Data Centre Cooling Technical Writer – 4Energy

SCADA Technical Writer
 

4Energy is a Nottingham-based specialist in cooling systems. They manufacture their own free-air cooling systems, split-unit cooling systems, hardware controllers, and monitoring and remote control software.  I worked as a contract technical writer for 4energy for several years and created:

  • Manufacturing manuals to document the product creation process
  • Installation manuals for use in the UK and other countries
  • Hardware controller manual for the eController
  • User guide for a free-air cooling system installed in a telecomms data centre
  • Wiki content (Confluence) to document the SMARTset software
  • Blogs and marketing articles.

I knew nothing about cooling systems before working for 4Energy, but soon got up to speed. The software was a little easier as I already knew about SCADA software and had worked in software development teams.

Software, Hardware, and Process Documentation

4Energy hired me as a technical writer and asked me to document the manufacturing process of their COOLflow product. This was to be a Word document that would be used in the UK and Germany, and had to be very accurate and precise about every detail of the assembly. To illustrate the procedure, I used digital photos, which I took and edited myself.

After completing the manufacturing manual, 4energy asked me to create a user guide for their electronic controller hardware (eController). And when that was done, they asked me to document a system they had installed in a telecomms data centre. Pleased with that, they then hired me as a software technical writer, where I used Atlassian Confluence to create documentation for their SMARTset software (SaaS). So an initial 6 month contract turned into over 2 years' of work. 

 

 
The online documentation was delivered in Atlassian Confluence. Technical writers had told me about the product before, but this was my first time using it (the cloud-based version of Confluence was used). 
Schneider Electric's SCADA software documentation used PDF, online help and mobile help outputs.
Pages from the eController user guide. 
 

Challenges with the ClearSCADA Project

The existing ClearSCADA documentation had been written in Adobe FrameMaker, converted to .mif, and then fed into an HTML Help output via an in-house tool. I knew all this, because I'd been working on the documentation (along with other technical writers) for many years. At the time, I was new to Flare, but knew it could import directly from FrameMaker. So that was my first plan. Unfortunately, it didn't work out - the documentation had a lot of bullet points and the import process handled them by converting them into tables. I knew that would cause problems further down the line when it came to styling the bullet lists, as they weren't genuine HTML bullet lists. So instead, I took the HTML files from the HTML Help output and imported those. Much better...at first. But as I started to work with the files, Flare began to struggle, to the point where it was freezing far too often. 

MadCap support were great as always, and through trial and error, we discovered that the HTML files we imported actually had invalid HTML - the bullet lists were wrong. Browsers could still display them correctly, but the code was invalid. I fixed all of the files using a mix of find and replace and manual work.

Feedback from 4Energy:

Steve O’Hara, Chief Information Officer, 4Energy Ltd.

Craig Wright managed the entire documentation work stream at 4Energy from brochures, though to user manuals and installation guides.  Craig combined professionalism with a conversational style in his writing that engaged the reader, often of subject matter that was both complicated and dry, but always managing to make it interesting and accessible.

Craig’s ability to converse with technical staff and illicit the finer points of the subject was excellent and combined with his attention to detail meant that nothing was left un-said or ambiguous in the text. He headed our documentation development team and was responsible for other people’s work, wrestling with managing our Confluence document management system and providing the sign-off for production of the final materials.  All of which he achieved with great aplomb. Also, his background in SCADA was particularly useful in not only documenting what SMARTset does, but helping to steer its functionality to fit with industry trends.

Pat Tindale, Chief Executive Officer, 4energy Ltd.

We approached Craig Wright of Straygoat Writing Services to improve the availability and quality of documentation to support internal processes and customers alike. We had worked with him before and have been really pleased with his ability and professionalism. He helped us by producing reference and user documentation to support marketing, sales, production and installation for our new range of Coolflow and Smartset products.

I really liked his ability to work well with both 4energy employees and external contractors in a manner which complemented the engineering team and found the experience very positive. I would recommend Craig and Straygoat to any business that requires a professional and very capable technical author.