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April 2009

This has been a strange month for us with a drop in refining work and a large increase in Power & Utilities workload.  Not that I am saying no refinery workload, sorry Jeff, we just normally have several refinery projects running through our hands.  Three of our 1st Quarter projects have been pushed back to 3rd Quarter.  Which means a potentially very busy 3rd Quarter as this is normally a busy period for us.

The golden carrot about all this is we have had a couple of very interesting jobs involving two new control rooms and several HMI workshops.  It is quite a challenge addressing an extremely large wallboard for a transmission facility, especially as you look at it from several different perspectives such as Abnormal Situations, Maintenance and Isolations on a daily basis and finally simulation for training multiple personnel.

How do you deliver a training environment based on this extremely large screen technology? How do you prepare people for dealing with worst case scenarios and day to day activities that uses multiple information sources without duplicating the whole control room?  Well, that is our task and our experience that helps customers resolve these issues.

We have designed a new console which accommodates two high monitors but still allows the operator to view a large overview screen and keeps all the ergonomics correct as per the standards. This will allow many companies to keep their existing displays but take advantage of overview display walls.

My recent travels have taken me to Connecticut, Atlanta, and St. Louis while Dave has been in Texas helping an overseas refining customer understand the Theater Style Control Room.  We had the privilege of visiting the DOT Control Center which was done by CCE (Command & Control Environments) in Dallas.  We want to thank them for their support in allowing our customer to visit them.  Rusty has been working on Ohio projects.  So, I have not seen the guys for a month, hope they are working hard.

I have the pleasure of being in town this week.  This does not happen too often especially before a big event like Easter. It will be good to be home and be able to reflect on what Easter is all about.  I normally miss the Good Friday Service as I am usually travelling home that night from a customer site.

I had a call from an existing customer about Shift Handover practices, which is something we enjoy talking about; we have a technical paper available on this subject on our website under articles.

Jason is making good progress on our new website and this should be up and running soon.

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Australian Study Gives Thumbs-Up to Surfing the Net at Work
April 6, 2009
By Jennifer Anderson

An Australian study challenges employers’ hard-wired conviction that employees surfing the internet at work for fun are hurting the bottom line. The findings promise to add to the body of advice from experts in workplace ergonomics for improving productivity and employees’ overall concentration.

“Firms spend millions on software to block their employees from watching videos on YouTube, using social networking sites like Facebook or shopping online under the pretence that it costs millions in lost productivity,” said Dr. Brent Coker from the Department of Management and Marketing at Melbourne University, the lead researcher in the study. “However, that’s not always the case.”

In the university news release about the study, he said that workers who engage in what he terms Workplace Internet Leisure Browsing (WILB) are more productive than those who don’t because it improves concentration levels. “People who do surf the Internet for fun at work – within a reasonable limit of less than 20 percent of their total time in the office – are more productive by about 9 percent  than those who don’t,” he says.

The findings from the study of 300 workers showed that 70 percent of people who use the Internet at work engage in WILB. Among the most popular WILB activities are searching for information about products, reading online news sites. Playing online games was the fifth most popular, while watching YouTube movies was seventh.

The attraction of WILB, according to Dr Coker, can be attributed to people’s imperfect concentration. “People need to zone out for a bit to get back their concentration. Think back to when you were in class listening to a lecture – after about 20 minutes your concentration probably went right down, yet after a break your concentration was restored.

“It’s the same in the work place. Short and unobtrusive breaks, such as a quick surf of the internet, enables the mind to rest itself, leading to a higher total net concentration for a day’s work, and as a result, increased productivity.”

But WILB can be too much of a good thing if the surfer is an internet addict. “Approximately 14 percent of internet users in Australia show signs of internet addiction,” he said. “They don’t take breaks at appropriate times, they spend more than a ‘normal’ amount of time online and can get irritable if they are interrupted while surfing. WILB is not as helpful for this group of people – those who behave with internet addiction tendencies will have a lower productivity than those without.”

SOURCE: Melbourne University