Emerson Process Management

I was the first hire to lead the new Human Centered Design initiative. I trained and mentored engineers, integrated HCD into the development process, and designed applications for automation of factories and refineries.

Methods: Planning, Contextual Inquiry, Personas, Storyboards, Scenarios, Design Workshops, Wireframing, Prototypes, Icon Design, Visual Design, Cognitive Walkthrough, UI Specification, Heuristic Evaluation, Design Critique, Ideation, Experience Mapping, Usability Testing.

DeltaV Batch Analytics:

Challenge: make it easy to do advanced statistical modeling without needing a PhD in mathematics.

The Emerson Batch Analytics application was created so that manufacturers, primarily pharmaceutical and chemical, would be able to predict when the process was going wrong and correct it, preventing loss of millions of dollars of defective product.

R&D had created algorithms and process to do prediction, and even had some proof-of-concept software done to validate the approach. However, it required a lot of manual effort to massage the data, and you had to have a lot of statistical knowledge (eigenvectors?).  The first step was understanding the domain. I read the technical whitepapers, but mainly sat with the engineers/scientists to map the mental model of process modeling and batch processes.
Mind Mapping

After understanding the general concepts, we started to whiteboard tasks and some quick sketches that laid out the tasks to a visualization.


Getting the tasks nailed down, I sketched screens for validation with product managers, system architect, R&D, and development.

Getting the content defined, I mocked up key pixel-perfect screens (using mixture of Photoshop and screenshots of a Microsoft Expression Blend application I coded) and created a ‘clickthrough’ prototype with MS PowerPoint. I did a cognitive walk-through of the concept with the key customer remotely, via conference call (WebEx).  This validated the design, and allowed us to catch some key features that we would have missed.  The prototype was used by development, marketing and QA to understand the interaction.  I created a detailed User Interface Specification document, which was used by QA to verify the development build.

PrototypeI managed an outside contract to create a design language for the software, using a firm which had done the design language for hardware — the goal was to see if we could get a common design language between software and hardware.  The runtime visualization was the easy part; making it easy  to create statistical models and test them, then integrate the model into process automation system, was the tricky part.

Working with the engineers who created the algorithms and proof-of-concept project, I decided upon a task-based approach to the user interface, where the model building application was organized in stepwise fashion, but still allowed the user flexibility to move between steps–refining the model, adding and removing data, doing trial and error testing.

I wrote stories and created Balsamiq mockups to illustrate the steps using meaningful data.  These I iterated with the engineers and product manager, then did another remote cognitive walkthrough with the key customer for validation.

Balsamiq mockup

The storyboard with wireframe screens was used by development and QA to understand the task flow and interactions.


The final result was well received by the industry, the first application of its kind.

Watch the final product here: DeltaV Batch Analytics Video