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Next-generation control room technologies

Technology and demographics are changing control room design as companies try to lower risk and create appealing environments visually and operationally for the next generation of operators. See eight tips for control room design.

Control rooms are becoming more appealing and useful for the next generation of mission critical plant and system operators. Technology is changing control room designs.

Those helping with control room design should be involved from an early planning stage including technology assessment and operational planning, through to detail design, development and implementation.

Control room design and integration can consider distributed control systems (DCSs), supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), information technology (IT) management systems, human factors and ergonomics, strategic planning, global program development, first principles design, development of control room operational models and implementation.

Control room considerations

In step with the advancement of integrated systems, other peripheral systems such as video management systems, data and power distribution, IT management and similar systems have gone through similar transformations and can add value to control rooms of the future.

Advanced integrated systems help with overall control room operation and environment. An updated control room design, visually and operationally, also helps attract and retain talent with the adequate technical background for a control room environment.

Technology evolution results in major changes on how control rooms are thought of and planned. Integrated control systems include more capabilities to optimize and improve the controller experience. Upgrading those systems provides an opportunity and challenge to maximize the benefits of control room upgrade planning and implementation.

Control room elements to optimize and improve include:

  • Operational planning

  • Human-machine interfaces (HMIs) and management

  • Human factors and ergonomics

  • Collaboration

  • Remote operations

  • Consolidated facilities

  • Multi-functional and agnostic control room environments.

Eight control room design tips

Optimization can improve safety, situational awareness, and improve operator comfort and efficiency compared to more traditional control rooms. Consider these eight aspects of control room design.

  1. Consolidation versus dispersed operational model: Consider standalone operations versus consolidated functions (in a control room suite), which can impact on operational efficiency, response time and risk mitigation.

  2. Develop strategies for overcoming disruptive technology changes and the impact on the operators and other end user stakeholders during the control room design and implementation process

  3. Maximize space utilization by considering other implementations.

  4. Leverage new technologies to simplify and optimize HMI inputs between operational functions.

  5. Mitigate operational risk and achieve maximum value in the control room.

  6. Improve cognitive ergonomics with layering and distinction for critical operational alarms.

  7. Consider emerging technology trends such as video information and management systems (VIMS) and the impact on operations, situational awareness, collaboration and response times.

  8. Examine opportunities with fiber-optic switching and content management (DCS interaction) and remote control room applications.

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