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Human factors in a naval control room: A quick catch up with DSTO’s Susan Cockshell

9 Feb 2015, by Informa Insights

Susan Cockshell works within the weapons and combat systems division for the Defence Science & Technology Organisation. She has been involved with the organisation for 18 years focussing on integrating human needs and requirements into acquisition projects and conducting user-centred design for systems and operations rooms.

We caught up with Susan for a brief Q&A prior to the 3rd annual Control Rooms Design & Operation conference in Melbourne on the 4-5 March.

Susan Cockshell, DSTO
Susan Cockshell, DSTO

You have been involved in the upgrade and refurbishment of multiple existing control rooms designed for active war situations. These upgrades were based on improving decision making and flow of information when under duress. When developing a new facility what role play can you suggest to test the new facility prior to this being built?

We employ a user-centred design process which involves the identification of user needs and requirements, developing designs to meet those needs and requirements, and evaluation of designs prior to their build through the use of 3D modelling, low fidelity mock ups and simulation. This early evaluation employs representative users, conducting typical and extreme activities for defined scenarios to evaluate how the room supports actual use.

For many control room facilities the options to make changes once created are limited. What value do you place on seeking active feedback from operators in the first few weeks and then on an ongoing basis?

I am presuming you are referring to the first few weeks of operation? From our experience it is key to seek operator feedback as early as possible, but particularly to understand user needs and requirements well before the facility is built. Once it is built the cost of changes are often prohibitive. We have sought operator feedback once the system has been in operational use for a defined period and the crew have had the chance to work in the room across a range of situations, however this has been primarily to identify problems to improve our design process, as opposed to making changes to the final design.

Hear this DSTO story first-hand at the Control Rooms Design & Operations Conference.

Hear Geoff speak at the Control Room Design and Operation Conference
Hear Susan speak at the Control Room Design and Operation Conference

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