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December News

December News

Well, a year has come and gone really fast.  Merry Christmas everyone and best wishes for the New Year.
This last month I spent 2 weeks in Hawaii at our alarm management customer’s property in Honolulu.   We spent a lot of time rationalizing alarms and made some significant progress.  We launched our new alarm management posters at the start of the rationalization.  The customer is about to purchase some software to help them with the rationalization process.

As I have stated earlier in previous blogs, I am surprised at the number of sites that still have not made a successful go at getting alarms under control.  It has been nearly 20 years since we defined what good looks like for alarm management and how to tackle the problem.  The tools have been a longtime in coming and many are still Beta versions that have not matured or had the investment they should have had based on the price the owners have been charging for them.  Too little, too late comes to mind.

What do I expect from such a tool?  It should be easy to install and get the data out of the control system.  I see many copies laid on someone’s desk waiting for inspiration and good luck to get it working.  One supplier provides very poor help to customers and before they ever get started the initiative is gone and the tool is never used.  Some get the tool installed and find the user interface is so complex that they do not get the full benefits because no one knows how to drive it.
Others are getting good reports based on a statistical analysis of the alarms, but during rationalization are not recording and documenting the changes.  They are not implementing any form of management of change and before too long they are back where they started with a major alarm management problem.

If I sound frustrated, that is because I am.  We had many successful years doing alarm management with customers, providing a good Philosophy Document, training, MOC process and expert help during rationalization.  It seemed that the market was saturated, with so many people competing for the work, vendors and DCS suppliers getting involved so we backed away thinking our customers were being looked after by these people, only to discover zero quality, zero accountability and still major alarm management problems.
So, we have decided to get involved again and we are currently working in several different countries helping customers solve the problem once and for all time.  Our approach is simple; it understands what good looks like, identifies the gaps and uses a Quality Management approach to tackle the problem.  No magic bullets, no false promises, no excuses and telling the customer the truth, they have to be committed and participate in this exercise.

So often I hear the excuses that we don’t have the time and some smart guy turns up and makes false promises about taking the alarm database offsite and rationalizing it for the customers, yes, the magic silver bullet.  But in truth, it is only cosmetic surgery, when what is required is a heart transplant, there has to be a change of heart, not accepting alarm overloads, bad actors, poor maintenance, no testing, no MOC, no integrity.

As my old friend Trevor Kletz always said, if you think this is expensive try having an accident.  Look at what Texas City cost BP, Longford cost ExxonMobil, Pembroke cost Texaco and many, many more accidents caused by out of control alarms.
I make no excuse for being hard on this topic.  Too many good people have died and it is not acceptable to lose one more life on something that is preventable and has a good ROI.

OK, off my soap box.  I am pleased to see some good progress using the HP HMI at many of our customer sites and finally our new methodology for identifying functionality for Level 1 screens is paying off.  We are using the Task Analysis technique called CADET – Critical Action and Decision Evaluation Technique.  It is getting great reviews from operators and good feedback regarding the end results the Overview Displays.

Christi and I will be in Trinidad the first two weeks in January doing a CADET exercise for one of our customers.  This will take two weeks and then Dave and I will be back in Norway.  Yes, that sounds very cold this time of year, good job we are tough.  It makes a change from Northern Canada at this time of year, plus we love going back to Norway.  We always have a good time especially with this customer; they are a pleasure to work with.  Also with our good friend’s Mark & Marie Green who we are hoping to see in March in Scottsdale AZ at the first meeting of the Center for Human Factors and Ergonomics (CHFE) conference.

So, at least I will be home for a week in March, LOL.  I am hoping to get my new book published around that time, just need some cooperation from the team and lots of encouragement!
We look forward to some new control rooms this year.  We will be also promoting the GELCO seat cushions for control room operators.  I have been using mine now for several months and it really is comfortable and addresses sagging cushions on these expensive chairs.  It has a good ergonomic performance and for the low cost is a worthwhile investment.  Please contact Steve ( for more details if you want one. Discounts can be arranged, we will have them on display at the CHFE conference in March.
As we look back at last year we had a great year thanks to you our faithful customers.  We had a variety of jobs and worked in many different countries.  The team has grown as you can see from the website. We have quality people who don’t just come to work and get their hours in, they all put above and beyond in and all have a heart for the customer and care about success and ROI.  They are all professionals with many years’ experience, they have proved themselves long before joining UCDS and I am delighted they call this home and they refer to the UCDS family.  That means more than colleagues, more than friend’s – family.  You can’t get any better than that.

Our training group is ready to start a new project.  Harry is just finishing up some of his projects and will be ready for a new challenge in the New Year.  These jobs tend to be long and once the team is committed they get booked for long periods.  If you have a major training or training documentation issue you would like the team to take a look at please contact Steve or Harry directly.

We had a team ready to fly out to Russia in January and the project has fallen through so we can make an immediate response for a new or upgraded control room project.  We have the best reputation in the industry and we provide state of the art, ergonomic solutions that meet all the known standards both here in the US and Europe.

Has anyone else in this business noticed how complex and awkward taxes have become over the last couple of year’s perhaps it’s time to pull our resources together to get a better handle on this and also lobby Washington to fix the problem.  I am sure that the new Affordable Health Care is going to add to this already unmanageable and complex government system. If you have concerns contact me and let’s talk about it, I have a contact at the Whitehouse who is supportive of small businesses and likes to hear about our challenges.