WSI Manuals

“Written by Operators for Operators”

Value of Plant Operations Manuals

The operations manual is an important plant resource. A well-developed and up-to-date operations manual serves the utility in the following ways:

  • Repository of Information
  • Standardization of Procedures
  • Reduced Risk
  • Access to Equipment Information
  • Training Tool
  • Regulatory/Lending Agency Requirement

Across the country, the wastewater workforce is aging. It is important to capture their intuitional knowledge before they retire. Making sure staff has quick access to need-to-know information and that all procedures are documented reduces risk to the utility. Having utility information well-documented enables the manual to be used as a training tool for new staff or reference for more experienced staff. Having an up-to-date manual is also often a regulatory and lending agency requirement.

Electronic Manual Structure

Electronic manuals (e-manuals) should be adaptive, expandable, and easy to maintain. Staff needs the ability to change graphics, create mouse-overs, or link to new websites or information. The menu system needs to be easily modified to allow the manual to grow and change with plant and equipment upgrades. Staff should also be able to easily update the manual from within the manual software. The ability to quickly update or modify procedures, equipment information, and control data is key to having a manual system that is useful to staff.

The operations e-manual should contain information useful in the day-to-day operation of the facility. For each unit process information is typically broken down as follows:

  • Overview
  • Functional Description
  • Equipment
  • Controls
  • Alarms
  • SOPS
  • Troubleshooting


Templates are used to house most of the day-to-day information.  Libraries are typically created in the manual system to house information that does not belong in the templates.  Libraries often contain plant photos, permits, vendor manuals, safety information, training material, etc.

Custom Interactive Graphics Enhance Learning and Understanding


From within the manual information can be crossed-referenced and retrieved from various pages.

Another method of adding depth and value to an e-manual is to link outside the manual to information viewed and edited by other software.


Types of Manuals

Manuals have evolved from paper to HTML to database.

Paper manuals are no less expensive than electronic manuals. The biggest issues with paper manuals are that they are not user friendly and they are difficult to update. Paper manuals typically have a lot of narrative text. It takes a person with good writing skills to write and update a paper manual. In addition, when updating the pagination is almost always thrown off.

HTML manuals became popular with the advent of internet website development software. The software enabled manual developers to link electronic files – basically building a website that housed information. The e-manuals make finding information easy. The manuals are static – view only and cannot be edited from within the manual. To edit a HTML manual page or create mouse-overs users must exit the manual, open a third party html editing software such as Frontpage or Dreamweaver, make the changes and save the file back into the same folder. HTML manuals are potable since they do not require a database on which to operate. HTML manuals are viewed using browser software such as Internet Explorer. The user does not have to be on-line to use the manual.

Database manuals are dynamic in that users can edit pages and make mouse-overs from within the manual software. Since editing is easy, these manuals tend to be kept updated. Also, since information is stored in a relational database, it can be shared with other database applications. Database manuals require a database on which to operate. This makes them less portable. Database manuals are viewed using browser software such as Internet Explorer. The user does not have to be on-line to use the manual.

The database manual system is the recommended manual technology, though WSI will happily produce a manual in any format desired.


The e-manuals should allow linking and embedding of many types of media. A media rich environment allows for additional content and depth as well as providing alternative learning methods.  Media also reduces the amount of text necessary to convey an idea.  The manual should be capable of utilizing the following types of media:

  • Graphics
  • Video
  • Photographs
  • Music/Sound
  • Adobe Flash