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Welcome to UCDS’s blog!

Welcome to UCDS’s blog!  A place where we pass on to our current customers, prospective customers and friend’s some insight into what we have been and are doing and also to provide some insight into the people and company.

UCDS has the best people who love what they are doing and are passionate about it.  They have a real love for our customers and the projects they work on.  Steve, our Sales Director strives to understand the customer’s real problems and helps them understand how we can assist them.  He shares what we have achieved for other customers, and I am always getting great feedback from customers on how helpful he is and how he takes time to keep them informed and up-to-date with papers (and not just from us).

Dave is our VP of Operations and he is well rounded.  No, I don’t mean his weigh…his experience!  He is foundationally a Chemical Engineer with many years of practical experience in industry.  He was recently recognized by IChemE in the UK with a Fellow status.  He gained DCS control system knowledge and again practical experience maintaining and installing DCS systems and has sound control engineering knowledge and has become an expert in HP HMI and alarm management.  Dave is a section leader with ISA and sits on the ISA SP101 HMI panel where he has made a significant contribution to the development of this standard.

Dave has learned a great deal about Human Factors & Ergonomic Engineering and has worked in multiple countries understanding International Standards.  He does and has done a lot of control room design projects and regularly designs control room consoles for our customers.  Over the years, he has become a leader in workload assessment and has assessed many console and outside operator positions in a myriad of industries.  Dave is the real thing, he has a quiet nature, and would be the last to boast, but he truly is an industrial expert and a great guy to work with.

Christi, a Senior Consultant, is another Chemical Engineer and recently left the industry to join us.  She brings a great deal of operations and management experience from the Petrochemical industry and is experienced in Behavioral Safety.  She is expanding her expertise into Work Related Stress which is a growing topic, especially with so much mental health problems with workers in the workforce.  With her knowledge of MOC & HazOp studies she quickly learned and has become knowledgeable in Management of Organizational Change (MOOC) and she has graduated to Chairperson for these studies.

Christi has also become proficient at leading workload studies and is fully compliant with our operator workload staffing methodology which she enjoys doing for both Field Operator and Console Operator positions.  She has also been exposed to several new industries and is becoming proficient in Power and Electrical Transmission industry.  She recently led an alarm rationalization project for a Hawaiian electrical company.

Customers are finding that Christi brings real-world experience to projects and she is dedicated to projects and brings that ownership only found within a company.  She is very responsive to requests and brings something extra to the table that guarantees customer satisfaction.

Chris Heil is our newest member to the team; however, I have been working on projects with Chris for almost 15 years.  He is an architect but unlike most architects he has the ability to look at control room projects from more a functional perspective based on our human factor and ergonomic studies rather than purely on what I politely term more of an artistic perspective.  I am positive he learned a lot from Mike Smith of Smith LaRock who has a great perspective and has been a good friend to UCDS.  Unlike other Architects who attempt to do control room projects, these two architects realize the benefits of doing it with multiple skill sets.  Some architects do a very poor job related to the functional needs of the customer and create a serious problem for customers for the next 30 year life-cycle.

As Human Factor & Ergonomic Engineers (yes, with industrial experience and either electrical or chemical engineering foundation) we never attempt to do a control room project without a qualified architect.  Yes, many architects attempt to do these projects without the required skills to understand the real requirements.  They assume the customers can articulate them.  Unfortunately, for a lot of customers, they may do just one or two control rooms in their lifetime and at the end of the project make statements like “with what I know now, I would not have done it that way if I did it again”!

Chris is starting a new service for UCDS “Owners Representation Services”:

In order to ensure that your project is carried out with the shared vision set forth in the conceptual and detailed designs of your control room, we offer a valuable option to represent you “the Owner” during the Architectural Construction Document generation and Construction phases of your project.

We have found that many of our clients do not have the time or resources to ensure the design intent established in the UCDS design reports are successfully implemented.  In many cases, the vision and decisions that were made with our guidance get lost in translation if we do not stay involved.  We have seen this happen all too often when hiring an Architect or Engineering Procurement company for construction.  The overall vision can be lost, abandoned, and the answers to all the tough questions already asked can easily fall through the cracks.

We believe that UCDS is unique in its ability to be able to provide the client with a team that is not focused purely on the architectural design, but is fully grounded in the human factors principles and best practices employed in the successful design of state of the art control rooms.  This can be seen in the depth and breadth of our teams’ knowledge and experience, and in the many successful control room projects in which we have played a major role.

When you first think about an architect, you may consider one element of their jobs, design and drawings, which I don’t dismiss lightly.  However, many projects working directly with architects fail, not because the architect does a bad job of this part of the project but because they have a great responsibility.  A very large part of any project for them is project management skills, which many of these companies do not possess the skills to do this part of the project effectively and many projects fail in this area.

An architect who does not have their own electrical engineers (lighting design), Heating & Ventilation, Structural, Interior Designers must sub-contract to other companies but these areas must still be managed by the architect.  The architect often gets involved in managing the builder, the console manufacturer, and the audio/video company.  These sub-contractors must be managed by a good project manager with skills similar to other project managers the customers are using for more traditional work.  Unfortunately there is often a big gap in skills and we have seen projects fall-over and fail because of this, costing the customers significantly more money than they needed to pay.

We even had one project that was 60% complete that UCDS had finished almost a year earlier and the project was on hold because the electrical sub-contractor would not release construction drawings because he had not been paid by the architect on a previous project.  Customers who only build one or two control rooms in the life of their operations team do not want to be faced with these project overruns, additional cost and many frustrations.  So, we decided UCDS can help in this area since we do have people with this type of expertise that have had years of traditional project management experience and experience of doing hundreds of control room projects.

The services we provide support and give guidance throughout the build.  Essentially UCDS will be the eyes and ears for the Owner during the next phases of design and construction… all the way to ribbon cutting and move in.

Specifically, UCDS will perform the following:

  • Assist with the selection and review potential Architects and Engineers.
  • Quality Assurance review and commentary of the Architect’s and Engineer’s Drawings and Specifications during the design phase
  • Review Architect’s compliance with client-specific Engineering Guidelines and Standards (EGS)
  • Review and commentary of Architect’s and Engineer’s compliance with all services previously provided by UCDS
  • Be “on-call” to advise the Owner and Architect during the construction document phase as it relates to Industry Best Practices and Industry Standards/Regulations
  • Attend key meetings with the Architects and Engineers during the design iterative process (e.g. 60%, 90% 100% Design Review)
  • Negotiate with Authorities Having Jurisdiction on items that require some concession or more specific review (e.g. Code mandated Fire protection requirements relief)
  • Review and commentary of product information and Shop Drawings during the construction phase
  • Review General Contractor and Architect reviewed applications for payment during construction
  • Perform periodic site observations and reporting during construction
  • Review change orders and Requests For Information during construction

Chris is a great addition to our team.  He has helped our customers with old buildings that they would like to bring up to code or modify or create a new control room but have no drawings or up-to-date information about their existing buildings.  Chris will come out and take measurements and prepare drawings ready for re-design or just to meet compliance.  He provides 3 dimensional renderings and video walk-throughs that are so fundamental in a project team selling their ideas to senior management and accountants who hold the purse strings.

Chris is also a great asset to me as I am preparing my new book on control rooms which will be available to the public later this year.

Remember, just because an architectural firm is the most expensive, and say they have done more control rooms than anyone else does not make them the best.  If you look at their history and large number of failed projects, either architecturally or because of poor project management skills, you will soon realize it pays to have a knowledgeable friend on your team.

Harry is our only veteran on staff, which I wish I had another dozen just like him.  He comes from a military background with US Air force where he managed a technical writing department developing classified correspondence used for promotion testing and knowledge upgrading.  We are grateful to him for his service to our great country and that he found his way to us.  He has had more than 12 years in a training management role, Eleven years of experience conducting training courses and nine years of training material design/development experience.  Harry completed a major project recently for one of our biggest customers.  He and a team developed new training material from scratch with minimum input from the customer, creating drawings and tools to enhance understanding and interpreting technical manuals and vendor documentation to fill in the lack of documentation for operators.

Harry gets involved in our own reports improving the quality, especially as we have been involved in producing procedures to support customer compliance with the new Pipeline Act and PHMSA rule. What is produced is more than a procedure or training manual, it is an integral part of process safety information that every customer should have but often does not or, if they do, it is so out of date to be useful.

We have many customers that are desperate and need help and do not have sufficient internal resource available to tackle these projects and we can step in and create and implement with the minimum of hand-holding required by many of our competitors.  We have a team of people that have industrial experience, equipment knowledge, process understanding and have significant process and process safety knowledge.  These guys wrote the book for PSM during the early days of the introduction of OSHA 1910.119 PSM rule.

Harry is responsible for creating all our HMI and Alarm Management Philosophy documents so they are the highest possible standard and meet any companies ISO 9000 Quality standards.  Harry brought a new perspective and improved quality to UCDS and our customers.  Again, our core business is operations, however, we have crossed the void into maintenance on occasions to help customers out when they need our skill set.

These folks are the heart of UCDS and who we are.  Many of you know me and my reputation.   I guess after more than 40 years in the manufacturing industry you learn some things.  Yes, I have made mistakes and learned from them but I have many impressive projects behind me also.  I have received patents for my work in the Petrochemical industry as an automation specialist.  I was recognized by ISA with a Fellow status for my work on Abnormal Situation Management.  I have many articles published and more than that I love what I do and I am very passionate.  Ask me to do a shoddy job and we will have a problem.  Ask me to excel and meet best practices and we will have a wonderful on-going relationship.  Many of our projects are repeat customers; many of my team are ex-customers, which is true of our part-time staff as well.

UCDS also has a new task analysis methodology we have been developing for ensuring that Large Screen Displays are populated with useful information for operators and managers to keep the “big picture” in our control rooms.  We can provide more information on request.

In March, we began a new venture, The Center for Human Factors & Ergonomics LLC (  Associate members include UCDS Inc., Lin & Associates, Wey Technology, Yokogawa, PPCL (UK), HCD (Norway).  The Center is setup to be a non-profit research consortium studying aspect of human error and ergonomics within the manufacturing and process industries.

We kicked off with a workshop and meeting that included some of our customers interested in finding out more about this topic.  We dedicated the workshop to Prof James Reason, who has been one of my hero’s and has laid a solid foundation for understanding organizational accidents and how human errors contribute to accidents.  We gave all participants a free copy of James’s book on Organizational Accidents and set a program to start researching may of the aspects identified in the book and how to prevent and mitigate them.

We also participated in the American Fuel & Petrochemicals conference by presenting a paper on “The Human side of Human Error” which is available on request from our Sales Director – Steve Maddox @  Our goal was to get some of the industries executives to realize that as an industry we can eventually stop talking about 80% of accidents being caused by Human Error and address this topic as we address any other engineered solution.

The paper made headlines at the conference and was well received by those in attendance.  We look forward to growing the Center for Human Factors & Ergonomics and starting research topics.  We have some initial candidates that include providing an ROI from implementing High Performance HMI and the benefits of using simulators for training and how to develop procedures that will be used by operators and valued rather than ignored and left-on-the-shelf.

I hope this has provided a little more insight into who we are as a company and that it is our intention to keep you informed and educated.