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Digital O&M Manuals

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Thinking about printing O&M manuals

Our main contribution to Environmental Management ISO 14001, is by promoting the improvements that result from using digital manuals; saving the enormous volumes of paper, reducing transport costs in shipping paper around and preparing and reviewing drafts etc etc. A better end product that also helps the planet.


Modern O&M manuals are created as digital documents replete with hyper links, search tools and the type of navigation structures that we have become used to when browsing the internet. Denaploy is one of the leaders in this trend and as a consequence has documented approaching £1bn of construction projects for some of the most demanding customers in the industry.

Unfortunately it is still common place for the job specification to ask for 4x hard copies and 1 soft copy.  Mostly this is because this is the same copy and paste bit of the spec that hasn’t been considered for the last 10 years and is therefore easier to leave in the contract chain than challenge.

Here are some of the discussions that should be considered.

  • Do we need a paper copy at all?  It might be a good idea to make a single archive copy as the building is likely to last many years and paper is a good archival material.
  • Is the paper copy the reference manual that will be used day to day? No! It is a lot easier to find information when it is on your computer system.  If you then want paper copies of a specific page you can print it out. The manual for a £3m project typically runs to more pages than War and Peace, but nobody will read it from cover to cover.
  • What about the Drawings?There is very little point in printing all the drawings. The drawings are probably the most expensive part of the print process (anything from a third to half the total print costs). 
    • o   If you are doing some further development  then you will want the DWG files so your CAD designers can work with them
    • o   If you just need to reference a drawing, then you can either look at it on the screen or get it printed when needed.
  • It is very wasteful to print thousands of pages, just so they are available just in case they are needed.
  • Do User Guides need to be printed? Under the Code for Sustainable Homes, you do not need to print all the manuals.  It is perfectly acceptable to post the manuals on a website and then give a letter to each user with their access details and the contents page.


Why we don’t include the cost of printing in our quotes!

We are happy to join with the main contractor in discussing these issues with the client in the hope that we can persuade them to co-operate in saving the planet and even if they only agree to having just 1 print copy and exclude all the drawings – then it will have a significant impact.

We are also aware that many of the Main Contractors have their own print facilities (either in house or by agreement with Call Print or Service Point et al) and can often get manuals printed more cheaply than we can. 

For these reasons we do not include the actual print costs in our quote.  We do however include all the management of the process – the conversion from hyperlinks to a print friendly layout, the detailed instructions for the printer and the control to get the job done.


ISO 14001

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