Re: Cost of Manuals--Interesting Phenomenon

Subject: Re: Cost of Manuals--Interesting Phenomenon
From: "Dan S. Azlin" <dazlin -at- SHORE -dot- NET>
Date: Mon, 4 Mar 1996 22:38:57 -0500

On Thu, 29 Feb 1996, George Schober wrote:

> On Monday I sent a question to the list concerning
> the cost of producing manuals. I asked people to
> respond directly to me, because I thought the topic
> would not concern many people.

> But I've received quite a number of letters saying that the
> topic is indeed of interest to others, and asking me to
> forward any replies I've received.
> The software company I work for is trying to document
> its order fulfillment process, including costs.... using the
>following items:

> 1) Cost of impressions (photocopies from masters)
> 2) Packaging costs, consisting of
> - Covers
> - Perfect binding
> - Vinyl slip case for documents and product
> - Color inserts for slip case

> The total is then divided by the total number of manuals
> produced.
> We know that this calculation method has problems.
> Most obviously, it doesn't calculate anyone's time.
> Does anyone out there work for a company that's done
> a similar calculation?


In my past life as a senior management type I had to deal with these
kinds of issues. It is actually a variation of what every manufacturer
contents with: determining the cost to develope, produce, store and
distribute a product. Details vary, but the general approach is as follows:

1. With pencil in hand... sketch out a time line of the entire process
of development, production, storage (including inventory) and
distribution (including order processing and shipping costs). Once this
time line is constructed, go back and determine what separate steps you
have clumped together and separate them. Also look for parallel steps.

2. Check through the procedures to determine the "critical path." This
is determined by looking for the longest "time to completion" in each
phase of the process, i.e. the most time/material consuming of the
parallel processes. This critical path will establish the total time to
complete each major task, thereby giving you a measure of the manhours
required along each major task. Cost multipliers like production delays
become readily apparent here.

3. Assign a man-hour and material cost to each process step. Total them
in the most logical way as dictated by your time line and you will get a
very accurate cost analysis. You will also get a good feel for how long
it took to product the product and where the bottlenecks occurred. What
it doesn't tell you is how to anticipate the human element as a variable
-- but it comes close.

A good reference for the essence of the process from a very practical
approach is Sydney Love's "Planning and Creating Successful Engineered
Designs" ISBN 0-912907-00-2
I got my copy at a seminar in the mid 80's at an electronics convention.
It doesn't talk specifically about writing projects, but the same principals
apply. I've used them and found them to work well. ;)

Hope this helps.

Dan Azlin ** WORD ENGINEERS, Technical Writing & Publishing **
Ph/Fax: 508-921-8908 18 School Street
Internet: dazlin -at- shore -dot- net Beverly, MA 01915-4851

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