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Happy new year, High performance HMI and Human Factors

Happy New Year to all our friend’s and clients!

Who knows what this year will bring as we start the year with falling oil prices and low fuel costs which helps many businesses but often leads to loss of work for an organization like ours.  We have been through a few of these turns over the years and know how to survive the storms of life.

We are celebrating an anniversary…UCDS has been in business for 15 years now!  I have to admit, I have made a lot of big mistakes over the years which I have learned from.  I have also had some great successes and some extremely successful projects.

UCDS has worked around the world and we have made many friends in many countries and have maintained a positive reputation with a lot of repeat business. Over the years, others have copied what we do but one thing the separates us from our competition is we keep evolving and improving and coming up with new innovative solutions.

Over Christmas, I have taken some time to have surgery on my ankle…again.  I am hopeful of getting back to full capabilities this year and back to the gym and my Personal Trainer who is chomping at the bit to get me sweating again.

As a small business, we face many challenges.  Many unnecessary ones with differing labor laws and tax rules in every state system and having to do tax filings in States we work in.  But all part of running a business.  The upside of running a business is employees.  Yes, they can bring challenges but also the satisfaction you get when you observe them being committed to the company, creative for the customers and enjoying work makes it all worthwhile.

Many of our clients also face new mandates and regulations.  UCDS is here to help them through and sustain the costs by providing solutions that are cost effective, done right the first time.  We are always chasing ROI and more efficient ways of doing things.

Back in 1977, I wrote a paper for the Institute of Engineers in Cleveland, UK as part of a big competition for Her Majesty the Queen’s Silver Jubilee on “Twenty Five Years of Steelmaking on Teesside”.  I recently re-read it and was fascinated to see the changes industry has been through but how advanced and leading edge the steel industry was with fully integrated process control computers and the very first implementation of plc’s.

I had the pleasure of being on the commissioning team for the Lackernby Steels Plant and I implemented the very first Modicon PLC into UK industry.  It was an outstanding application and led me into the computer group for Davy Ashmore and the implementation of the Redcar Blast Furnace Stoves Hoogovens mathematical model for staggered parallel stoves.

Back then all the HMI interfaces were just pages of script and numbers, no graphics.  The old Digital PDP8 computers were workhorses doing process control through what at the time was an advanced language called “Coral66”.  This was an impressive process control modelling all entered through punch cards and using minimal memory.  It was an incredible achievement and prepared me for many of the things I achieved at ICI Teesside Operations.

It seems like my whole career has been around leading edge technology, and new ways of doing things and has continued to this day as we are innovators in the industry and I believe we have added significant value to industry worldwide.

I have instructed each of my team members to seek to improve this year.  To re-read and become experts in the standards and to enforce best practices wherever possible.

This year, we are going to focus on real deliverables in control room design, High Performance HMI, and dynamic alarm management.  So many projects done by competitors only get half done and need rework.  UCDS has a goal to provide the whole solution and ensure it is cost effective.

Over the past year, we have identified new techniques for extracting the information for what should be on overview displays and this year we have a number of customers who will be going live with these solutions.  We have identified new ways of implementing dynamic alarming and utilizing some of the powerful tools being developed for alarm management.  Our control room work has been enhanced by our ability to be involved from conceptual through detail design, construction drawings, and construction with our client representative service.

We are not just human factors junkies, we have solid control theory and practical knowledge and have implemented and maintained systems in industry.  Our background of Control Engineering and Chemical Engineering makes us the best choice for the best solution.  UCDS understands control systems and the environments that facilitate high performance.

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