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Workplace design is a very broad subject for discussion and encompasses many levels of design process. It is broken down by a Human Factors Engineering (HFE) Specialist into such design areas as: Equipment design, Equipment layout design, Interface design requirements, and Environmental design.

The most common errors made by most designers is that of neglecting the performance of the human and the inherent impact of the human's performance on the system as a whole. Rather, designers often concentrate on System performance, ensuring that the system is able to meet select requirements. For example, a designer of a lathe may end up with a design that is capable in meeting all criteria of accuracy and quality for the product, but the modes of operator interaction result in an overall Human/System performance below acceptable levels.

In order to fully understand the importance of the impact a Human Factors Engineering Specialist can have on any design we must first define what is implied by Human performance. Human performance may be defined as a result of a pattern of actions carried out to satisfy an objective according to certain standards such as accuracy, user speed, skill development time, and user satisfaction.

The importance to management in considering Human Performance in any Workplace design should be self-evident. Poor Human performance levels usually results in lower productivity and increased Safety concerns. Over time this results in major costs to a company. A cost/benefit analysis almost always confirms that the expenditure of incorporating Human Factors principles in design stages pays off time and time again.

However, incorporating the Human equation into the design can become a tricky process of which the Human Factors Engineering Specialist has both the knowledge and experience for success. The human is the most complex of all components in any system, and he/she rightly deserves to be singled out as the most likely reason why an accident occurs or a system falters. Designing with the complexity of the human in mind requires a good sense of "Balance". The HFE Specialist has learned to understand this principle of "Balance" as being the relative contributions to overall Human/System Performance made by the human, the activity, and the context/environment. This is the gift with which the HFE Specialist brings to the design process.

Thus, the role of the HFE Specialist is the "Keep the Human in mind", in all stages of System Design. By accomplishing this task throughout the design process, one ensures the design adequacy of all attributes of the system which have implication for Human/System performance.

The overall System design process is generally thought to consist of 6 stages of which the Human Factors Engineering Specialist plays specific roles in each. The following exemplifies the involvement of the HFE Specialist within this overall process.


Stage 1: Determine Objectives and Performance Specifications

The Human Factors Engineering Specialist:

  1. Identifies the intended users of the system.
  2. Identifies the activity related needs of the users which the system will address.


Stage 2: Definition of the Functions the System has to perform to meet its Objectives and Performance Specifications

The Human Factors Engineering Specialist:

  1. Ensures the functions identified match the needs of the user:
  1. characteristics,
  2. capabilities, and
  3. limitations.


Stage 3: Basic Design

The Human Factors Engineering Specialist:

  1. Allocates functions between the human, the hardware and the software with given consideration to economics, physical and cognitive limitations, safety, and productivity.
  2. Specifies Human performance requirements (i.e. required accuracy, speed, time necessary for development of performance proficiency, etc.) which enables the system to meet it's requirements.
  3. Performs a task analysis. This involves outlining all the tasks which must be performed to accomplish the functions in which a human plays a role. This provides the capability for depicting the interaction of the people and equipment in the performance of a task over time and is an essential task in ensuring that the system will be operable and maintainable in a safe and efficient manner.
  4. Evaluates the Job design. This reflects the notion that the design of equipment in effect designs the jobs of people who use the equipment. The Human Factors Engineering Specialist evaluates the Job design based on Human Values which in many cases are linked to higher levels of productivity via greater job satisfaction, higher levels of motivation, job rotations, increased levels of responsibility, etc. All of the above 4 steps are done in an iterative fashion throughout the development of the design.


Stage 4: Interface Design

The Human Factors Engineering Specialist:

  1. Incorporates generally accepted Human Factors principles in the interface design of work spaces, displays, controls, consoles, computer dialogues, etc. Decisions made here are crucial, as they are either detrimental to the overall system performance or preferable facilitate use of the equipment and brink about better overall system performance.


Stage 5: Facilitator Design

The Human Factors Engineering Specialist:

  1. Determines ways to promote acceptable Human performance levels (i.e.. through performance aids, training devices/programs and instruction manuals).


Stage 6: Testing and Evaluation

The Human Factors Engineering Specialist:

  1. Ensures that the system functions and interacts the way it was supposed to, thus achieving optimal/predicted levels of Human/System performance.

There are many ways in which the Human Factors Engineer Specialist evaluates design alternatives, determines design limitations and allocates functions etc. with which there has not been time to discuss (i.e.. Ergonomic evaluation, Link analysis, Time-line analysis, etc.). What is important, however, is that Human Factors Engineering involvement in System Design be regarded as integral to the design. Management can no longer afford to ignore Human performance within Workplace Design and can no longer expect traditional design Engineers to be equipped with the knowledge for achieving an optimal Human/System performance design. Understanding general engineering principles of an activity, its economics, the safety concerns involved, the Human characteristics of interaction, and the performance trade-offs involved is the sole domain of the Human Factors Engineering Specialist.

The information contained in this web site is intended for marketing purposes only. It is not all-inclusive, and does not fully describe the many and varied services that the company provides, nor does it completely describe the education, training, skills, or expertise of our staff.


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