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December News 2014

Where did the year go?  I am sorry I didn’t manage to keep blogging all year.  I guess you understand when everything gets busy some things get dropped, not because they are not important, but other things like customers and projects take the priority.

mycontrolroom-new-zDave and I just returned from New Zealand.  We were there for an extended period doing a very interesting project.  One thing I can say about New Zealand is all the people are fantastic, very friendly, and this is reflected in the work environment.
I don’t think I have seen a better team working anywhere in the world or the amount of compassion each operator had for their colleagues. The way they helped each other out on a day to day basis is very commendable.  Many of our US operators could learn a big lesson from their example.
New Zealand is a beautiful country, with very attractive beaches and the clearest water I have ever seen.  Since the United Kingdom abandoned them and directed its interests to the European Market, Australia and New Zealand had to form stronger trading in what is now known as Australasia.  Being able to compete in this market requires a tough competitive edge and control over costs.  I can see they are up for this and will succeed in the World Market Place.
Dave has been back to Norway, and I recently did some work in Canada.  I was only a little jealous. Dave has been on the road a lot this last year and deserves a good break over Christmas.
The rest of the team has been working all over the US and some in Canada.  This year we brought Chris Heil onto the team.  Chris does first class architectural work and has enhanced our services and is improving our abilities to be the very best we can be.
He has done some great renderings for our customers and next year will be providing service to one of our customers in Trinidad.  Our new service provides the customer with expertise throughout the building construction project,  QA review and commentary on Architects and Engineers compliance, and to be on call to help resolve construction problems or code issues.
Someone asked me recently, “Why you do what you do, why is this your passion?”  I thought about that for a while and I came to the following conclusion.  During my early years in industry I worked for Imperial Chemical Industry (ICI) in the UK. The culture at ICI was one of safety as a value and they reinforced that all the time.  Yes, we had our incidents as recorded by many of the Trevor Kletz books, but the way we responded to incidents was very professional and sharpened our awareness to prevent these things from happening again, hence (HazOp).
During my final years at ICI there was a very bad accident in the North Sea which led to the loss of life of 167 oil rig workers.  One of ICI’s Safety Directors, Brian Appleton, who was one of the technical assessors for the Cullen reviewed the incident with us.  It is now available on you YouTube. (

This video profoundly changed my life.  One thing that Brian said at the end of the video was a wakeup call to me.  He said, “The sum and quality of our individual contributions to the Management of Safety determines whether the colleagues we work with live or die”.
So, I took a deeper interest in safety and a few years later I would be in a position to profoundly change the industry.  I was invited by Honeywell to be the Program Director of a new Research Program (Abnormal Situation Management Consortium) which would involve many leading Energy Companies, such as ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, BP, ConocoPhillips, Union Carbide, Nova Chemicals and a few other leaders including the US Government through NIST and finally five top Universities.

One of the first things we did was audit operations plants around the world.  I travelled to many countries and made it around the world several times.  At these audits I discovered that many of the lessons learned at Piper where unknown and still apparent at many sites.

I had found something to be passionate about.  After nearly 10 years with Honeywell as a Senior Engineering Fellow, I took the risk in 2000 (yes, 15 years this January) and started a company focused on removing human error and correcting bad practices and many holes found in all company’s defenses, their Risk Control Strategies (RCS).  I was now in a position to help companies fill those holes or latent failures.

When we started UCDS, our focus was on the control room only, a place built on many errors that eventually would be part of the causation of Texaco Pembrokes Disaster, BP Texas City and Esso Longford.

We built services out from the control room providing Alarm Management and the introduction of High Performance HMI.  Today, we provide anything associated with operations excellence which has been our motto from day one, “achieving operational excellence”.  We now cover operator training, procedure re-writing, workload studies, Management of Organizational Change (MOOC), and operator shift change practices and dealing with fatigue through a Fatigue Risk Management System (FRMS).  We also cover control and field operators now in all production industries and including Electrical Transmission Centers.

We have worked at Oil Refineries around the world, Petrochemical, Offshore, Onshore Drilling, Mining, and Iron & Steel Plants.
When I talk passionately about HP HMI or Alarm Management it is because these topics have many issues that have and do lead to large Organizational Accidents which often involve loss of human life.  I have dedicated my career to address these issues and have had the privilege to be a leader in this topic winning me an ISA Fellowship.

Over the last 15 years, I have trained a lot of people in this topic and now I have put together a unique and talented team to work with me.  They have caught the vision and are passionate in what they do, in improving themselves, and the services we provide.
We will continue to improve our services and expand our offering.  In 2015, we will be launching some new services focused on operator effectiveness and operations excellence.  I am proud to say we have customers all around the world that can testify to how we have helped them and left a positive and cost effective solution that has provided attractive ROI’s.
We get a lot of repeat work which is a great complement from our customers, and when we work for them we act like employees who have ownership.  We strive to correct flaws and improve safety, reduce human error, and make the workplace a nicer place to work.
In 2014, UCDS has provided a lot of work with Alarm Management and we have worked with our partners to provide enhanced solutions as we tackle the hard part of dealing with alarm floods and use our new methodology to identify Dynamic Alarm Management Solutions.
I want to thank all our partners our associates who have participated with us on joint projects around the world to provide unique and complete solutions that work and provide value to our customers.
UCDS looks forward to working with you in 2015 and hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a productive New Year.

David Lee working the weekend in New Zealand

In Scotland they say “Lang may yer lum reek” roughly meaning long may your smoke continue from your chimney.  To our customers perhaps we should say “long may your flare remain cool”

Ian Nimmo is President and CEO
User Centered Design Services Inc.