Distributed control systems have forever altered the way in which process units are managed and controlled. At many locations, the operation style of the process is switching from operators who rotate inside-to-outside to a dedicated inside/outside operating scheme. Changing operating schemes often produces unforeseen secondary changes
One of the secondary changes which occurs is the pattern of communications between operators. Through analysis of operator performance information which has been amassed by Beville engineering, a significant difference in communication has been found between the two operating schemes. It was found that dedicated inside control operators have 3.2 times more communication contacts than their outside counterparts. It was also found that during steady state operation, in most cases, communication time is equal to or exceeds time spent inspecting and adjusting the instruments.
Implications for those converting to DCS are many. One important implication is that the inside operators need to possess exceptional communication skills. Such skills, if not inherent, must be integrated into a training program. A second implication is that the communication to the control operator must be controlled. Ideally, the design of the communication system and control room should facilitate essential communications and inhibit unwarranted contacts. Uncontrolled communications were cited as a contributor to the severity of the Three Mile Island nuclear incident.
Copyright © 1991 Beville Engineering, Inc. , All Rights Reserved
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The dates for this year's Fall meeting for the Center for Operator Performance will be announced soon. For more information, please contact Lisa Via. Guests are always welcome!
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David Strobhar's book, "Human Factors in Process Plant Operation," is now available in both hardcover and Kindle e-book.
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