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Need Help Staffing Your Operations? Consider the Center for Operator Performance.

The need for operators has become acute around the world. In established regions, experienced personnel are retiring and taking their knowledge with them. In growing regions, schools and universities are hard pressed to turn out enough talent.

One answer is research into operational performance, pinpointing the most effective means for building the expertise required for day-to-day operation of process facilities. In the U.S., the Center for Operator Performance (COP) is moving forward to build the technical, educational and training infrastructures required.

The group is an alliance of process companies, process industry suppliers and academia. The founding group consists of Koch/Flint Hills Resouces, Marathon Pipeline/Marathon Petroleum, Nova Chemicals, Suncor, ABB and Emerson.

Mark Nixon of Emerson Process Management is the current chair of the Center for Operator Performance. “While I’m from a vendor, the idea is to make sure that end-user operating companies provide the most input and that they have the majority of voting power. This is not for vendors—the whole purpose and thrust is to address a resource shortage that threatens to seriously hamper the process world.”

The goal of the Center for Operator Performance to create an open and low-cost forum for the identification, analysis and dissemination of quantified research in such areas as selection and training, interface design, decision-making aids, automation and control room design.

Hosted at Wright State University (Dayton, Ohio), the organization involves multiple process manufacturer, distributed control system (DCS) vendors, human factors consultants Beville Enginering. Any firm or organization may join, and anyone can suggest research opportunities and share in the results.

The next meeting is October 20 and 21 in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada, where the topics of discussion include research into alarms and alarm rates, early event detection, decision-making technological aids, simulators, use of color and mobile applications.

Refineries, pipeline companies, process plants, production plants and mills are welcome to join. “In fact, we urge them to join,” Nixon said, “especially if they are struggling with the need to staff up operations. The Center is a viable and valuable resource for solutions to a highly significant problem.”

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