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Situational awareness


The situational awareness challenge

Industry studies show that industrial plants lose between 3-8 % of their production profit due to unplanned upsets or abnormal events.


LostProduction and plant performance, efficiency over time

(Source: ASM Consortium)


Incidents consist in brief excursions from the operational target or interruptions in production due to unplanned shutdowns. More than 50% of these incidents happen due to a lack of situational awareness.


What is the definition of an unplanned upset or abnormal situation for a production facility?

Any unplanned and undesired event that prevents completion of a task causing a risk to health, safety, production or environment. The cause may be blockage of a pipe, failure of an instrument, and similar. These kinds of unplanned and undesired events cannot be handled by the control and safety systems alone and require human intervention by a control room operator to return to a normal state.


daily production level process plants, target operation

(Source: ASM Consortium)


Seen from the operator’s perspective, the number of information points have increased significantly over the last few years, due to more integrated and advanced systems. Simultaneously, the number of operators for each loop has decreased.


This is the Situational Awareness challenge: Interpreting an ever-growing stream of information correctly and timely in an increasingly complex context.


DTU_Kort Subtitle version_MASTER

Human Decision-Making Process

Management of situations in complex system involves two overall phases of decision-making, each with a number of subtasks. 

Human Decision-making process with situational awareness

(Source: DTU Electro). 


Rational decision making starts with access to observable information from the plant and the ability to recognize and analyse a deviation from normal operation. This includes the identification of possible root causes and prediction of consequences of the disturbance. Furthermore, the possible consequences are evaluated in view of the operational targets to determine if counteraction is needed. If a decision to act is taken, the next decision is to select the means and objective of counteraction, to prepare a plan, and finally to execute the plan. 


Humans tend to bypass these principles of rational decision-making by making shortcuts in the sequence 


The shortcut is an efficient way to act in situations that have been seen often before. The human recognises the pattern and swiftly moves to the appropriate action. But in other less frequent situations, the lack of informed decisions can lead to suboptimal operation, and even to shutdowns or disaster. The pattern was perhaps not quite the same, or could be completely new, and as such the shortcut taken by the operator was ineffective due to cognitive bias or lack of knowledge. 


This is why we have developed Kairos Control Room Assistant, which assists operators with situational awareness through the entire rational decision-making process. 




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