Emerson forms Human Centered Design Institute
Emerson has announced its intention to make process control technology easier to use, and is backing up that pledge with the introduction of its Human Centered Design Institute. The institute is the result of more than five years of customer work-practice analysis, new product development re-engineering, and organizational training, and its 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.
"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," said Duane Toavs, director of Emerson’s Human Centered Design Institute. "CMU helped us set direction and get it started, leading to our staffing of this virtual Emerson Human Centered Design Institute that spans design teams for all of our brands."
"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 Emerson’s Human Centered Design Institute. "Based on interviews with more than 100 customers, we developed Personas and Stakeholder Maps which help us define the ecosystem of a plant. This includes how those users interact with technology, and how the design of those products affects their productivity. Simple in theory, but really challenging in practice.
Toavs 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. While they continue to deliver powerful new technology, Emerson’s investment in HCD represents a major commitment toward taming the complexity inherent in these new products."
A focus on human centered design can lead to more useful and usable solutions, said Pacione, "and invite Emerson customers and users to be co-inventors of the future of their work, rather than just waiting for it."
Zornio says Emerson Process Management demonstrated its commitment to Human Centered Design and reduced product complexity with this week’s announcement of its Emerson’s new DeltaV S-series digital automation system hardware , and more than 50 new field device dashboards.
Focusing on the repetitive tasks operators and maintenance staffs perform and how they interface with field devices, Emerson engineers "evaluated device interfaces across the industry and found a common problem," says Zornio. "Routine steps which operators and maintenance personnel perform frequently were cumbersome, confusing and illogically laid out. It’s an endemic problem throughout the industry. Based on user input, we have overhauled Emerson’s Device Dashboard designs to improve speed and accuracy of confidently performing these tasks."
As for customer project engineering and design processes, these "put too much emphasis on locking down designs very early in the project, often before the process design was complete," notes Zornio. "Not only does this increase FEED and Detailed Design cost and time, it also exposes the project to increased labor and potentially significant change order costs during construction. Additionally, the existing wiring processes were time consuming and laborious…and ripe for an innovative approach."
With the new DeltaV S-Series of hardware, says Zornio, customers and engineering contractors "can have unprecedented flexibility in I/O engineering thanks to Electronic Marshalling. Hard-wiring each device as a unique connection from field to controller and every contact in between is eliminated. This means less engineering up front and fewer change orders later in the project."
– Edited by Renee M. Robbins, managing editor, MBT