important part of the job. We're already looking forward to another full schedule of events in 2019.

In August, we hosted our first Breakfast Briefing in partnership with the Ohio Aerospace Institute. ONEIL President and CEO, Hernan Olivas, delivered Trends in Aerospace Product Support with industry experts, academia, and local government officials in attendance. AR/VR's role in end user consumption was a hot topic as guests were treated to a complimentary breakfast buffet and a valuable networking opportunity in our on-site workshop.

Receiving awards and certifications

Without question, one of the highlights of 2018 was earning ISO 27001 certification for our information security management system. This means more to us than just another accolade. The certification demonstrates our commitment to protecting internal infrastructure while providing our customers with the best-in-class information security standards they've come to expect from ONEIL.

Over the summer, we were pleased to be presented the "Exceptional Quality" Supplier Award at the Harris Supply Chain Conference. As ONEIL Director of Operations, Erik Shelton, said: "We've prided ourselves on superior strategic partnerships and delivering world-class quality to our customers for more than 70 years. This award is a clear indication of our continued commitment to excellence, to Harris, and to our nation's Warfighters."

Serving our community

Part of what makes us ONEIL is our commitment to helping our neighbors. In October, the Dayton Business Journal recognized us as a 2018 Community Supporter honoree during its Business of the Year Awards. It's easy to see why.

Earlier in the year, ONEIL's Helping Hands Committee (HHC) proudly awarded our largest-ever Larry E. O'Neil Scholarship to a Miamisburg High School senior. Named after our company founder, the scholarship is awarded each year to a local student who demonstrates strong community involvement and academic achievement.

And the HHC didn't stop there. Because of employee generosity, we made Christmas a little brighter in our neighborhood by providing gifts for 40 local children in need. It's a meaningful ONEIL tradition we absolutely expect to continue in 2019 and beyond.

What should our customers expect from us in the new year? Continued efficiency and agility. With construction of our AR/VR lab nearing completion, we'll continue to lead the product support industry with powerful solutions our customers rely on to make their mission-critical equipment safer to operate, easier to maintain, and faster to repair.

Here's to another year of successful events, community service efforts, and satisfied customers. Don't miss a thing in 2019. Subscribe to our newsletter for occasional ONEIL updates.

Under Construction: ONEIL's new AR/VR lab

Mockup design of ONEIL's completed AR/VR lab.

What's new at ONEIL's Miamisburg headquarters? Construction of the new AR/VR lab is officially underway as crews work to transform one of our conference centers into a state-of-the-art workshop for augmented and virtual reality product offerings.

Why did we choose to invest in the AR/VR lab? Simple. As experts in the product support field, we've spent the last 70 years providing our customers with the information they need, when--and how--they need it. AR/VR technology is a natural extension of that capability, offering the next-gen product support format an evolving workforce demands.

"The work we will perform in the AR/VR lab is a new avenue for getting useful information to people when they need it most. Ultimately, it will allow us to enable real-world use cases to demonstrate how our suite of solutions makes people safer, more productive, and more efficient." – Armando Monzon, Director of Software Development

It's easy to see how publications and training managers are benefiting from AR/VR technology:

Meeting new workforce demands: As baby boomers retire at an overwhelming rate, leaders are catching a younger, more tech-savvy labor force up to speed. The millennial workforce was raised on emerging technology in their classrooms and digital devices in their pockets, meaning they're well-accustomed to interactive learning tools. In fact, it's fair to say they expect it: 2016 research by Dell and Intel found 82% of millennials are influenced by workplace technology when deciding whether to accept a job in the first place.

Closing the knowledge gap: We already know interactive, self-paced training results in higher comprehension and steeper retention. Do all your technicians have sufficient training and material to support the maintenance and repair of mission-critical equipment? Do they have to gather information from multiple sources? Is work put on hold while they call in experts from other areas? AR/VR closes these costly knowledge gaps, providing better training and real-time troubleshooting for novice and veteran field techs alike.

Reducing risk: AR/VR simulations are a particularly helpful tool for modeling physically challenging tasks or dangerous environments. One use case: UPS leverages VR headsets to help delivery drivers identify road hazards in a controlled and hands-on approach. By removing risk factors from the teaching environment, learners get practical experience that will keep them safe on the job.

Curious to learn more about AR/VR and other ONEIL offerings? Check out this quick augmented reality video or get in touch with our experts.

Meet ONEIL’s new VP

ONEIL has named Chief Information Officer, Dave Stackhouse, as Vice President of the business, effective immediately.

Hernan Olivas, President and CEO, recently made the announcement, following the official adoption of the resolution from ONEIL's Board of Directors.

"So much of what we do today relies on technology. Dave understood this a long time ago and he made sure ONEIL was prepared to successfully transition to this environment. Today, all our services, solutions, and the operation of the organization depend on the technology infrastructure that Dave created. That has enabled Dave to develop institutional knowledge of the organization. This makes him the ideal candidate for VP," Olivas said.

Stackhouse, a Xenia, Ohio native, has been with the business since 1994. During his tenure with ONEIL, he has spearheaded numerous initiatives, including the design and implementation of the organization's first network. Additionally, Stackhouse led the company's pursuit of Information Security Management System specification ISO 27001, a key differentiator for the 70+ year old business. Working closely with cross-functional company infrastructure has afforded him familiarity with all areas of the business, including IT, HR, business development, and marketing initiatives.

In addition to his continued responsibilities as CIO, Stackhouse will extend beyond the technology space into developing and executing corporate-level objectives, including business support systems and the company's AR/VR initiative, which will serve aerospace, defense, and commercial customers.

View the press release on Markets Insider and keep up with ONEIL news and events on LinkedIn.

Go digital: 3 ways intelligent schematics make field support easier

One thing MRO, Fleet, and Field Support Managers have in common: they're sick of highlighters. The more complex their equipment, the more intricate the schematics, which means technicians spend a lot of time fumbling through binders of multi-sheet diagrams, then manually tracing wires and connectors to get to the root of failure. Simply put: the troubleshooting process is painful.

Let's work smarter.

Converting your electrical, pneumatic, or hydraulic diagrams to a digital environment is the first step in simplifying workflow (and reducing frustration). When your crew can quickly maneuver through the technical data they need--whether they're in the office or in the field--you'll notice a few major benefits:

  1. Reduced downtime (and therefore, cost). Why should troubleshooting be so labor-intensive? You've heard your techs mention it can take longer to trace back to the failure point than to actually repair the issue. With an intelligent schematics solution like ONeVIEW™, wires and components are hotspots, circuits are "turned on" via colorizing, component details are enriched, and the user can easily zoom and pan between sheets without missing a beat. And, with the option for could-based delivery, users can get the information they need anytime, anywhere.
  2. Reduced human error. Trying to keep your place as you leaf through several reams of paper to determine where that ground wire leads? Good luck. ONeVIEW's interactive interface allows users to interact with schematics by clicking into customizable, color-coded lists with direct links to the component they're searching for. It'll bookmark relevant areas and even populate a list of associated components. Make things even easier by tapping associated attachments to see exploded-view images for a clear, visual indication of what the real-world part looks like.
  3. Better training. A new generation is replacing your retiring field techs--do you have a plan to maintain that knowledge? Intelligent schematics are user-friendly and include the 3D renderings this generation expects. ONeVIEW even offers training modules and videos to catch your team up to speed now and in the future with automatic updates as equipment changes over time.

We're well-regarded in many industries for our product support solutions, and with good reason.

Let us introduce you to our ONeVIEW intelligent schematics solution and take your from-to processes from lifeless to interactive. Download the ONeVIEW brochure when you're ready to ditch the highlighters for good.

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