ARC Interview with Peter Zornio on Human Centered Design

Yesterday, I saw two tweets (here and here) from the ARC Advisory Group, from their ARC_Advisory twitter account. These tweets shared news of YouTube interview postings with Emerson Process Management’s Chief Strategic Officer, Peter Zornio. In part 1 and part 2 of the interview, ARC’s Larry O’Brien asked Peter about Human Centered Design (HCD) and how it is being applied in product development.

I sent a note to Larry this morning asking if it would be OK to embed the videos in this post and he gave me the green light. I’ll highlight a few of Peter’s comment from both parts of the video.


In part 1, Peter describes HCD as a method to look at the user and the tasks this user performs. The goal is to design products to simplify, reduce, and eliminate steps in these tasks. Process automation suppliers have introduced lots of great technologies, but many of these technologies are coming faster than process automation professionals can understand, use, and from which receive value. The demographics of automation and operations personnel are also causing a “brain drain”, which exacerbates the situation.

Peter highlighted three key reasons for apply an HCD approach to product development to help these technologies deliver the benefits they are capable of delivering. The first is increased usability, ease of use, and less training required to take advantage of the technology. The second is the ability to embed knowledge and work practices to help less experienced process manufacturing personnel become proficient. The third is to seek out and deliver a reduction or elimination of work processes.

Peter described this HCD process beginning 5 years ago with a partnership with Carnegie Mellon University, a leader in design. This joint collaboration led to the development of a central Emerson Process Management group to work with all of the division’s product development groups to instill HCD design practices.

Peter shared one example of the results of this design process, Electronic Marshalling in the latest DeltaV system release. He noted that wiring practices for conventional I/O has not really changed in the 35 years since the distributed control system (DCS) was introduced. The process of stringing “home run” cables from the process areas back to marshalling panel and then connecting the wires from the marshalling panels over to the DCS I/O cabinets has been largely unchanged. Incremental improvements on I/O density and terminal blocks have occurred, but not a look at the overall process for ways to reduce or eliminate work.

The HCD approach required stepping back, looking at what project teams are trying to achieve, and looking at ways to streamline the tasks. Electronic Marshalling combined the two practices around marshalling and I/O wire connections into a single, flexible process. As the wires are landed from the process areas, they can be characterized on a channel-by-channel basis and electronically connected with the appropriate controller. This flexible approach also means inevitable late project changes can be quickly accommodated without rewiring.

This HCD approach has been institutionalized into a Human Centered Design Institute for product development efforts across the Emerson Process Management brands.

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