William, I think the problem you mentioned about poorly written manuals has grown steadily worse - due to off shore manufacturing that is also assigning the technical writing to the engineers at the manufacturing plant. Often the manuals contain an English translation that is poorly written and difficult to follow.
Nancy, some nanuals are very good, but at one plac we had a tech writer who believed that he knew a lot more than he did know. He wrote a set of calibration instructions for a system that I designed and calibrated initially, and his instructions were so bad that they got me confused. I had to pull out the drawings and write a new procedure for our field service guy who was at our customers site. I faxed him the new instructions and requested that he collect all copies of the others to be returned to us for a shred and burn process. Then we sent our customers a set of calibration instructions that were simple to follow and worked correctly.
And just this evening I fought with a set of instructions for a mass mailing that did not match the reality of that mailing utility. MAJOR FRUSTRATION.
That is what I was wondering as well, William K...
And to argue the other side - sometimes a manual is not available or in the case of a high current supply I was working on - it has an error: one (and only one) of the dip switch settings were reversed - talk about hard to figure out! I think it is just a part of the engineering psyche to jump right in and try to figure something out, but obviously if a manual is available, a lot of time and potential heart ache can be avoided.
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