Monday, March 22, 2010

White paper on “Tuning the Forgotten Loop” published

We can tune PID controllers, but what about tuning operators? This white paper describes a new method for combining archived video, recordings of operator actions and process historians for training and tuning operators.

An operator’s job has often been described as hours of boredom interrupted by moments of sheer panic. What the operator does during panic situations often depends on how well he or she has been trained, or “tuned.” Advanced tuning of an operator can yield better outputs, higher quality, fewer errors and a wider response to fluctuating operating conditions. This white paper explores how to improve operator actions, and offers a method for doing so.

As part of cost reduction and increased automation, fewer humans are involved with operating larger and larger plants. Thus, those few operators who are left have huge responsibilities, and their actions can have a major effect on plant output and, ultimately, business performance. “Tuning the Forgotten Loop,” by Steve Rubin, president of Longwatch, covers the problems facing operators, including alarm floods, trying to diagnose problems in the plant from HMI displays, lack of attention, boredom, being faced with abnormal situations, and human error.

With the increased emphasis on Six Sigma quality issues, new technologies such as the Smart Grid, increasingly complex HMI screens, and insurance and regulatory issues, operators are under increased pressure to perform. But few tools are available to train and “tune” operators. Simulators help, but nothing beats giving operators visual feedback of their responses to alarms, incidents and accidents.

This white paper suggests that video recordings from the plant, video recordings of operator consoles, and data from plant historians can be combined to provide operators with an “instant replay” of their actions, or the actions of experienced operators faced with the same situation. Being able to reconstruct exactly what happened during an incident aids in troubleshooting, training and “operator tuning.

Download the white paper in pdf format here or view it on-line here.
We highlighted the Longwatch Control Console in Read-out September/October 2009.

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