Academic journal article Human Factors

A Methodology for Optimally Designing Console Panels for Use by a Single Operator

Academic journal article Human Factors

A Methodology for Optimally Designing Console Panels for Use by a Single Operator

Article excerpt


The objective of this paper is to present a methodology for optimally designing a console panel for a single operator based on a new design paradigm. This design paradigm uses a mathematical optimization model that minimizes an objective function, subject to a constraint. The objective function is the sum of the weighted distances between the locations of the component group areas on a panel layout. Component groups consist of panel components (e.g., controls and displays) assigned to them based on cognitive relationships. The weights on the distances are determined by the component groups' cognitive interrelationships and the relationship of the component groups to the operator and to the system.

The model constraint requires that the areas available on the panel for the components be sufficient for the areas of the component groups. These areas are determined by human anthropometry and physical requirements (e.g., areas required by components). The solution to the mathematical optimization model results in the component groups being optimally located on a panel layout. Thus a panel designer can engineer optimal performance (Fisher, 1993). This methodology is illustrated by an example of the design of a nuclear power plant console panel.

The use of the term cognitive relationship in this paper refers to both the concept of spatial compatibility (Sanders & McCormick, 1987, pp. 54-55) and the functional principle of arrangement (p. 364). The concept of spatial compatibility refers to the relationship of the physical arrangement in space of components to human expectations; for example, the physical arrangement of controls and their associated displays on a panel should be compatible with human expectations. The functional principle of arrangement refers to the grouping of components according to their function, such as the grouping of controls and displays that are functionally related in the operation of a system.

What is different about this methodology is that the mathematical optimization model used to create an optimal layout incorporates factors that are only partially included in previous mathematical models; in addition, it includes the areas of the components as a new factor. These factors include (a) avoiding the separation of panel components that require juxtaposition arising from cognitive relationships (e.g., a control related to a display); (b) incorporating relationships between each component and the operator (e.g., component frequency of use by the operator); (c) specifying the components' areas to allow for their correct dimensioning on the panel; (d) utilizing human anthropometry to create the dimensions of the panel and to partition the panel into subpanels that have specific anthropometric properties (e.g., reach and vision); and (e) assigning components to subpanels based on their anthropometric requirements.


The combined study of human factors and facility location/layout has received little attention to date. Hendy (1989) created a three-level categorization of human-location problems: Category 1, in which the geometric scale is beyond unaided human sensory performance; Category 2, whereby the geometric scale is within the immediate to far range of human sensory performance; and Category 3, whereby the geometric scale is within the immediate sensory experience of the operator. Hendy noted that the emphasis on human characteristics increases from Category 1 to Category 3 problems and is the dominant concern for Category 3 problems. The problem addressed in this paper - a single operator in front of a panel - is a Category 3 problem.

Hendy (1989) developed a model, LOCATE, primarily for Category 2 problems; the model characterizes both a two-dimensional layout problem and human interactions. The human interactions that LOCATE characterizes are visual, auditory, tactile, and movement behaviors. The LOCATE model does not include areas of the components, which is an important factor in most Category 3 problems, such as the design of console panels. …

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