I interviewed Mark Schaffer who discussed oManual and oManual Standards.
It’s great to speak with you again, Mark. The next topic we wanted to discuss today is the topic called, it’s an issue with a term referred to as oManual and oManual standards. I’m curious to learn more of what that’s about. Can you first provide a brief background of yourself?
Absolutely. Thanks for taking the time to talk to me today, Dustin. I appreciate it. I’m Mark Schaffer. I am an environmental consultant in the electronics industry. I’ve been doing so for the past seven years, located in Austin, Texas. Prior to that I worked for a number of environmental companies, electronic companies in their environmental department, and have been engaged in improving electronics in the environment for probably 15 years.
Can you start by talking a little bit about what this is about?
This is a standard. We call it the oManual standard; it stands for the open-manual format. It actually is an IEEE standard; IEEE 1874-2013 is its more formal name and actually has a few more words on that. For folks who are interested in the full name of the standard, it’s the IEEE 1874 Standard for Documentation Schema for Repair and Assembly of Electronic Devices.
You get it from IEEE; there also is a Web site called OManual.org, where you can get a lot of information about the standard and sort of how it’s structured, but you wouldn’t actually get a copy of the standard itself. In full disclosure, I was one of the folks who helped pull the standard together, and I am the vice chair of the group in IEEE who is maintaining the standard, and hopefully we’ll continue to update the standard over time.
That’s sort of a little bit of background of what it is and what the group is about. The standard itself is a schema documentation, so it’s intended to be a documentation that primarily companies would use when they’re trying to develop manuals that they’re going to put out, either for assembly of products, repair of products, two of the biggest things; you also have disassembly products for a recycler who needs to know how to take them apart.
This oManual standard basically provides the schema or basically the table of contents that a software developer would need to go through and say these are the various aspects in your document such that I can not only look at the documents and create these manuals online, say as a PDF, but I also will be able to then have it so I can put it on my mobile; I can put it on my phone or my tablet.
What we’re finding in most of the organizations we work with, they’re taking their manuals and they’re putting it on to tablets and phones so their workers can use that when they’re assembling a product or they’re preparing a product or when they end up taking a product apart for an end-of-life activity. What the oManual does is basically provide this structure so I can basically move from one device to another without losing any of the data and I can also do real-time updates from a server, into the server where I change something and say, “Hey, we have a new procedure,” and then would go into that and then would populate back out to all of these other devices that are looking at that standard.
Is there anything more you could say about why it’s important?
What it does is, we’re finding right now that a lot of folks, when they’re making their manuals, it never gets updated or it gets updated once a year or something like that. It also isn’t very portable; either I’m going to print out the PDF maybe, or if I’m good I may download it on my tablet and carry it around as a PDF, but I lose that real-time connection.
What we’ve found is that the more centralized the data can be made and the more real-time connection you can have, the more useful that is to folks. This gives that structure that’s necessary to basically make that such that if one manufacturer makes it and follows this and another manufacturer makes a manual and follows this structure and another manufacturer makes it and follows this structure, anybody can then go and it is a level playing field that everybody can look at. Not quite analogous but pretty close to this was the development of the PDF file format that Adobe did a number of years ago; they put together a structure such that if you put your document, you use this software to turn it into a PDF, then you can have another software that can read it, and then anybody can do it on any platform.
This is essentially that same kind of operation, except it provides it in a life format. It’s based a lot of XML or Jason are sort of the two basic software structures that are typically used as implementation. We’ve found it very useful for a lot of companies that are using it now on the assembly side and on the disassembly side. It’s really helped streamline their process.
Do you have any recommendations for companies that are interested?
Absolutely. What we’re finding, because it is software-based, obviously company * (6:32—unclear). What we’re encouraging is more software companies to come take a look at what oManual is and come talk to me or some of the other folks who helped build this standard on how they can adopt the oManual standard and actually offer this as something they’re able to produce manuals in this format today. One of the companies we work with right now is a company called Dozuki, and they produce online manuals and have for a couple of years.
They’re using this to produce all of their online manuals. What we really would like is more companies that are interested in the online manuals and the ability to produce and talk to us and start using this as a format for that. The more they use it, then it’ll create a large population of these so that more and more people are able to access these manuals to be able to do assembly, repair, and disassembly.
oManual website: http://www.omanual.org/index.php
IEEE 1874 standard: http://standards.ieee.org/findstds/standard/1874-2013.html
Dozuki website: http://www.dozuki.com/
DRTR website: http://www.digitalrighttorepair.org/
About Mark Schaffer
Sustainability Executive and Independent Consultant