Rothrock receives funding from Abnormal Situation Management Consortium

11/9/2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Ling Rothrock, associate professor of industrial engineering at Penn State, has received nearly $100,000 from the Abnormal Situation Management (ASM) Consortium to fund two research projects.

Rothrock was awarded $49,956 for a one-year project titled “Physical Activity for Workplace Vigilance Decrement Avoidance.” Andris Freivalds, professor of industrial engineering at Penn State, is the co-principal investigator of the research.

The research focuses on heightening awareness in plant operation employees. It is difficult for workers in process control positions to stay alert over long periods of time, explained Rothrock. This problem is then compounded by the fact that the systems that are used in the plants are mostly automated so the employees aren’t forced to intervene unless a crisis of some sort comes up.

“We will be examining the impact that different forms of physical activity have on the alertness levels of employees, such as having them stop to take a walk, work from a sit-stand workstation or even get on a desk cycle for a while,” he said. “The goal is to find a solution so that employees remain alert and are ready to take action when an alarm is triggered. We also want them to be prepared for abnormal situations that interrupt the automated control process.”

Rothrock was awarded an additional $49,955 for a seven-month research proposal titled “An Eye-Tracking Evaluation of Visual Thesaurus Shapes.” 

This project will address the effectiveness of the gauges that are installed in plant operations. Traditionally, the gauges have been based on creating a digital representation of analog readings on screens; however, little is known about the effectiveness of these gauges for dynamic control. 

“We will be conducting an experiment using a human-in-the-loop simulation—in which we create a model that requires human interaction—to evaluate human performance in detecting and monitoring different gauge designs. We will also be tracking gaze behavior of the participants as they navigate the layers of the user interface using eye-tracking software. Our results should reveal which designs and layouts promote better performance,” said Rothrock.

Industrial engineering graduate students Jingwen Li, Ben Noah and Chao Shi, along with undergraduate student Xue Xiao are assisting in the research projects.

Founded in 1994, the ASM is a joint research consortium comprised of businesses and academic institutions that address member concerns regarding the high cost of incidents at their plants, such as unplanned shutdowns, fires, explosions and emissions. The group provides value to its members and companies by focusing on improving the most critical human performance problems in their operations.

According to the consortium, an “abnormal situation” arises when an industrial process is disturbed and the automated control system cannot cope. The cause of the disturbance can be related to the equipment, process or employees, which means that the plant’s profitability is impacted. Consequently, an operations team must intervene to supplement the control system.      

Members of the ASM consortium include British Petroleum, ExxonMobil, Honeywell International Inc., Human Centered Solutions, Mary Kay O’Connor Process Safety Center, Nanyang Technological University, Penn State, Sasol and Shell.
 

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MEDIA CONTACT:

Pamela Krewson Wertz

pmk128@psu.edu 

Industrial engineering graduate student Ben Noah uses the eye tracker to evaluate the effectiveness of shapes in the monitoring of a crude oil distillation process.

Industrial engineering graduate student Ben Noah uses the eye tracker to evaluate the effectiveness of shapes in the monitoring of a crude oil distillation process.

Industrial engineering graduate students Ben Noah and Jinwen Li set up the initial instrumentation of the eye tracker for use in evaluating process control performance. The eye tracker is an Arrington Binocular SceneCamera 60-Hz system.

Industrial engineering graduate students Ben Noah and Jinwen Li set up the initial instrumentation of the eye tracker for use in evaluating process control performance. The eye tracker is an Arrington Binocular SceneCamera 60-Hz system.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Ling Rothrock
lrothroc@psu.edu
814-865-7241
@Ling_Rothrock
Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering
 
 

About

Home of the first established industrial engineering program in the world, the Harold and Inge Marcus Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering (IME) at Penn State has made a name for itself in the engineering industry through its storied tradition of unparalleled excellence and innovation in research, education, and outreach.

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