To enable the Human Factors Professional to do a good job, thorough insight in control centre jobs and tasks is needed. Many projects concern redesign or upgrade of an existing control centre, with the introduction of new instrumentation, display systems, and software. Other projects concern a complete new build or the extension of a process or centralization of several control centres into one. For all these situations, a lot can be learned by analysing user tasks, as well as their daily behaviour in the control centre.
In the end, the aim is to find out what is really working well and appreciated (should be kept in the future), and what should be changed during the project.
In case, there is no existing situation available for an analysis, the HF Professional needs to take a more theoretical approach or rely on earlier experiences elsewhere.
Each Human Factors contribution starts with a task analysis. In case the analysis should have a broader scope, and also includes on for instance on information presentation, a task analysis can be extended to a situation analysis. Experienced HF Professionals need a few days of visiting the control room, observing the activities and having semi-structured interviews with operators. There are many different analysis tools, suitable for each possible type of project or work environment. With help of these tools the HF Professional is able to perform the analysis in a limited amount of time.
The situation analysis is also a first step in a successful user participation process. The HF Professional might spend bit more time in a control centre than needed for the analysis itself, just to be able to communicate with all operator teams.
Typical outcomes of a situation analysis are:
- Practical knowledge on the allocation of tasks (how work is divided over jobs)
- Workload: how much work is involved (time, difficulty of the task)
- Walking routes to/from and inside the control room
- Communication lines: between the operators mutually and between the operators and the world outside
- Workplace requirements in terms of instrumentation (number of screens), communication equipment, etcetera
- Field-of-vision requirements
- User interface requirements
- Operator preferences, concerns and ideas
The results of a situation analysis or task analysis shall always be presented to the users, as well as to operational management, and other stakeholders. The purpose of the user presentation is to get feedback on the findings. Did the HF Professional miss anything important?
In many cases, users cannot wait to find out what the conclusions are, given the analysis results. Therefore, preliminary conclusions could also be presented. They give a first hint of what a new design could look like.