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Designing for 24/7 reliability: build quality of control consoles


Designing for reliability in mission critical environments

We have said it before and we will say it again. Sustema does not make desks. We design and manufacture specialized furniture for mission critical environments and we understand what makes a control console reliable. There are three major factors that contribute to the reliability of a control console. Build quality, ergonomics and customization. TLDR, what makes a control console stand out from office furniture is that the frame, also known as substructure, is made from high grade steel. And the work surfaces are made up high-pressure laminate instead of being made from cheaper wood composites like most office furniture. In this article, we will discuss how these factors mentioned previously are present in our consoles and make them a reliable choice for 24/7 operations.

What does it mean to design for reliability?

A reliable control console can be trusted to support the critical tasks an operator has to perform. Meaning that in mission critical environments, the console will always work as intended, not as simple as it sounds. For example, if an operator wishes to switch from a sitting position and continue their work while standing for the next hour or so, the console should adapt to the user's needs efficiently. With our height adjustable consoles, operators can maintain their laser-focus concentration while working, thanks to the ease of use of the keypads, and the strength and speed of the actuators we use. Each of our lifting columns has a 250 pound capacity to ensure continuous operations throughout the years.

Another aspect that makes for a reliable control console is the cable management. With the various computers housed inside the console CPU's enclosures, and the multiple monitors mounted on top of the work surface, all of these cables need to be properly routed to ensure the flow of critical data. Also they should allow for enough travel when adjusting heights, and be easily accessible for maintenance and support. Since our consoles are designed for heavy duty workflows, operators can just perform their duties on our consoles knowing they will get the job done when needed, without having to worry about lifting columns actually working this time. Every action like adjusting the height of the work surface or performing maintenance for cable management should not interrupt the operator's workflow and contribute towards stress.

The impact of materials on operator performance

In order to create a truly adaptable workstation that is reliable for a mission critical environment, we build our consoles using worksurfaces with a high pressure laminate that can withstand the pressures and strain of being constantly adjusted, raised and lowered throughout the day, every day, all year round. Building a control console means designing it not only to withstand heavy duty workflows, but also a wide range of user sizes. For this, we don't mean using averages. Instead, our consoles are designed using anthropometric data expressed in percentiles. This is helpful because it allows our designers to take into account the full range of body sizes when designing specialized furniture for control rooms.

For example, one might think that the reasons we design our consoles with dual height adjustable work surfaces is to achieve a clutter free work surface. But, no. The reason to include dual work surfaces is to accommodate for the 95th percentile male for the maximum height of a keyboard work surface, or the 5th percentile female measurement. More of that here. Having dual work surfaces means that the monitor work surface can be adjusted for the eye-height sitting measurements of both, the 5th and the 95th, female and male percentiles respectively. In other words, the surface heights should be adjustable from 27 to 53 inches. When designing for 24/7 reliability in the control room, control consoles must allow users to adapt their space to them and not the other way around.

A note on accessories for the control room

A reliable control console helps maintaining a pleasant and professional aesthetic if the operators have to constantly perform workarounds to complete basic daily tasks like troubleshooting their actuators, then all of these inconveniences will continue to build up, and the resulting stress of working in an organization that doesn't provide reliable tools and equipment will inevitably result in increased burnout and turnover. Not only should all aspects of the consoles always work as intended but they should never interfere with critical tasks, this is something to look out for when thinking about integrating accessories to your control consoles.

Are you renovating your control room? We can help.

Remember, a reliable control console integrates ergonomics and customization into the design. But it also boasts superior build quality, which is why we manufacture our consoles using high grade steel for the substructure, that holds everything together. And high-pressure laminate for the work surfaces to create a sturdy and comfortable workstation. If you are looking to renovate your control room, we can help you design a solution that adapts to your specific needs and requirements.

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