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December 2009

Dave and I want to wish all our customers, colleagues, and friends and associates a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.  I think we are all ready to put 2009 behind us.  Many of our friends and colleagues have had a hard year.

I have just gotten back from a tour of England visiting customer’s and presenting at the Control Room Conference in London.  London was very wet and cold, but the conference was excellent with some great speaker’s including some very dear friends.

Mark & Marie Green from Norway gave an excellent presentation on gathering User Requirements.  They are true professionals and a great team.  They showed off one of their successful projects with Shell in Norway and how they transformed the control room, the alarm management and the HMI.

They were followed by another old friend and colleague, Nick Dinadis, who gave a great review of the Worsley Alumina graphics, a job we jointly did in Australia that has won several design awards.  Nick gave a great review of their Advanced Process Graphics and the tools they developed and are now selling.  The audience was in for a treat, these were just two of what would be more great papers.

ife from Norway then presented a methodology for Designing effective large screen displays, a well needed set of guidelines focused on 8 different ways operators use their large screens.  They reviewed design principles and patterns and a process with some very practical advice.  It was excellent.  Not many people know of this organization which is their loss, they do some great research and have taken HMI design to a new level similar to our High Performance Graphics.

John Zubak of UReason UK gave a nice paper on Signposting the role of an alarm system followed by some outstanding alarm work by Dr. Robin Brooks of Curvaceous Software Ltd.  This was the first alarm management paper in the last 10 years that got me excited as he explained how alarms can achieve management objectives, how to understand alarm settings in a new light and how to change them correctly.

Andy Brazier then gave two excellent papers on control room operations and focusing on MOOC and managing risk.  He completed a workshop on the HSE Staffing Methodology.  The conference had many more good papers but, I cannot review them all.  I covered a new topic on Organizational Accidents and teamwork and resource management in supervisory control.  How procedures and discretionary responses impact rule violations.  Finally understanding peoples mental models and the impact of training in all operating modes.

My time in England came to a very cold and hostile end as snow engulfed the UK and my drive to Humberside to visit a customer.  I had a little Ford KA as Manchester Airport had no cars available.  It was scary driving on UK motorways in a tin can on wheels. The wipers were ineffective and frozen so visibility was very poor.

My trip home was no better; it started with a cancelled flight as Philadelphia also experienced the snow.
Two days later I finally got home at 3:00 am thanks to poor service from the airlines during our flight transfer in Philadelphia.  We missed our final flight by just 10 minutes after long delays in England and delays in baggage claim.  Why is my suitcase always the last off the plane?  I have concluded because I am always early and mine is first on.  I did not know they operated a first in last out policy.

While I was away, Dave kept the business running doing a variety of jobs from HMI style guide and philosophy to new control room design and operator staffing for several projects.