4Energy – Data Centre Cooling Technical Writer
Case Study – 4Energy
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 and had worked in software development teams before.
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’ work.
Challenges with 4Energy’s projects
The biggest challenge with 4Energy’s projects was getting the timing right to interview SMEs and view installs and demos. Each project involved different engineers and installers, many of which could be needed to work on site at short notice. Another logistical problem was making sure hardware and parts for assembly were in stock for the time of the demo. On more than one occasion, a demo had to be postponed due to parts not arriving on time or having to be shipped out as a priority.
It was difficult to overcome these problems, especially when they were out of 4energy’s control. For the assembly and hardware, having a contingency plan worked out well, as there was other work I could return to if an unforeseen problem occurred.
The software documentation was easier, as it was much more in the control of the dev team. Here, the main obstacles related to the cloud version of Confluence. A multi-excerpts plug-in had initially been advertised as compatible with the cloud version, and worked to begin with. But several weeks into the project, the plug-in caused a lot of cacheing problems that could not be resolved.
Feedback from 4Energy
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.
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.