Lots and lots of Control Rooms!

Written by mycontrolroom on September 19, 2012

This last month has been interesting and adventurous for David and myself.  We had two wonderful weeks in Chile; the hotel we stayed at had a great view of the Ocean.  We then went and spent a few days in one of the World’s biggest Copper Mines.  It was amazing to observe over 10,000 contractors staying on-site in quite nice accommodations – all catered.  We did a tour of the control rooms to do a quick gap analysis and we are also preparing to re-design a new centralized control room. We started the trip like many of our site visits with a Situation Awareness Workshop, well two of them in this case, one in English and the other in Spanish. What talent! Not really, we had an interpreter doing a wonderful job. Dave could at least order bacon and eggs and a cup of hot tea in Spanish so we didn’t go hungry.
ChileWorld's biggest Copper Mines.

After Chile, I had a week in Victoria, Texas reviewing the new centralized control room we are designing and reviewing the staffing workload study we had just completed. I had a great week with David Griffith; we had some long chats and talked about everything from fishing to work. I was very impressed about what a great family man Dave was and how for someone so well educated he led a very simple but quality life focused around his family. The bad news is he died the following week on Labor Day, this shook all of us, we all never know when we are going to be called home. We support our client and we pray for his family during this difficult time.

Dave and I spent the following week in Trinidad, which is becoming one of our favorite places to go. This customer is renovating and hardening their control room. UCDS is re-designing the control room and we are working a full Situation Awareness package dealing with the alarms and building High Performance HMI.

During our visit to Trinidad it was their 50th Anniversary of Independence as a Nation and we were in the Port of Spain on the night to see the wonderful fireworks and I got to cut the cake at the Hilton Hotel.


So after party time in Trinidad, it was time to get back to work.  From here I went to Houston, Texas and then to Shreveport, Louisiana. Another control room and another Oil Refinery.  This has been an incredible year for control rooms.  The good news is we have met and have worked with a number of new architectural firms, who I have to say, are doing a very nice job. It is good to see some new ideas and finishes as sometimes we get locked into the same old thing and miss out on new and better designs.

During this busy period, I have had the opportunity to write two articles for Control Global – August and September’s issue. I have tried to get my readers to re-think what it means to produce High Performance HMI and why it is called High Performance. I produced a SWOT Analysis identifying what the main issues are with our current HMI’s. I have produced a new look at what good looks like this month, hopefully to help customers struggling with the decision to abandon these old low performance graphics.

There is a lot of misunderstanding out there today about ASM Graphics, and about the design process. The so called experts are giving some poor information and bad advice.  They are producing literature that is old, out of date and sadly, wrong. If the HMI graphics you produce do not have a very big impact on your operator’s performance, then you probably have not done it correctly. That’s the benchmark, like alarms, you should be able to experience the difference. The KPI’s have been established by the EEMUA 191 document; but in real life, operators should be able to testify about the difference good alarm management makes.

We all have a very busy schedule the next couple of months so forgive me if I am late again with my blog, but customer projects are our priority. Our customers are not strangers we do business with, they are lifelong friends who we share the journey of life with and work together to continuously improve each other. I get to share my 40 plus years of doing what I do, and they get to share new challenges and difficulties of doing business in this day and age. I respect every one of them. On a side note, I miss my Australian and Asian friend’s, it has been too long and we need to get together again.


© 2013 User Centered Design Services


UCDS has in-depth experience in designing control rooms and modifying existing field shelters. Our process is compliant with the ISO 11064 Ergonomic Design Standard for Control Buildings. We interview management, supervision and a significant group of the operators to understand functional requirements, what works well in the existing environment, and identification and correction of problems with the existing design. To learn more Click Here


Situation Awareness

Abnormal situations encompass a range of events outside the “normal” plant operating modes, e.g. trips, fires, explosions, toxic releases or just not reaching planned targets. In the past incidents such as Piper Alpha, Milford Haven, Flixborough, Texas City and the 2003 northeast electrical blackout have all been attributed, at least in part, to a fundamental lack of good situational awareness. Early work of the Abnormal Situation Management Consortium® included a survey of the US petrochemical industry. Based on their research the consortium estimates industry losses of around $20 billion per year from abnormal situations, approximately equal to the total annual profits of that industry. Furthermore these studies indicate that companies achieving Best Practices in operations can improve productivity by 5-12%. To learn more Click Here


Fatigue Alertness Management

We have many customers looking to enhance their shift handover procedures and follow some of the Recommended Practices identified in the API documents; others are focusing attention on fatigue and fatigue countermeasures. We have great solutions for both these topics. For more details please contact Steve Maddox. To learn more Click Here



User Centered Design Services promotes Behavior – Based Safety which is a process that helps employees identify and choose safe behavior over an unsafe one. Safety in the workplace is a combination of three measurable components – the person their environment, and their behavior. To learn more Click Here

About the Control Room Operator Performance Group

The purpose of this group is to share ideas and solutions that contribute to improving the performance of the control room operator. Abnormal situations can be managed safely and effectively if we provide our operators with the right training, workload, environment, and interfaces.