Technology and the Human Factor

Tuesday, September 28, 2010 @ 03:09 PM gHale


By Gregory Hale
There is some incredible technology out in the industry today that can truly enable a manufacturer to put its collective head on a swivel and see 360 degrees.
Just take a look at video via closed circuit television systems; they are in use all over and have the capacity to gather large amounts of image material.
The problem is, however, there are no real effective ways to analyze the mass of video data automatically and recognize potential risks. That is a classic case of data overload.
What is the most important nugget of information a person has to catch to ensure the operation remains safe and secure? Is it a suspicious shadow over there on the right or is it the stack of boxes off to the left, people milling together in the back, or even the machine behaving a bit differently? It is hard to tell.
Yes, technology can aid in that endeavor. It has to. In one case, there is a European Commission project underway in Finland to elevate video surveillance to the point of automatically detecting abandoned luggage at an airport, train station, or any public space, and then rapidly identifying, locating and tracking the person who left it there. With the help of the smart cameras, security authorities can move abandoned luggage quickly aside if they feel it poses a potential risk.
The interesting part is the software that goes into these smart cameras takes a complex situation and puts it into context and then lets the user make the key decisions.
You can take the best state of the art security technology and place it in your plant, but if you don’t have people understanding the key components of what they see and then putting it into the proper perspective, then you are in deep trouble.
That is where the human factor comes into play. People and technology need to mesh right there in front of a monitor. The answers are there, that is the easy part. The hard part is making the right fundamental decisions that take the technological results and putting them into perspective.
Does the person know what to look for? Are the alerts coming in clearly enough? Is the operator staying on task or thinking about the big weekend plans? All are key questions that should force operators to stay on top of their game.
With the industry losing around $20 billion a year due to unplanned downtime from safety and security incidents, operators, engineers, and everyone for that matter, need to always be aware of what is happening and keep everything in context.
Marry that awareness with technology and you will pocket your share of the $20 billion. It is enough to keep your head spinning.
Not a bad pay day just for keeping everything in context.
Talk to me: ghale@isssource.com.



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