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.

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.

Solve these 3 problems (and more) when you integrate interactive parts manuals

Keeping accurate, updated parts documentation on long-life equipment is a never-ending task. Part models and vendors change frequently, rendering your material outdated and virtually useless when it's needed most. During inevitable equipment failure, how can your team efficiently identify and replace the parts they need to get back in gear?

After properly troubleshooting the issue, your mechanics are tasked with getting replacement parts in-hand right away. Lead time matters, and you need a streamlined solution to simplify the process for your field technicians, help desk personnel, dealers, and procurement teams.

Meet ONEIL's ONePARTS™ parts management and delivery system, serving logistics, parts management, and e-Commerce to manage your supply chain:
  • Interactive, user-friendly, and accessible remotely.
  • Compatible with your eCommerce or ERP system to facilitate easy ordering.
  • Decrease equipment downtime while driving after market part sales.

When you partner with ONEIL to integrate an interactive parts manual, your entire organization benefits. With infrastructure that allows your techs to self-serve anytime, anywhere, they're less likely to need the support of help desk personnel who could put lead times at risk by providing outdated information. Handle times decrease, diagnostic information is captured to help predict future failures, and warranty costs are reduced as unnecessary part replacements become a thing of the past.

Our customers tell us interactive parts manuals are a game-changer in streamlining operations and keeping the end customer happy. Whether you're managing a fleet of motor coaches or aircraft, our team of technical illustrators and industry experts puts the right information in the right hands at the right time. It's what we do best.

ONEIL's ONePARTS interactive parts data management and delivery system has no per-seat licensing or end-user costs. No hooks, just solutions. Contact our experts to learn how this tool can put your business in the fast lane.