Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Importance of Good Documentation for LED Signs.

Almost all products you buy will have some sort of operation manual included. The quality and usefulness of this documentation varies greatly between products and manufacturers. Some products require in-depth technical manuals while others just need simple assembly drawings. In my opinion, LED sign documentation falls into the middle. End users and dealers do not want or need an engineering manual unless the project is a highly customized build. But they do need documentation for parts replacement, quick troubleshooting, installation, and software training.

Most commercial LED signs are made for the simple purpose of advertising to the public. Consistant and uninterrupted operation is crucial to this purpose. Component level troubleshooting and customization is the responsibility of the manufacturer’s engineers, not the end user or dealer. Well manufactured LED signs are built for easy parts replacement and quick access to components. The documentation should reflect this concept and be simple, concise and relevant. Information should be well organized and purposeful.

From my experience there are three general types of documentation styles:

In-Depth and Content Heavy
These are the manuals that are written like engineering text books. This type of documentation has its place when done well and used in the right place. Unfortunately they are often overly organized and written for content, not for readability and real world use.  In my opinion, these type of manuals (again...when done well) are best used as a reference for factory technicians or dealers/OEMs who want to have a more direct role in the product, not for most dealers or end users.

Manufactures usually take this approach for one of two reasons. Because they don’t have the resources to produce good manuals, or their product design actually does support a simple operation manual. Many of us have seen examples of this style done right (think swedish furniture, or high tech fruit), but in my opinion this approach is not realistic for LED Signs. These are large outdoor industrialized products that are the face of your organization, not just a high tech gadget.

Best of Both Worlds
This style blends simplicity and purposeful content. The key here is to be able to communicate the most important information quickly to the reader, while still keeping important technical data accessible and documented. When done right, this approach can save time and money on installations, service calls, and general troubleshooting.

The bottom line is to make sure you look for yourself. Ask the manufacturer for the most current documentation and review it with your own eyes. Make sure it’s easy to read, relevant and written to be used, not just for show. A dealer should have the best tools available to support their customers. End users want to make sure the up-time on the sign is maximized and any repairs can be done quickly and effectively. Updated and well written documentation is key to the long term support of an LED sign, and is an important requirement when choosing a manufacturer.

-Scott Hofheins

I hope this post has been informative and helpful. As usual, I welcome ALL constructive comments. Please feel free to comment and add anything I’ve missed, or additional tips you may have regarding this topic. Please visit www.vantageled.com for many other resources, white papers, and of course: Great looking LED Signs!

**All posts/thoughts/writings are strictly the viewpoint of me and me alone and do not reflect nor speak for Vantage LED’s beliefs, attitudes, thoughts, etc. unless specifically stated.

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