How to Build the Control Room of the Future

Designing and Constructing a Truly Useful Control Room Requires a Lot More Forethought and Planning

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By Jim Montague, Executive editor

Sleek flatscreens and sparkling consoles may be intoxicating, but designing and constructing a truly useful control room requires more forethought and planning and less impulse equipment buying. Stan DeVries, solutions architecture director at Invensys Operations Management (http://iom.invensys.com) says there are several basic steps engineers can take to create a facility that will allow operators to work at their best.

  • Think about and understand all the desired and undesired situations in your process application and document them as they exist in the past, present and future.
  • Beyond routine process data, ask "what information do my operators need to understand and improve their situation and that of the application?" This information can include equipment efficiencies of pumps or heat exchangers, for example, or it can include simulations to help the process cope better with variations in raw materials.
  • Evaluate and select the best way to present the information. Prioritize based on which measurements and calculations will return the most benefit to the application and its products. 
  • Go back to human-factors and interface standards and guidelines, such as those from the Abnormal Situation Management Consortium (ASMC), Center for Operator Performance (COP, www.operatorperformance.org), ISO 11064 standard, and Crisis Intervention and Operability Analysis (CRIOP) from Sintef (www.sintef.no).
  • Make sure you "don't have a messy desktop," which means making certain all HMI functions are thoughtfully prioritized and as simple as possible, so displays aren't cluttered with unnecessary objects and colors that could distract operators and potentially obscure what they need to see in an emergency or even during normal operations.
  • Invest in a suitable, high-fidelity simulator; establish a culture of immersion training and retraining; maintain and update a library of both common and unusual operating scenarios, so operators can have a safe place to train, make mistakes and learn from them. 
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