control room design

Return on Investment

You can bank on it

Investing in a control room upgrade maximizes efficiency, communication and safety, making your plant more productive and profitable.

When contemplating the need for a new control room—whether as part of a consolidation of now separate units, or as an upgrade to an existing facility—a company’s first question usually centers around the endeavor’s return on investment (ROI). Is it really in your company’s financial interest to invest in an upgrade? The answer is a multi-faceted yes.

Increased Operator Span of Control Results in Cost Reduction

One of the most evident ways to reduce operating costs is to reduce the number of people involved in the operation. A consolidated control room is a very effective way to combine positions and responsibilities, because its function is just that: to consolidate. It is estimated that one control board position (staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week) costs between $250,000 and $600,000 annually in salary, overtime and benefits. If a company can reduce one operating position, it can save that many dollars a year.

One way to reduce operators is to expand the position’s span of control. The typical metric for span of control is the number of process control loops that one operator can manage. To increase a position’s span of control, one must increase the number of units included in the position, thereby increasing the number of loops per operator. For example, if three units with three separate control rooms each have 100 process loops, then each operator has 100 loops to manage. If you can consolidate the three units into one, a single operator can control 300 loops. This makes the operator more efficient while remaining within established safety limits. The elimination of the other two control operator positions could save a company $500,000 to $1.2 million annually.

Control Room Layout Affects Response Time

Any improvement made in one operator’s ability to communicate with another operator effectively and efficiently will positively impact a company’s revenue stream. Any time a process unit experiences an upset, off-grade material is produced. When this happens, the out-of-spec material has to be reprocessed or disposed of at a loss. Added cost is incurred. A plant operator wants to eliminate such events and, barring that, minimize their impact. Unit operators need to be able to quickly react to an upset condition, and alert other units to modify their work practices until the situation is resolved. Control room layout can greatly affect response time, and the way mitigating actions are initiated. In a consolidation project, it is important to put the right units together and to design a control room in an efficient and synergistic manner. When this is done, process coordination is easier and time decreases. This can reduce the amount of off-spec material produced, thus increasing profitability.

Increased Information Flow Equates to Increased Profit

In a consolidated control room, a company can rearrange the layout of the consoles, regroup operating units, increase information flow, and facilitate a cooperative environment. Your success, as measured in return on investment, will depend on how the design facilitates the operators’ ability to do their job. It’s not about the building necessarily; it’s about information flow. Of paramount importance is a corporate culture that embraces the need for cooperation and sharing of knowledge. Good control room design expresses that culture, promoting the exchange of essential information, enhancing cooperation, and decreasing critical response time in the event of an abnormal situation.

Upgrading to a consolidated control room is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to positively impact your corporate culture and increase your bottom line. Hiring BAW for your consolidation project allows access to world-class lighting, acoustics, and human factors engineering expertise. Our control buildings are designed to last for generations, so you can leave a legacy of outstanding productivity. You have one shot at doing an upgrade right—make sure you choose the industry leaders in control room architecture.

Learn more about why BAW Architecture is the leader in 24/7 mission-critical control building design, or contact us to learn how we can help you deliver on ROI. Or request a copy of the article published in World Refining by BAW Architecture Founding Principal, Brad A. Walker (and D.A. Strobhar) that addresses many of the ways BAW can help you deliver a return on your investment.

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