Industrial Process Control

Mental Models of Complex Processes:
Opportunities for Promotion and Conservation of Skills in Process Control through Simulation and Hypertext Manuals

Working conditions in industry have dramatically changed due to the fast proceeding mechanisation and the introduction of computer technologies. The progress in efficiency of industrial processes also increases the demand for qualification and the responsibility of each staff member. This thesis identifies the performance-shaping components of knowledge of process operators. Their basis are the mental models which humans generate of a complex process. Such models provide the mental simulation of situations and interventions and therewith are the basis for successful process control.

To examine of the transfer of mental models a system was developed which combines a process simulation with three different user interfaces and a support system. With this system it was possible to identify different parameters that influence the generation of mental models while learning to control the simulated system.

Doctoral Candidate

Dr. rer. pol. Dipl.-Psych. Jens Heuer, 2002

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International Workshop on Human Supervision and Control in Engineering and Music

Engineering and Music means transdisciplinarity, a research trend - away from a singular specialist perspective towards a thorough understanding of multidisciplinary context.

The symposium "Human Supervision and Control in Engineering and Music" was an international workshop with such a transdisciplinary objective that points to the future. It was held in September 2001 in Kassel, Germany, together with an embedded orchestra concert. About 60 scientists and musicans, mainly from Europe, North and South America and Far East (especially Japan), were invited.

Additionally, we offered two Ensemble Concerts with Japanese music in Kassel and in Hamburg.

The workshop pursued a unique and visionary transdisciplinary approach towards new frontiers of knowledge beyond the already existing multidisciplinarity within both domains, those of engineering and of music. The workshop was breaking scientific new ground for multi- and transdisciplinary questions.

In accordance with the international and transdisciplinary character of the whole workshop, the program of the Orchestra Concert comprised music of the last 200 years from three continents. Particularly, the contrast and the synthesis of Japanese music with European and North American music was emphasized. Also, the area of computer music with live performance of computers and traditional music instruments has been represented.

Workshop and concerts have been supported by the Volkswagen Stiftung and many industrial supporters.

Participating Scientists 

Univ.-Professor Dr.-Ing. Dr. h.c. Gunnar Johannsen
Dr.-Ing. Bernd-Burkhard Borys
Natascha Feder
Dr.-Ing. Thomas C. Gudehus
Dipl.-Ing. Gerd Strätz
Dr.-Ing. Andreas Völkel
Dr.-Ing. Ingo Wagner
Dipl.-Des. Philip Zerweck 

Support and Duration

Volkswagen-Stiftung, Hannover, and many industrial supporters, 1 / 2001 - 12 / 2001

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Control room display showing symbols for pump, heat exchanger, and vessel
Control room display, topological view

Evolutionary Optimization 

Optimization of Goal-Means Oriented Human-Machine Interfaces by Evolutionary Algorithms

This work enhanced the cognition-based methods for the optimization of human-machine interfaces by a new step.

The modeling techniques of Multilevel Flow Modeling (MFM) and the Ecological interface design (EID) adapt at information presentation to universal human needs. In addition to this cognitive-based approach, the new step optimized information presentation further the needs of each individual operator, using evolutionary mechanisms, implemented as evolutionary algorithms.

The evolutionary algorithms have been selected as an optimization method, since these best match to the problem and, in contrast to other optimization methods (e. g., gradient methods) do not require mathematical derivations. To solve the optimization problem, methods for evolutionary optimization have been selected and implemented into algorithms.

In this specific case, evolutionary mechanisms selected for each user the best matching representations from four different user interfaces, based on MFM, EID, TOP (Topological representation) and Virt3D (3D visualization). These objects have been merged into a joint presentation, representing the best visualization for each single operator. In other words, the individuals of the four populations (user interfaces) "fought" for inclusion into the newly generated visualization. The decision, which individuals "survived" and which did not, was based on the actions and verbal ratings by the operator. The actions were objective criteria for selecting the individuals, whereas the ratings by the operator were subjective.

Participating Scientist 

Dr.-Ing. Andreas Völkel

Support and Duration 

German Research Foundation (DFG), 2 / 2001 - 1 / 2003

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Virtual Process Visualization

Changes in the field of process control are characterised by centralisation and estrangement. More and more processes have to be controlled and supervised by fewer operators.

The aim of this thesis was the development of a concept that counteracts these situations using visualisation techniques known from the virtual reality. The single process units have been implemented as virtual process elements. For each element group, a graphical object was modelled based on a typical appearance. The vivid character of this visualisation supports the formation of the correct mental model which is necessary for planning of operator actions.

Another main focus was the visualisation of process variables and relations between process elements. Relations between the process elements, such as time dependencies, are significant for the correct supervision and control of processes. Besides the realistic presentation of visible variables, such as filling levels, non-visible variables like temperature or pressure have been presented with commonly known colour and shape coding. The use of commonly known coding principles reduces the training effort.

A user interface for the supervision and control of a distillation column was implemented as an example. At the end of the project, the realised interface has been compared with other, more abstract interfaces.

Doctoral Candidate 

Dr.-Ing. Carsten Wittenberg, 2000

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Phantom Sound Source moving between two Speakers

Auditory Displays

A skilled operator uses more cues from the plant than the information given by displays and instruments in the control room. Senior operators reported that they start a shift with walking through a plant to smell, hear, and feel the status before the look on the control room indicators. Noise and vibrations contribute to the mental picture of the process - as long as they are still available to the operator.

However, modern control rooms are clean, silent, safe, and distant from the process. Operators control a process reduced to graphs, analogue or digital measurements, textual, or binary indications. Multimedia equipment can bring back that information no longer available in a control room in safe distance from the plant. The operator gets back closer to the process when hearing and feeling sound and vibrations from the process.

Since 1999, we evaluate the use of auditory displays to convey information in human-machine interaction.

Participating Scientists 

Univ.-Professor Dr.-Ing. Dr. h.c. Gunnar Johannsen
Dr.-Ing. Bernd-Burkhard Borys
Dipl.-Ing. Vitalij Laubach
Dipl.-Ing. Gerd Strätz

Support and Duration

German Research Foundation (DFG), industrial supporters, County of Hessen, Volkswagen-Stiftung, 1999 - 2008

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Computer user sourounded by multimedia equipment

Multimedia Process Control Room

The centralised control rooms of large industrial plants have detached operators from the processes they control. Perception is restricted mainly to the visual sense. Only telephone or radio links provide narrow-band voice communication with maintenance personnel down in the plant.

Multimedia equipment can perceptionally bring back the operator into the plant while bodily keeping him in the comfortable and safe control room. This includes video and audio transmitted from process components as well as sights and sounds artificially generated from measurements.

With support from the German government, the state of Hessen, and industrial companies, we established an Experimental Multimedia Process Control Room. Core of this setup are two high-performance graphics workstations. Multimedia periphery, mainly video and audio equipment for vibration and three-dimensional sound generation systems, completed this experimental vehicle. It was used in several following research projects.

Participating Scientists

Univ.-Professor Dr.-Ing. Dr. h.c. Gunnar Johannsen
Dr.-Ing. Bernd-Burkhard Borys
Dipl.-Ing. Gerd Strätz
Dr.-Ing. Carsten Wittenberg

Support and Duration

State of Germany, County of Hessen, and Industrial supporters, 1997 - 2009

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Robust Human-Machine Interaction (RoHMI)

RoHMI was a collaborative research project supported by the Human Capital and Mobility Programme of the European Union. RoHMI brought together researchers from six European countries who shared an interest in the design of human-machine systems. Ideas and research results as well as, particularly also younger, researchers were exchanged within the network.

Participating Scientists

Univ.-Professor Dr.-Ing. Dr. h.c. Gunnar Johannsen
Dr. rer. pol. Dipl.-Psych. Jens Heuer
Dipl.-Ing. Falk Mletzko
dr. ir. M. M. (René) van Paassen
Dr.-Ing. Carsten Wittenberg

Cooperation

University of Salford, Salford, Greater Manchester, UK
University of Strathclyde, Scotish HCI Centre, Glasgow, Scotland, UK
University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany
University of Reading, Reading, Berkshire, UK
Delft University of Technology, Delft, The Netherlands
European Institute for Cognitive Science (EURISCO), Toulouse, France
Human Reliability Associates (HRA),Wigan, Lancashire, UK
Technical University of Denmark (DTU), Lyngby, Denmark
EC Joint Research Centre, Institute for Systems Engineering and Informatics, Ispra (VA), Italy
University of Valenciennes, Valenciennes, France

Support and Duration

Human Capital and Mobility Programme of the European Union, 1994 - 1996  

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Human-Machine Interfaces for Process Control

Advanced Man-Machine Interfaces for Industrial Process Control Applications (AMPCA)

This project developed knowledge-based human-machine interfaces for monitoring, management and control of dynamic systems in power plants and cement plants.

Based on an intensive task analysis detailed user requirements have been formulated. This was followed by formulation software requirements, the conceptual design in terms of a logical model, software architecture, detailed design and implementation, taking into account international standards of software development processes. The human-machine interfaces developed this way included graphical user interfaces, knowledge-based dialogue, logging and explanation components and models of the technical system and the user. The prototypes were tested and evaluated, initially with laboratory simulators, which also have been developed in the project, and later under real conditions in field studies.

The example application A was the user interface for a fossil power plant. The example application B was the user interface for cement mills to pulverize clinker.

Participating Scientists

Univ.-Professor Dr.-Ing. Dr. h.c. Gunnar Johannsen
Dr.-Ing. habil. Elena A. Averbukh
Dipl.-Ing. Falk Mletzko
Dipl.-Inform. Jörg Rudewig
Dipl.-Ing. Gerd Strätz
dr. ir. M. M. (René) van Paassen
Dr.-Ing. Carsten Wittenberg

Cooperation

CISE S.p.A., Segrate (MI), Italy
Marconi Simulation and Training, Dunfermline, Scotland, U. K. 
ENEL S.p.A., Cologno Monzese (MI), Italy
FLS Automation A/S, Valby, Danmark 
Aalborg Portland Cement Plant, Aalborg, Danmark

Support and Duration

BRITE-Programme (Basic Research in Industrial Technologies in Europe) of the European Union, 1 / 1993 - 3 / 1996

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Graphics and Knowledge Based Dialogue (GRADIENT)

Based on the results of ESPRIT P600, GRADIENT was supported in the years 1985 to 1990 in the Advanced Information Processing area of the European Union’s ESPRIT programme. Comprising one-hundred person years, the project examined the potential of supporting industrial process operators with knowledge-based systems, and, in particular, with a graphic expert system supporting an intelligent graphic dialogue.

In industrial process control, correct contents must be represented at the right time in the correct way. GRADIENT started determining the necessary functions. Different knowledge-based systems provide the contents of the dialogue, the graphical expert system brings this into the correct form, and the dialogue system enforces the correct timing and sequence.

GRADIENT distinguishes two user groups: The developer, who designs an application, and the operator, who uses is. Support for both these user groups was provided in GRADIENT.

Two simulated applications – a coal-fired power plant and a package-switched data network – demonstrated that GRADIENT reached its goals.

Our Group at the University of Kassel developed a method for detailed task and knowledge analyses and applied these in coal-fired power plants, and developed three components for GRADIENT:

  • The Support Expert System SES consists of three separated modules. These support three different activities of operators in failure situations: The stabilization of the process (SES - Procedural Support), the assessment of the consequences (SES - Consequence Prediction), and the search for the causes (SES - State Based Diagnosis).
  • The Presentation System PRES provides the interface between humans and the dynamic process. Controlled by the dialogue system it presents information graphically to the operators, using pictures and picture elements designed with the graphical editor. PRES also accepts inputs for process control from the operator.
  • The Intelligent Graphic Editor IGE supports designers and process engineers during the design. A graphical editor and knowledge-based modules were developed. IGE observes the observance of ergonomic rules and guarantees the conformity between technical process and its graphical representation. A model of the process operator (User Model UM) facilitates context depending views on the process.

GRADIENT led to new insight in the areas of

  • dialogue analysis and description methods
  • separation between dialogue and representation
  • interactive, dynamic picture generation
  • procedures for modelling operator and system behaviour
  • intent recognition and the discovery of operator failures
  • methods for the knowledge acquisition and description of knowledge and
  • knowledge base maintenance

Participating Scientists

Univ.-Professor Dr.-Ing. Dr. h.c. Gunnar Johannsen
Dr.-Ing. Dipl.-Inform. Sabine Borndorff-Eccarius
Dr.-Ing. Bernd-Burkhard Borys
Dr.-Ing. Dipl.-Math. Lajos Fejes
Dipl.-Ing. Hans-G. Hansel-Geisert
Dipl.-Ing. Joachim Schmidt
Dr. phil. Dipl.-Psych. Gunilla A. Sundström
Dipl.-Ing. Gerd Strätz

Cooperation 

Computer Resources International (CRI) A/S, Denmark
ABB Research Center, Heidelberg, Germany
University of Strathclyde, Scotish HCI Centre, Glasgow, Scottland, UK
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Expert Systems Applications Development Group, Heverlee, Belgium

Support and Duration

ESPRIT-Programme of the European Union, 1985-1990

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Process Control Room Pilot Study

ESPRIT P600 was a one year pilot study in 1984/85 performing user interviews and literature studies targeting on problems and solutions for users of industrial process control systems.

In general, the users were satisfied with the process control systems. However, the dialogue between users and process control systems was seen as too limited to pre-defined procedures. Thus, the dialogue is less flexible and unsufficiently adapted to the spectrum of tasks.

The literature studies identified the areas of knowledge engineering, human-machine interaction, and cognitive modelling as providing potential solutions. Knowledge-based methods could provide intelligent support to operators during supervisory tasks, failure diagnosis, and manual intervention. Research in human-computer interaction provides enhanced support to describe human-machine dialogue and flexible function allocation. New modelling techniques increase the flexibility of the dialogue. In connection with graphic expert systems they enhance information representation and improve operators’ understanding of the process.

Participating Scientist

Univ.-Professor Dr. -Ing. Dr. h.c. Gunnar Johannsen

Cooperation

Computer Resources International A/S, Denmark
ABB Research Center, Heidelberg, Germany
University of Strathclyde, Scotish HCI Centre, Glasgow, Scottland, UK
Siemens Nixdorf Informationssysteme AG, Paderborn, Germany

Support and Duration

ESPRIT-Programme of the European Union, 1984-1985

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