Design & Simulation

Emerson Forms Human Centered Design Institute


Oct 06, 2009

Emerson recently introduced the Human Centered Design Institute, which is said to make process control technology easier to use. Work on the institute has included more than five years of customer work-practice analysis, new-product development re-engineering and organizational training.  The goal, according to Emerson: make products that are reliable, compatible and cost-effective.
“Process control technologies have come a long way in the past 40 years,” says Peter Zornio, chief strategic officer at Emerson.  “But the industry has invested almost exclusively on feature and technology enhancement, instead of designing around how people actually use the technology.  We believe it’s time technology began serving people, instead of the other way around.”

The primary goal of Emerson’s Human Centered Design Institute is to ensure that user work practices and improved task completion (usability or workforce productivity) are at the heart of every new product that Emerson introduces.

“There is a demographic paradox facing the industry,” says Zornio.  “In mature markets, knowledgeable workers are retiring.  In emerging markets, finding knowledgeable and skilled workers is very difficult.  By putting increased emphasis on ease-of-use, we can meet this demographic challenge head-on and simply make it easier to extract value from technology investments.”

“We’ve been incubating this HCD process since the early days of our Smart Wireless designs some years ago, collaborating with Carnegie Melon University (CMU), a recognized leader in human interface and interaction with technology,” says Duane Toavs, director of Emerson’s Human Centered Design Institute.  “CMU helped us set direction and get it started, leading to our staffing of this virtual Emerson Human Centered Design Institute that spans design teams for all of our brands.”

Human Centered Design is a multi-disciplined science.  User personas, stakeholder maps, along with intensive observational research, usability testing and heuristics analysis are key elements of the practice. 

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