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Why Can't We Do It Ourselves?


As can be seen from the rest of this web site, Beville has developed and offers a process to help plants choose process alarms. On the surface, the technique is fairly straightforward (you ask what the operator is to do when an alarm actuates), so many companies take on the process for themselves.

What amazes me is how many times people apply the process and get the wrong answer. The fact that they got the wrong answer is not amazing; simply ask how many engineers got problems wrong using the simple formula f=ma. What is amazing is that they donít realize they got the wrong answer. There is often an assumption that if you have a formula or process, it guarantees good results. If humans are involved, no formula protects you from arriving at the wrong answer. Call it skill or common sense, but being able to spot the mistake is essential in doing an alarm analyses. If you donít know how you are going to detect the mistake, or what it likely will be, there is a good chance that your systematic process is just going to be an expensive and time consuming exercise in creating a bad man-machine interface.

And now for something completely different...

On a recent project, the operators recounted a story of the Ops Manager making a surprise middle-of-the-night visit to the control room. Gasp! Most (likely all) of the operators were asleep -- a condition short lived when the manager "hit the roof". One operator was stretched out behind the DCS consoles, and upon hearing the tongue lashing his co-workers were receiving, opened a panel on the back wall and crawled through to the rack room. This operator was able to leave the control building and return through the main door, to share in the managerís outrage at the operators being asleep. Whether the manager was fooled or not is unknown. Whether it happened or not is unclear. But it's a good story.

Copyright © 1998 Beville Engineering, Inc.

For further information, visit the links below.

| Alarm & Display System Analysis Overview | Alarm Management | Display Design | Alarm & Display Design Seminar | Beville Shape Calculator -Excel download | Alarm Distribution Estimator -Excel download |


Link Published By
Operator Interfaces Expand Human Factors Automation World
How to Build a Better Operator - ABB Automation & Power World Control Design
Operators Get More Help Chemical Processing
Impact of Alarm Rates and Interface Design on Operator Performance Automation World
Simple, Strong and Easy-to-Use Control Global
DCS Console Operator Issues in Related Industries TAPPI
Operator Performance as a Function of Alarm Rate and Interface Design
Operator Interfaces: Moving from Comfortable to Most Effective Automation World
User Centered Design at Work Control Global


This year's Fall meeting for the Center for Operator Performance will be October 7-10 in Houston, TX. For more information, please contact Lisa Via. Guests are always welcome!


Our summer newsletter is now available. Click here!

Take our short survey on operator span of control. Click here (new window)

David Strobhar's book, "Human Factors in Process Plant Operation," is now available in both hardcover and Kindle e-book.

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