Control room experts share their insights

By Geoff McKernan, President, ACRNA
Tuesday, 18 December, 2018

Control room experts share their insights

The Australian Control Room Network Association’s recent conference has solidified the sector’s vision for the future.

In 2013, a number of Australian control room stakeholders attended a control room design and operation conference in Sydney. It was unique and important and filled a room with 80 people. It was a forum that included operators, managers, designers, and human factors and ergonomics experts. It held the interest of representatives from oil, gas, electrical generation and distribution, market operators, transport, tunnels, mining and infrastructure, educators, researchers, consultants and trade vendors. It was a forum of a kind that had not previously been convened in Australia.

The event was held again in Sydney in 2014 — same success on the day, but no longevity. Something happened in 2015, too — control room folks came together again, in Melbourne, but it was evident from the networking sessions that delegates wanted participation and representation, an organisation that would continue to provide and manage a forum to support the control room industry.

Following the 2015 conference a few individuals decided to make it happen and created the Australian Control Rooms Network — a LinkedIn group. It was, as can be the case with social media, strong by virtue of its membership but a bit hidden away inside the bigger machine. The organisers designed and produced OZCORONET 2016, the group’s three-day conference in Brisbane. This conference was organised and facilitated by the industry, not by a ‘conference organiser’. Not only was the content professional and unusual, but the vitality and networking were exciting outcomes. The presentations included live theatre in safety training, with actors; eight control room industry case studies; and eight control room site visits, followed by an insights and lessons-learned panel session back at the conference with the site visit hosts. The Brisbane conference closed with the 73 registered participants voting to sustain the forum and to formalise it.

In mid-2017 a number of attendees from the 2016 conference met and commenced the legal process to formally establish the not-for-profit Australian Control Room Network Association (ACRNA), and on 9 November 2017 the Association was registered with ASIC. A committee was established with the main aims to seek corporate membership and to hold a conference in mid- to late-2018. Two corporate memberships were established with Jemena (platinum) and Transurban (gold).

That 2018 conference was held at the Mantra Parramatta over three days in late November. Approximately 55 people attended from various industries (electrical distribution, gas, ports, rail and road, and support industries such as control room design, fatigue management, health and wellbeing), with a common goal to share and improve their knowledge of control room operation and design.

A number of case studies were presented, which were used to facilitate group participation and interaction. The conference dinner guest speaker was Arnold Dix, who is well versed in control room operations from a legal and investigation perspective. His talk, about the responsibilities and obligations of people who manage and work in control rooms, was both entertaining and educational.

The last day of the conference was the Association’s AGM. A new committee was elected and a clear vision was established for the future role and activities of the Association. The journey has started and we know where we are going.

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