Why is it necessary to discuss the role of people in control rooms? For many of us it has been obvious for decades that we need to create a harmony between technol­ogy and the people involved in steering, controlling, and managing the technology. Countless accidents with very dramatic and severe consequences have been blamed on ‘the human factor’. The human and environmental tragedies of Bhopal, Brent Spar, Chernobyl, the Exxon Valdez, MinaMata, and Three Mile Island show what can go wrong when humans engage with machines. However, very early we learned and understood that the operator was not to blame. The reasons for the catastrophes were defined as the lack of compatibility between people and technology. In essence, the interface between technology and people did not match...



Work in control rooms can either be organised around maintenance, engineering/ field service, and error/fault handling, or around planning and process optimisation. In the first case, work in the control room is in some way combined with maintenance and service tasks carried out in the plant itself. In the other case, the control room operator is given the task of carrying out more advanced planning and optimisation work. Here, for example, computers are used to control and monitor the process and also to carry out other tasks, such as simulating various process conditions. These simulations can form the basis either for controlling the process, planning future tasks, or replanning or redesigning the process...



There can be many and varied reasons behind planning a new process industry or a large reconstruction project. The underlying reasons are often associated with gov­ernmental industrial policies, employment policies, and so on. Normally there is also some form of business strategy based upon a business concept. If limited to development projects of new computerised control systems with an increased level of automation, the definition of goals often becomes more diffuse. When Ergolab car­ried out a series of investigations in Swedish process industries, the operators often questioned the motivation behind the introduction of new computerised systems...



The degree of success when planning human/machine systems, and in particular monitoring and control systems, is entirely dependent upon being able to predict the consequences of different design solutions. The ability to predict the consequences of a specific solution is dependent in turn upon the designers’ insight, knowledge, and experience of the various components that influence the final function. In a human/ machine system—that is, in every system where people work—it is essential to con­sider people as a significant cognitive, emotional, and feeling part of the system.

In certain cases, solutions can be found through common sense, but when plan­ning more complex human/machine systems, common sense alone is seldom ade­quate...


Conclusions and Recommendations in Summary

Toni Ivergard and Brian Hunt


14.1 Old Knowledge and Slow Implementations 345

14.2 The Human User as a Component 346

14.3 Business Concepts and System Development………………………………………… 347

14.4 Some Recommendations in Summary 348

14.5 Summary of a New Perspective……………………………………………………………… 350

References and Further Reading……………………………………………………………………….. 353


It is very difficult to change people to fit machines, and it is of course not desirable to do so. After all, machines are made to serve humanity and not vice versa. It is there­fore better to design the machine from the very beginning to fit the human user. That this does not happen more often depends largely on the fact that many engineers lack factual knowledge of human characteristics...



Advanced technology for control and information processing, often computerised, has infiltrated almost explosively into more and more areas. In spite of optimis­tic expectations, this has often led to deteriorating work conditions for the people involved. This has been described in a large number of ergonomic and social/psy – chological studies.

Within the process industries, it is found that the U-shaped curve expresses the relationship between work motivation on the one hand and technical development on the other (see Figure 13.4). It seems as if work motivation in the modern, computerised, highly-automated process industries is rather low, and in many cases is approaching that of ‘assembly-line’ jobs. It is also found (Figure 13...



Recently, there has been considerable emphasis on the rights of users to have an input into product/system development. To achieve an effective input from employees, it is necessary to establish an organisation for the planning work as a complement to the planning philosophy presented in Figure 13.1. This organisation is probably best determined in the company’s safety committee. Figure 13.3 shows one suggestion for how such an organisation might be set up for the development of a new, large system such as a new control system for a process.

A central steering group is needed for the project within the company. The steer­ing group would include the safety committee and anyone in the company who has responsibility for long-term planning...



A starting point for the development of computer software should always be to obtain an understanding of the stereotypical expectations of the operators. There are, however, critical difficulties with this method. Different individuals have differ­ent mental models and therefore different stereotyped expectations. Thus, it is not relevant for the software designer to use himself as a reference in the prediction of plausible mental models in the mind of the intended operators. Instead the designer needs to refer to his basic knowledge in perceptual, cognitive, and social psychology using people who are as similar as possible to the real users of the system.

To obtain a structure, an analysis of the manual and mental tasks involved must be carried out...


Allocation of Functions

Allocation of functions can be done in more or less detail. If ergonomically-orien­tated function allocation is used, it is relatively simple to specify the level of detail at which the functions allocation should be carried out. In the function allocation stage that follows function analysis, the functions are allocated between humans and machines/personnel technology. In this way, one can specify which functions are to be performed by the human element and which by a technical component. It is therefore not meaningful for a function allocation to be written in terms that are too abstract. This can result in all the functions following function analysis needing a combination of both human and technical solutions.

An allocation of functions according to Figure 13...


Function Analysis

Function analysis often leads to a form of function diagram. One basic rule in this work is that it should be free from preconceptions and not bound by any special com­ponents or solutions worked out previously. As an example, consider the transport of goods through a supermarket checkout. The question is whether this should be done mechanically or manually with the aid of a conveyor belt for use by the customer or the cashier. This choice should only be made at the function allocation stage, and then only on the basis of certain given criteria (those produced at the goal-setting stage and ergonomic factors are of primary interest in this case). The function analy­sis must be achieved without prejudice as this is the basis for the resultant allocations being the optimum solutions...