Improving Maintenance Performance: Design Strategies for Technical Information
NAVAL OCEAN SYSTEMS CENTER SAN DIEGO CA
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Several years ago there was a cartoon in the paper that parodied the U.S. Armys newest tank, the M-1. In the cartoon, the weight of the tank was listed at 73 tons with a proviso provided by the Pentagon stating that six of those tons were the owners manual. The Washington Posts 1986 article on Struggling to Understand Manual-ese noted several examples of problems with poorly worded documentation that accompanies most of the consumer electronics products, e.g., VCRs. A local hospital recently issued a users manual to assist the staff in interfacing with the hospital computer. For various reasons, the hospital had three different types of computer terminals that were networked to a central server. Rather than spend the money necessary to develop software for a single set of interface commands, three different sets of instructions, a unique set for each computer terminal, were compiled into a users manual. The user was expected to learn and remember each set of appropriate interface commands. For example, to clear the screen at terminal 1 the user pressed the ALT-F2 keys for terminal 2, the PAUSE key cleared the screen and for terminal 3, the CLEAR key cleared the screen. The lack of any systematic approach to the design and development of technical information contributes to inefficient operation and ineffective maintenance performance. Data and techniques exist that demonstrate improved performance.
- Computer Programming and Software
- Human Factors Engineering and Man Machine Systems