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Complete Control Room Solution

Happy New Year to all our friends and clients! We wish you a prosperous New Year and we pray for each of you to enjoy good health. I am starting the year recovering from Achilles heel surgery, which I can tell you is very painful and not recommended. I will be doing PT in the first couple of months and getting back to the gym and my Personal Trainer. I am getting ready for an aggressive year of travel, hard work and making a difference. That is what I enjoy doing.

In the last few months, I really limped around. I was at my worst at a trip in Chile, where I believe I finally ruptured my Achilles. I have to tell you though the customer was super patient and very kind and understanding to me and I want to thank him for all his support.

My last trip of the year was to Hawaii for an Alarm Management Gap Analysis and EEMUA style workshop for an Electrical Transmission customer who again showed me compassion and kindness and helped me get through a very busy week.

UCDS will be starting the year busy with most of the work being PHMSA CRM improvement projects. We now have experience of a pre-audit and the results of a PHMSA audit and post audit updates, and operator workload staffing studies in multiple industries. We still have a number of control room projects on our books and the training teams are continuing to do their excellent work.

I have a new respect for these folks as I see many of our customers struggling with these issues and in need of updating or producing good training materials. Many, in the past, have just gone to a training company and bought a training program which within a short timeframe has gotten out-of-date and is not meeting their needs. have added this to our business services solution because of the huge need across multiple industries and lack of a complete solution from a single supplier.

We have identified the Best Practices and the complete solution for our customers and we offer these individually or as part of a full control room solution which includes procedure development, High Performance Control Suite/Room HFE design, console design, Large Screen Display solutions, architectural services, fatigue mitigation and development of a FRMS, shift handover, PTW, Incident Investigation, MOC, MOOC, High Performance HMI design, alarm management and rationalization. With our partners, Lin & Associates, we can offer a complete solution for DCS or SCADA Systems system integration, control system specification and configuration, database development, DCS migration and many more services which together with our partner Production Excellence Inc. a full Operations Best Practices and Production Excellence studies. UCDS Inc. is the “go to” company for a complete control room solution.

The training program must contain certain elements to be successful:-

Selection – Identifying people who have the right aptitudes, experience and skills to do the job.

Training – deciding the best type of training to pass on any further knowledge and skills required. This may consist of initial classroom training, using table top exercises or simulators, on-the-job training (OJT).

Assessment – Selection above is an initial assessment, looking for formal qualifications, continuous improvement, reviewing lessons learned by asking questions and applying tests to discover a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses and understanding of what they have learned through observation, testing and confirming fitness for work.

Evaluation – assessing the success of the training system or making continuous improvements to ensure the training delivers workers who are competent and understand what to do in all operating modes especially Abnormal Operating Conditions (AOC) and Emergency Operations.

Selection of Operators

This is the very first requirement and unfortunately many of our customers have never addressed this issue. They may not have the right people in the right jobs. We often meet operators who do not desire to progress to the next position which may be another field job or it may include learning the computer DCS system to become a Console Operator or Process Control Operator or Control Room Operator or Controller dependent on your terminology.

What is often missing right up front is a clear understanding of the type of person required. For field operations we are often looking for the type of person that is “hands-on”, the type of person who likes mechanical things and tinkers with cars or other equipment. If the plan is to progress this person to the control room jobs, often the skill set is very different. In the control room, we are looking for people who are more cognitive in their thinking and are logical and like solving problems. Another requirement may be to progress people from this same pool to be Supervisors and again the skill sets of leadership and motivation are very different to the previous jobs. Can industry find people who are competent in all these positions? Well, remarkably they do but they have many failures along the way.

We help our customers understand how to resolve these difficult issues and establish a manning strategy based on needs which often changes year by year in our industry. This is easily illustrated when we consider a workforce with an average age of 40 years. These seasoned operators need little in the way of supervision, but when they retire or move on to new opportunities and are replaced by inexperienced workforce, the need for Supervision changes dramatically.

To be able to review a list of candidates against a list of ideal characteristics requires such a list be produced in the first place rather than someone looking for a copy of their mental model of an operator, which may have been relevant 20 or 30 years ago but in today’s modern world may be flawed.

Selection has had a lot of research studies and we have some very clear solutions that have been applied across industry and have proved to be very successful. We are always open to share our knowledge of this topic with our customers. One of our clients over the years been willing to share their experience of this topic and I have shared their PowerPoint with many customers to show that this is real and not just theory.

To be truly successful in this area we encourage our customers to complete a full manpower study. What is required is an understanding of the estimated number and type of staff required from information available, having knowledge of how many new starts will be required over a 10 year plan, understanding who within the organization will leave in the next few years, maybe retirement, promotion or something else, knowing who the potential candidates are who will be moving up in the organization and having a plan for them, looking at risk assessment reports, safety cases, company policies, “Best Practices”, future additions or plant closures to identify manning issues and change. Identifying the future manning needs seems very basic, but in my experience is rarely done. The only things that get considered are payroll budgets at the end of the year, not the needs of the organization. This often leads to organizations “running light”, which is having open positions and filling them with overtime. This is a major issue in North America and many organizations that run this way have no idea of the risk they expose themselves to. We now have a new fatigue initiative warning up in industry which is going to shed some significant light on this poor practice.


Assessment is a quick test to confirm that the operator has an understanding of the training material. Notice I didn’t say the job position, these are often very different. Many companies avoid giving feedback because it is not part of the company/union culture. Regular feedback and encouragement during training is extremely important. All training should have testing and/or observations afterwards, it may need to include more than just skills, it should include hazard awareness, safety attitude and behavior. These are often topics that have been considered taboo because of favoritism and repercussions from both management and unions.

To be successful in this area, establishment of standards to measure progress against is extremely important. Management must ensure that training achieves its goals. If the goal is just to have a record of passing the training, this is very different from being competent to do the work.

During our staffing assessments we interview hundreds of operators and one of the most common statements we hear is, “the training system teaches you how to pass the test, not how to do the job”, this is left to OJT.

The next question is who does assessments? This should be split between trainers, management, supervision, other operators, SME’s and self-assessment. Again, we often hear from individuals who do not think themselves competent or capable to do specific jobs. They often tell us they do not think they have had sufficient exposure to doing the job with a mentor. The other big problem we witness in North America is progression skipping, often driven by demand and lack of resources; however, this leaves large holes in an operator’s education and experience.

As stated earlier, the requirements for Supervision change based on the number of experienced workers, with a large intake of new operators often requires additional Supervision to police, assess, and help these inexperienced workers. An organization needs to know when to change the balance between workers and Supervisors.

They say the proof is in the pudding! It is important to review accidents and the contribution of poor performing operators to the accident, to access competence of employees and how they respond to control major accident hazards.

Management of training records is not a simple task. It requires a thorough understanding of the objectives, plans, goals and achievements of the selection and training program. It is important that records of training received and due are tied to Roles & Responsibilities. All of this must be tied to performance. I like the Production Excellence initiative in the area that replaces these Roles & Responsibilities with Job Performance Profiles.


It is important to continually review the competence system; this has to be designed in as part of the whole system. The use of incident analysis to provide information on gaps in competence (ensure the system exists to report incidents and that the workforce feel comfortable using it). Sometimes independent assessment is very valuable, having a “cold eyes review”. It is also important to keep abreast of new developments and practices in training. For example, many have dismissed the use of simulators because of the high costs 10 year ago. Many companies are finding justification and a good ROI when investing in this technology today due to faster processors, easier software development and applications and the ease of maintenance of the more modern systems. I am also a big believer that much can be achieved by knowledgeable supervisors and engineers doing tabletop exercises.

It is to our industry’s shame that training is often the first casualty of a downturn in the industry and that training is still in the top 10 failures listed as common problems worldwide. Even after major initiatives such as Process Safety Management, Environmental Protection and more recently Human Factor Engineering Human Factors focus on training. We now have PHMSA making a significant push in the pipeline industry addressing training and learning from incidents, perhaps a major whole missing from these other initiatives.


Training is often done by experienced operators (SME’s) who take what they know and turn it into a training course for other operators. What is often missing is a clear understanding of whether what has been done in the past is good and satisfactory. When a task analysis to identify training needs is done it often identifies that what was done in the past is not optimum and may not be the best policy to promote as the solution.

Answering questions like “what does the trainee need to learn (e.g. to control major accident hazards, to understand the processes and hazards and thus the consequences of their actions)? What skills are required to effectively do the job or task? This often makes the difference between that issue we identified that the training teaches an operator to pass the test not do the job!

Having a good understanding of what training is required for familiarization, for completing all the tasks what process, equipment, control training is required.

Understanding the training requirement for supplemental refresher training, designed for previously competent and knowledgably workers, or for a new employees, or if it is required because of plant or equipment changes.

The training may be related because of a change of job, or changes to the workforce or organization.

The needs for Health and Safety training is different from “skills” training. It important to teach infrequently used skills and knowledge (e.g. emergency, plant start-ups, error recovery, AOC’s).

UCDS, Inc. can assist you in developing training materials that are specific to your operating processes. These training materials include:

Process Overview Training

Process System Training

Console Strategy Training

Process Overview Training is designed to meet the requirements of OSHA’s Process Safety Management regulation. It provides the operator with an understanding of how the process functions, types of equipment used in the process, chemical and physical hazards, and how to respond to an emergency in the process.


Console Strategy Training provides the process control operator with an understanding of the objectives, strategies, and specific goals for operating plant processes and the impact their actions have on other units.


Process System Training is developed to provide operators with an understanding of how each process system works, the purpose and function of process equipment, system flows, control of major process variables, basic operational duties, and troubleshooting.



Training Development Process


Module Design

An on-site review of the training module design to determine the “look and feel” for each type of training module by reaching consensus on items such as learning objectives, level of detail, use of graphics, testing mechanisms, etc. Standardized templates are developed by UCDS to serve as a guidance document for our technical writers.

Data Collection

Data collection consists of interviews with subject matter experts; researching P&IDs, process descriptions, equipment information, etc. to gather the required technical information; and taking digital photos of equipment items to be incorporated into the training modules.

Training Module Development

Customer personnel prepare for the technical review by pre-reading the draft training module(s) and preparing comments/questions for the technical review. UCDS and key customer personnel will then formally review the draft training module(s) to ensure the technical accuracy and adequacy of the data presented. Proposed changes are discussed and, if appropriate, designated as an update to the training module. UCDS will capture the changes in a redline (track changes) document.


UCDS personnel incorporate the approved technical review changes into the document – textual, graphics, photos, etc. The updated training module then receives a final edit and an electronic copy (MS WordR format) is returned to the customer for acceptance. A module acceptance sign-off form accompanies the module. The client will review the updated training module to ensure that all changes identified during the technical review were appropriately incorporated. If so, the module acceptance form is signed and a copy returned to UCDS to formalize the completion of the training module.


During the next few weeks keep an eye on our website as we will be launching a major upgrade to it and the launch of some new initiatives and resources. We plan on making more and more information available to our customers to help educate, provide in depth resources and tools for successful projects.


Our business model will be revealed which should help project managers put the pieces together for a successful project; we will be providing in-depth blogs and video resources. We have put together a powerful and knowledgably team, and have partnered with likeminded companies who share our values.

Over the years, I have witnessed or been involved in correcting some very poor designs and we have to ask why these exist. I have concluded that some was because of lack of standards and guidance in the industry. We are trying to change this by our commitment to both IEC Standards and ISA Standards; we dedicated a significant amount of our personal time to these organizations.

I have also observed that customers sometimes do not check the credentials and experience of consultants. I remember when I first arrived in the States from the UK over 21 years ago, I was shocked to see industry hiring nuclear experts to solve Process Safety Management Issues, people who had never worked a day in the processing industry and had no real hands on experience. Some of those people were experts in their own areas of expertise and picked up and learned very fast and made a contribution but many made some very basic mistakes.

Today, I see people designing control rooms who have no Engineering discipline or qualifications, no experience of the industry, no Human Factor training and these folks are contributing to these poor designs.

Project Managers or Purchasing Departments are selecting these folks based on price not skills and that is a very dangerous practice, especially in an industry that has demonstrated the impact of Human Error associated with Situation Awareness and Control Room Design and the designs of HMI, Alarms Systems, and Permit Systems etc.

We have seen the impact of poor human factors in the Texas City Disaster, Esso Longford, Texaco Pembroke, Shell Stanlow, and many more. All of our (UCDS Inc.) consultants have years of experience in the processing industry and I encourage you to read our qualification and experience. It is not just knowledge of the building, or knowledge of furniture, or knowledge of chemicals, or operations, it is much more.

I will have 45 years’ experience this year, scary! I have worked in multiple industries. I started my career as an Apprentice Electrical Fitter for Imperial Chemical Industries Ltd. in the UK. By the time I was 21, I had won the ICI top award “Fleck Award” and was offered either a Supervisor position or a job in the Electrical Design Office as a Designer. I got my qualifications in Electrical Power/Utilities & Electronic Engineering, one of the first electronic qualifications. I worked my way from Draughtsman Designer to Assistant Engineer, Design Electrical & Instrument Engineer, and Chief Instrument/Electrical Engineer to Computer Section Manager in a company that only had eyes for the top percentiles from Oxford and Cambridge University students. I was in charge of the whole of ICI Teesside Operations Process Control Systems.

After a long and significant career in ICI, I left in 1992 to join Honeywell and became the founder and Program Director of the ASM Consortium. I was a Senior Engineering Fellow with Honeywell for nearly 10 years then I formed my own company in 2000, User Centered Design Services and have worked in control room all around the world, in different industries. I know operations inside out, I know management systems, I know process control and have built graphics, rationalized alarm systems on many systems.

I consider myself very qualified to do what I do, to offer a very broad range of services around control rooms and field operations. I have been hired by major companies and their legal teams as an expert witness many times.

I have hired extremely well qualified consultants with both the qualifications and the experience to provide a best in class services. I have made solid relationships/partnerships with some of the best consultants and companies in the World.

I am ready to take on any size project anywhere in the world and in any industry that does similar operations. As a consultant, I have had many years in Petrochemical,Refining, Pulp & Paper, Power and Transmission and Distribution, Mining – Oil Sands, Coal, Nichol, Aluminum and Copper, Pharmaceutical, Iron & Steel, Carbon, Offshore, FPSO’s, Pipeline and I am sure some I have forgotten.

Call today and let us know how we can help you. All our contact details are available on the website.