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January 2009

We are now well into the New Year and I have been on the road since we started January.   What a start to what I think is going to be a challenging New Year.  I have done three workshops so far this year.  I have introduced our two new workshops to some customers – one on Management of Organizational Change Process which we are evolving to be more in-line with HazOp methodology.  I am hoping our customers find it easier to integrate into their existing Process Systems. The proof will be in the pudding, as the saying goes.

Rusty, one of our Consultants, is Chairing a two week study for a customer looking at moving from local control rooms to a new Centralized Control Room we are helping them build.  One thing the Baker Report on Texas City has highlighted is the need to address this important issue with a sound methodology.  Most companies today are not addressing MOOC, they do a solid job of MOC but this does not extent to MOOC.  IF they are doing anything they are only doing a basic checklist review, which most people spend more time answering the checklist questions rather than understanding the implications of the change.

We have a solid methodology which is suitable for both Field and Console operator changes and is suitable for other organizational changes, such as changes to the control system or control room.

It was also exciting to do the first new High Performance HMI workshop based on our new book.  The workshop is full of pictures and examples and really helps people understand the principles of ASM Style Graphics and the new Grey Scale Style.  The course reviews over 300 slides and is broken into sections so you can follow along with the book.  We now provide the book as the handout material with the workshop.

I also have started a new control room project with one of our Power Generation customers.  We always recommend starting the project with our Situation Awareness Workshop.  We use this platform to transfer understanding of what are the issues you need to address when designing or upgrading your control room.  We work through a comprehensive list of mistakes that have been made many times by multiple previous control room projects.  We also include all the research that we have learned on control room best practices.

We find this workshop is a great platform to educate operators, supervisors, engineers and managers providing a vehicle to develop common understanding and a shared vision.  Having a clear vision will make sure your new control room is suitable for the technologies that you will be using over the next 30 years.  We build with a future vision.  We see many customers using Large Screen Displays (LSD) with some struggling as they try to design what information to put onto the screens.  Some customers have chosen to not invest in this technology yet; they are waiting for it to be more mature and maybe a lower cost.  However, we try to share with customers that we believe that everyone will be using this technology in the near future.  If this is the case, the design they use must accommodate this technology in the future.

So far this has been a cold year as we have all been in the cold and snow, working in some extremely extreme weather.  This has also made traveling interesting.  People are often quick to bad mouth US Airways, but I have to say they do a great job and I have no complaints.  All my flights have been on-time, with great service and the best staff in the industry.  We are all proud of the US Airways Pilot who safely landed his jet into the Hudson River.  Last year I flew over 100,000 miles (Chairman againJ) with US Airways and I am ready to do the same this year.

UCDS has launched a new advertising campaign in Europe.  Our cool, new advert can be seen in this month’s Hydrocarbon Engineering and hopefully in a new paper also this month.

I spent my Birthday with Texas A&M University at the 64th Annual Instrumentation Symposium.  I presented a paper that hopefully will have people re-thinking their alarm management strategies, and will consider the whole story and the other elements of situation awareness.  High Performance HMI has a better return on investment; most alarm management projects while being extremely important often have zero return on investment.  When alarms are managed as part of a situation awareness program, customer will see a more effective outcome.

We are working with some customers who planned work for this quarter and due to budget restructuring and the slowing economy have had to push the work into the third quarter.  We feel their pain, literally.  Unfortunately safety will not wait for a brighter economy, so we are trying to stay flexible and offering to help our customers in any way we can.  While we like to get a salary, we are in this business for more than just the money.  We take our role seriously and we know we can make a difference to plant safety.

My friend, John Wagemaker who is one of the best Sales Managers I know was laid off last month.  We wish him well and recommend him to any company smart enough to snap him up.  I wish we were big enough to take advantage of his talents.  Good luck John.