Operators supervise and control complex processes on the basis of many information sources. Usually this requires multi-screen workplaces. The image below shows the principles for the design of an operator desk layout (derived from ISO 11064-Part 4). The slightly curved screen arrangement enables a good overview and readability of four screens from one central operator position.
Based on this recommended shape, a console footprint for each specific project can be developed. An example of a footprint is given below. It shows an operator console for two users, including some additional information sources, such as a hardwired alarm panel on the left side.
The cross section shows the viewing angles to the average position of one or two screens. In a normal working posture the neutral viewing line of human eyes is tilted downwards by approximately 15 degrees. Therefore the most intensively used screens should be positioned slightly below the operator’s horizontal eye level. The exact position can be calculated by the operator’s eye height and viewing distance.
Be careful with ‘cockpit-like’ workplace designs, built tightly around the operator. The human body needs some space to move around, and be able to frequently change posture, to avoid problems with physical strain. Many modern standard consoles have an ‘open’ design and electric height adjustability, allowing the user to optimize his work posture at will.
This picture shows a control centre for operation of two canal-locks and a bridge. The locks and the bridge can partially be observed by direct view. Process control screens are located on a height adjustable desk. The traffic area is also covered by CCTV-cameras. Height adjustable displays for the camera images are mounted at the ceiling. In between process control screens and CCTV-screens, there is an area for direct view. In this case, a careful design of all height adjustability ranges appeared to be essential to create an optimal workspace for the operators.
3D modelling of the control room, including the site surroundings, proved to be a valuable tool here.
This example also points out the importance of custom made workplaces. Standard of-the-shelve consoles sometimes provide a good basic solution for standard control rooms. In case of additional task requirements, like direct view outside, a custom solution is usually a better option. Another advantage of custom consoles is they often allow a more compact arrangement than standard consoles.
State-of-the-art operator consoles require careful detailed engineering. There needs to be sufficient legroom, both in height as to stretch the legs. The edges of the desk should be made of very durable material.
Tip: make a few additional AC-connectors for mobile phone battery chargers, and put some effort in hiding most of the cabling.