The technical documentation of a complex system

The technical documentation of a complex system

To talk only about technical writing in these cases is reductive. To talk just about the instruction manual is reductive.

The technical documentation of a complex system is a collection of several documents. There can be different formats and the documents can be referred to various machines. Drawings, diagrams, technical attachments and, depending on the industry, the materials certificates. We will talk about the system referring to the whole installation and about the machine referring to a part of the installation bought by a third party.

Who did what? This is the first point to clarify in the system instruction manual. The most common procedure is to insert the cross references to the manufacturer’s documentation, referred to a component or a machine installed in the system…and this is the right procedure to follow. But a cross reference is not enough.

Depending on the system, it is necessary to verify that the machine documentation provided by the manufacturers is in conformity with the requisites of the system. The manual is a safety measure just like a pictogram, or the lifting point indicated on the packaging. If we insert a machine in the system, we must be sure that the provided documentation is in compliance with the norms and without any ambiguity or mistake that could make the machine uncompliant with the norms.

For what concerns the safety we must verify at least:

  • The CE label and the CE declaration
  • The presence of residual risks declared in the manual (dangerous areas, kind of danger in that area, risk associated to the operator task)
  • Report of the risks with the pictograms applied on the machine
  • The presence of evident risks (not declared)
  • The presence of ordinary and programmed maintaining procedures
  • The regulations for the extraordinary maintaining procedures

For what concerns the validity of the technical communication:

  • Intelligibleness of the safety warnings and the whole text in general
  • Nomenclature of the parts (to use in the system manual)
  • Manual in the language of the country of installation

To safeguard the manufacturer of the system it is necessary to insert, in the safety chapter of the system manual, all the residual risks of all the machines that constitute the system (one can find them in the respective manuals). Also, those of the electrical motors, pumps, electrical axes, lasers and scanners.

If there is a pictogram on a component, it must be explained in the system manual, we cannot refer to a manual hidden in the CD of the documentation.

To gain the customers loyalty we must insert all the maintenance procedures of the installed components in one table. Like this the user can entirely organize the operations. The “how to” procedures can be read in the component manuals, directly on the machine. How?

AP Publishing realized CONTAINER, a tool to deliver and consult the technical documentation on the machine itself, scanning a label with a tablet or a smartphone. Like this, the user of the system will have several labels and accede directly to the documentation of that part of the system. We added the feedback functionality, that sends an e-mail to the after sales of the manufacturer and gives the user the possibility to add some notes.

Over the years, we had the pleasure to deliver to our clients, user oriented system manuals. This to help them consult the documentation where and when it is needed.

For further information and a demo write an e-mail at

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Alessandro Pratelli