Improving Operator Performance via Human Factors Research

Safe operations are a top priority for process manufacturers and producers. One major area affecting process and personnel safety is the capabilities and performance of plant operators. The Center for Operator Performance (COP) consortium brings together:

…a diverse group of industry, vendor, and academia representatives addressing human capabilities and limitations with research, collaboration, and human factors engineering.

Emerson's Mark Nixon


Emerson’s Mark Nixon, a member of the center representing Emerson Process Management, shared some recent research published in IIE Transactions.

The special issue, Human Factors in Advanced Applications for Process Control, provides an overview of current research efforts into operator training requirements and methods, human-machine interface (HMI) design concepts and HMI and work assessment frameworks.

This research includes recommendations on training methods, novel process visualization displays, working with advanced process control interfaces and more.

Here are the articles included in this special edition [purchase required]:

This research is used to continue to improve the usability and effectiveness of operator interfaces into distributed control systems like the DeltaV system.

Employing a User-Centered Design Approach to Improve Operator InterfacesMark was one of the authors for the Employing a User-Centered Design Approach research paper. In their paper, in order to

…the value of the user-centered design and task-based approach, a series of generalizable design guidelines were derived, including those intended to reduce operators’ load, increase intuitiveness of manipulation, and increase the ease with which operators could cooperate to make control decisions.

By observing the plant operators working with the operator workstations, they observed two main challenges:

…multiple-resources-based decision making and information findability.

Based on these observations, design recommendations were established. These included simplified navigation, standard search interface, better mapping of parameters to associated devices and a dynamic infographic process using applying colors and shapes to process conditions.

This combination of academic research, automation suppliers and end users helps to advance the technology around performing tasks effectively and efficiently.

If you would like to learn more about the members, past and current research and more about the consortium, contact the COP team today.

Leave a Reply