Corporate Brief

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The UCDS Corporate Brief

The Situation

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. The 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. A variety of evidence led to this estimate:

  • Plant surveys show that incidents are frequent, with typical costs ranging from $100,000 to well in excess of $1 million per year. One plant surveyed had 240 shutdowns per year at a total cost of $8 million. Many of these shutdowns were preventable.
  • ASMC found that refineries suffer, on average, a major incident once every three years at an average cost of $80 million.
  • One insurance company’s statistics show that industry claims are typically over ore than $2.2 billion due to equipment damage. It is likely that actual total losses to the companies are significantly higher than what is claimable.

Further, these studies by the Abnormal Situation Management Consortium® indicate that companies achieving Best Practices in operations can improve productivity by 5-12%.

What We Do


User Centered Design Services offers a full line of consulting services to evaluate your current plant condition, make realistic and achievable recommendations for improvement, and aid you in implementing our recommendations.


  • Management System Gap Analysis –

    We conduct a detailed comparison between current site management systems and Best Practices and identify improvement opportunities. This is the same study that each ASMC member company has completed as part of their membership fee.


  • Console Operator Staffing Assessment – We evaluate both the number of console operators and their individual workload to ensure that all site needs are considered. We then incorporate Best Practices into our design to then make recommendations for rationalization.
  • Field Operator Staffing Assessment – We evaluate the number of field operators and workload for each, benchmarking them versus the site, industry and Best Practice. We then make recommendations for rationalization.
  • Work Team Design Assessment – We assess the overall structure of the Operating Department and make recommendations for improvements.
  • Management of Organizational Change Services – We

    educate and train the client using a methodology that implements staffing realignments and consolidation, while ensuring that safety and reliability are not compromised.


  • Control Building Conceptual Design – We conduct a high-level look at new or retrofit control building projects to ensure that all the site needs are considered and Best Practices are incorporated into the design. We develop an overall scope, vision and direction for the project.
  • Control Building Detailed Design – Utilizing a detailed look at specific issues for a new or retrofit control building projects[insert comma], we generate a document that will enable any Architect to design a control building which incorporates Best Practices.
  • Field Shelter Design – Using a functional requirements approach, we develop user-centered designs for new and retrofit field shelters, along with a ±30% cost estimate.

Management Systems

  • Alarm Management Services – We offer a complete line of services to improve the performance of your plant alarm system that will reduce near misses, incidents and accidents. Through a detailed assessment of your alarm management philosophy and alarm management practices, we identify opportunities and methods to reduce standing and nuisance alarms, resulting in fewer operator errors.
  • Human-Computer Interface Services – Poorly designed graphics can increase the mental workload of operators by 10% and increase significant information detection time by more than 25%.
    We offer a complete line of services to improve the performance of your plants human-computer interface. In our detailed assessment of your control information philosophy and practices, we evaluate the number of screens necessary for operation and the quality of the information presented.

Engineering Services

We offer these additional engineering services to meet our client’s needs:

  • Console Design – We incorporate the latest in ergonomics and operator alertness techniques to create a detailed design o operating and off-workstation consoles.
  • Feasibility Studies – Let us perform a study that assembles information in a way that will articulate the need for new projects when presented to management.
  • Automation Upgrade Consultation – UCDS automation consultation will give you a vendor-neutral evaluation of your opportunities for improvement in control technology.
  • UCDS’ Automation Consultation provides a vendor-neutral evaluation of control technology improvement opportunities.
  • Architect and Vendor selection – We utilize our extensive experience to aid in the evaluation and selection of architects, instrumentation and controls companies, I&E contractors, graphics implementers, advanced application software, operations and business support software, control consoles and furniture, overview screens, and plant communications equipment.
  • Expert Witness – We offer our expertise to assist you in addressing your legal issues. In 2000, we represented a major Refiner and expanded the legal council’s understanding of industrial practices and the role of human error in a critical incident.
  • Workshops – UCDS can offer workshops in most of the subject areas we specialize in, including ASM Best Practices, Situational Awareness, Human-Computer Interface design, Alarm system management, and control building design. These workshops are an excellent way to introduce these concepts to your organization, educate stakeholders, and help form a vision for future plant improvement.
  • Training – We come to your site to provide detailed training for your personnel on any portion of the ASM Best Practices. Through our associate, TTS Performance Systems, we can provide best in class training at all levels of your organization.
  • Job Task Analysis – We use an analytical processto determine the specific human behaviors required in operator-machine systems. We create a detailed determination of the performance requirements for both people and equipment,  as well as the how environmental conditions, malfunctions and other unexpected events impact them. Within each task to be performed by people, we analyze the behavioral steps in terms of 1) information presented to, and received by, the workers; 2) their processing of that information (and previously stored information, goals, intentions, etc.) to interpret the system status and to decide what action, if any, to take; and 3) required worker inputs to the system (which includes other workers as well as the equipment).