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. It was quite obvious from interviews carried out during the investigations that the reasons were rather diffuse and not particularly precise—nor, in the industries studied, had any effort been made to establish to what extent goals were fulfilled. This was partly due to goals being unclear, which led to the inability to follow up and measure goal achievement.
In order to succeed with computerisation it is, of course, a prerequisite to define what the new computerised control system is to achieve. Often manpower reduction is put forward as an important goal or subgoal for an increased level of automation. As emphasised earlier in this handbook (for example, Figure 1.2), reducing the number of employees is a questionable basis for automation. There is, of course, a relation between automation levels and staffing requirements, but it is equally obvious that there is a clear staffing minimum irrespective of the level of automation.
Staffing demands increase again once beyond a certain level of automation. Here, it is important to consider the entire picture and not just the manning of the control room. High levels of automation can lead to increased demands on service and maintenance staff. Further, very high levels of automation demand extremely large investments in planning, programming, and other essential factors. The most important and realistic reasons behind automation are those that concern increased production safety, increased product quality, and the like. Further, significant improvements in the working environment can be achieved when designing control automation. This in turn can have positive secondary effects on factors such as job skills and staff turnover. New technology is not of value per se and might only be the latest technical ‘toys’ to please the advanced engineers.
It is always important to follow the traditional planning stages as presented below, even when planning a new control system for a process industry:
• Formulate a clear and well-defined business concept. The concept is achieved by a number of tangible and measurable goals.
• Define various strategies in order to fulfil these business goals.
• Specify those activities and processes and the type of equipment intended for procurement based upon the business strategies.
• Develop a human resource (HR) concept that supports the business concept. This should be developed at the same time as the business strategies. The HR concept should be tangible and defined in measurable terms.
• Formulate a number of HR strategies based upon the HR concept.
Human resource strategies form the basis for those activities, processes, and equipment found in the completed design. Further, HR strategies lead to other internal personnel activities, for example, management training, leadership development, systems for staff developments, operator training, and last but not least, the development of people (the users) into experts.
Only once these five stages have been thoroughly completed is it possible to decide which functions should be automated and which should be carried out by the human element. It is not possible to discuss suitable forms of automation before knowing which goals should be achieved. However, once this information is available, decisions can be made about the way and level of investment in the human factor, and it is here that a handbook of this type is an integral part of the planning process. Some important conclusions and recommendations are summarised in the following section.