Emerson forms Human Centered Design Institute

Goal is to make process control technology easier to use.

10/08/2009


More than 50 new Device Dashboards from Emerson employ Human Centered Design principles to improve ease of use.  At-a-glance status and one-button shortcuts speed task completion for evaluating, diagnosing, and configuring field devices.

More than 50 new Device Dashboards from Emerson employ Human Centered Design principles to improve ease of use. At-a-glance status and one-button shortcuts speed task completion for evaluating, diagnosing, and configuring field devices.

Announcing its intention to "make process control technology easier to use," Emerson has formed the Human Centered Design Institute. The result of more than five years of customer work-practice analysis, new product development re-engineering, and organizational training, the internal organization's goal is to "bring about a significant improvement in ease-of-use and workforce productivity," according to Peter Zornio, chief strategic officer at Emerson.

Over the past 40 years, says Zornio, "industry has invested almost exclusively in feature and technology enhancement, instead of designing around how people actually use the technology. We believe it's time technology began serving people, instead of the other way around."

Human centered design is a multi-disciplined science. Intensive observational research, usability testing and heuristics analysis are key elements of the practice. These provide the insight to blend the disciplines of industrial, graphical, and human interface design into products that are easier to use.

Human Centered Design techniques include rapid, low-fidelity prototyping, functional usability testing, and task-oriented prioritization of displays and functions.

Human Centered Design techniques include rapid, low-fidelity prototyping, functional usability testing, and task-oriented prioritization of displays and functions.

"Getting inside the heads of users, including how they interface with each other and the technologies, is the foundation of human centered design," said Duane Toavs, director of the institute. "We've been incubating this HCD process since the early days of our Smart Wireless designs some years ago, collaborating with Carnegie Melon University, a recognized leader in human interface and interaction with technology. CMU helped us set direction and get it started, leading to our staffing of this virtual Emerson Human Centered Design Institute [with] design teams for all of our brands."

Based on interviews with more than 100 customers, Emerson developed Personas and Stakeholder Maps, which help define the ecosystem of a plant, said Toavs. This includes how users interact with technology, and how the design of products affects their productivity. He said the products Emerson will introduce based on this and ongoing research "will make a profound difference in how people accomplish their tasks."

Chris Pacione, director of education at MAYA Design and LUMA Institute agrees. "We believe Emerson is uncovering an untapped resource that will lead to increased productivity throughout the process manufacturing industry....Emerson's investment in HCD represents a major commitment toward taming the complexity inherent in... new products."

Zornio says Emerson Process Management demonstrated its commitment to human centered design and reduced product complexity with the announcement of its new DeltaV S-series digital automation system hardware , and more than 50 new field device dashboards.


- Edited by Renee Robbins, senior editor
Control Engineering News Desk





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