Tobias Becker, global business unit leader, took assembled media through a tour of the Systems Pavilion that showcased some of the latest ABB design ideas (with partners) for operator work stations that also highlighted key benefits of System 800xA.

First, the eye candy. This photo shows a normal situation for the operator at the station.

Then a critical alarm hits (definition of “critical” probably dependant upon the facility):

Becker’s key points were that ABB wants to enable a safe, accessable work environment. The control room need to enable fewer and less experienced operators to become effective sooner. The control room is designed to reduce footprint yielding both CapEx and OpEx savings. And finally the workspace demonstrated the built in collaboration tools enabled by System 800xA. This collaboration is expected to enhance problem solving. Becker concluded that it is, “the power of integration.”

As an aside, I recently drove past the site of an old customer in Lima, Ohio (lima like the bean). It was a BP refinery back in those days. Now it’s Husky. Saw a huge new office building going up. The old office building was mostly torn down. I said something to the soccer referees I was assessing. Turns out that Husky has torn down all the scattered control rooms and consolidated them into the new office. Now, if I can just get a pass to get in and see that new control room…

Provocative Quote

Someone at the ABB conference said, “Maintenance is the largest controllable cost in the plant.” Is that true? Interesting.


I also got a tour of the software pavilion. They were showing a number of products built on top of the new historian. The historian, cPM, is building up from handling 1.2 million tags to a goal of 12 million. At that size, it can begin handling applications such as the power grid.

Combined with software from the Ventyx acquisition and other development, new software enables better lock out/tag out; alarm management; support for determining and validating SIL levels for safety; reliability efforts; MES; and of course energy.

Center for Operator Performance

The Center for Operator Performance is just down the road from me in Dayton, Ohio. Dave Strobhar presented some of the latest research it has sponsored (ABB is a member).

A recent study by Dr. Sandeep Purao of Penn State looked at operator procedures. Operators now often are responsible for more than one unit, so they may have two or three or more procedures books for reference. With one procedure per event per unit, responding to events can be overwhelming for the operator.

So he looked at ways to modularize the procedures and make things more readily retrievable. So he took the procedures from a source, turned them into a text document from the print or pdf sources, applied heuristics and parsed into a table. The objective was to look for key steps to create modules that can mix and match into specific procedures (for example, one for power failure that can be applied in all units). This will be very interesting when completed.

In a recent study, human factors students from Wright State University in Dayton set up a sample piping situation in order to discover the value of job aids. They recruited students and did some training on the system. They then brought them back and gave them tasks around the piping apparatus (built up from PVC tubing. When the subjects had no job aids they were about 50 percent accurate. Adding checklists got them to about 90 percent. A checklist plus diagram or line demarkation got to 100 percent.

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