There's no shortage of anecdotal evidence to provide suggestions for these and other questions related to target alarm rates, worker fatigue, training, display colors and graphics, information hierarchy, and any number of factors that could contribute either to operators' ability to keep a plant running, or the likelihood of them bringing it to its knees, noted Dave Strobhar, principal human factors engineer at Beville Engineering.
But hard research can be harder to come by, so several players in the petroleum industry joined forces about five years ago to get the research done.
presented several interesting findings from the open industry-academia collaboration, the Center for Operator Performance
, at ABB Automation & Power World last month in Houston.
"The problem is that in some cases I might have responsibility for more than one unit," Strobhar
"For one, two, five and 10 alarms in 10 minutes, performance was flat," Strobhar
"A lot of companies are beating themselves over their heads trying to reach that number," Strobhar
said, noting that with better operators, better displays and other positive factors, that number could be more like 20-25 alarms per 10 minutes.
Of course, everyone wants to know the best way to make a "better operator.
In a study with Klein Associates
, the center looked into whether they could adapt the military's decision making exercises (DMX) to process plants.
What they found was that it could be done easily with very short training sessions-one hour on occasion at the start of a shift, for example.
"You need to practice making decisions," Strobhar
"It's a skill like anything else.