Customer Scenario


  • You have an older production facility with control hardware from different vendors ranging from pneumatic to distributed control. You want to upgrade your DCS equipment so you can increase reliability, reduce maintenance costs and implement advanced control, but you are not sure what is the best equipment to buy.
  • Your plant is split into multiple control rooms, each serving one or two units. The buildings are old, some are in poor condition, and they all place your operators too close to the unit in case of fire, explosion or toxic release. Your Safety people are saying you have to spend a lot of money replacing, relocating or upgrading the buildings.
  • Benchmarking surveys are telling you that you have too many operators. Upper Management is looking for staff cuts to get to first quartile, but no one can see a way to get to those levels without compromising safety. And the Union issues…
  • You are the person who has to figure out the strategy, find the most cost effective path, justify a positive payout, and get the money approved.

How We Can Help:

Project Flow Chart

User Centered Design Services can best serve a client when we are brought in early in the project. We typically begin the process by putting on a Workshop. This introduces concepts and educates the site Management on the benefits of implementing Best Practices.

After the site has had some time to consider the potential, and has decided to get more information on how these Best Practices can work at their sites, we come on site to perform a Feasibility Study and a Management System Gap Analysis.

During this phase we will perform a detailed evaluation of your facility and highlight areas of opportunity for implementation of Best Practices. We will help to assemble an overall plan which encompasses all aspects of plant operation. We then aid in developing a justification to present to management for approval in your Front End Loading process.

After approval of the overall plan, we begin to focus in on specific areas of improvement.

  • In the Control Building Conceptual Design, we look at the best ways to improve your control building environments, whether it is modifying your existing buildings or constructing a new central control room.
  • We evaluate your staffing arrangement through the Console Operator Staffing Assessment, Field Operator Staffing Assessment, and Work Team Design Assessment. These activities cover the number of operators required to safely operate the plant as well as the best structure for the Operations department.
  • We take an in-depth look at your control system design through our Alarm Management Services and our Human-Computer Interface Services.
  • Through the Field Shelter Design Service we can help you upgrade your field operators environment by greatly improving its functionality.

Finally we have the detailed implementation steps.

  • The Control Building Detailed Design step provides everything you will need to ensure that any architect can design a control room space that fully embraces Best Practices.
  • After the staffing assessments are completed, we move into Management of Organizational Change Services. This is where the proposed staffing changes are scrutinized to insure that safety and reliability are not compromised.
  • We can also share our expertise with the project team by performing Architect and Vendor selection and Automation Upgrade Consultation.

Details about all these services are available through our Service Briefs.

© 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.