Design Considerations for Engineering Workstations
- J.E. Roye Jr.
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- January 1988
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 55 - 59
- 1988. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 4.1.2 Separation and Treating, 7.3.3 Project Management, 1.6 Drilling Operations, 6.1.5 Human Resources, Competence and Training, 4.1.5 Processing Equipment, 7.2.1 Risk, Uncertainty and Risk Assessment
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Roye Jr., J.E., SPE, Amoco Production Co.
Summary. Computer workstations must be designed to provide a wide range of capability and flexibility if their ability to enhance the productivity of the professional staff is to be used fully. This paper discusses various hardware and software considerations that should be addressed if workstations are to be deployed successfully in either domestic or foreign locations.
The paper addresses user needs, hardware and software design considerations, security issues, integration with mainframe hardware and software, disaster backup systems, and standards. Also addressed are appropriate use of staff training time. simplified access systems, and the coordination of software updates to provide consistency between workstations and a decrease in redundant employee work. As the petroleum industry adjusts to lower petroleum prices and reduced staffs is essential to provide an efficient, effective workstation to the professional staff so jobs can be performed in an accurate, timely fashion. Workstations deployed without planning or clear objectives can be detrimental to the company because of the expense involved as well as losses in employee productivity. In 1983. Amoco Production Co. began an evaluation process to determine the feasibility and use of microcomputers in Production Dept. operations. The focus of the study was (1) to assess the needs of the internal engineering community, (2) to identify the computing capability requited to meet those needs, (3) to determine the appropriate equipment to provide needed desktop computing capability, and (4) to determine the software needed to meet user needs most effectively. As a result of the study, several areas of consideration were identified that would help to define exactly what configurations would be appropriate, a particular location. A key criterion was not only ease of use by the engineering staff but the cost-effectiveness of the system.
Basic Design Criteria
Before a workstation is purchased, several functional considerations should be addressed. A fundamental assumption in designing an engineering workstation is that it will be used by engineering and engineering-support personnel. This assumes that a significant portion of the work will be calculation-intensive and will require a graphic representation of the data. trends, and final results. The most important considerations are portability; screen graphics capability; printing capability; plotting capability; disk storage requirements; base memory requirements; additional memory for enhanced memory specification (EMS), RAM disks, or spooling; auxiliary processor requirements; mainframe interface; VM/370 mainframe emulation; disaster recovery system; and software portability.
In Jan. 1986, the company began to deploy AT-class portable computers. Personal-computer (PC) -class portable computers were previously used exclusively by drilling engineers in offshore and overseas locations. These new AT-class computers were used primarily by engineers traveling to construction sites, such overseas job locations as offshore platforms. and meetings. These systems proved to be of immense value because they allowed engineering analysis to be performed on location and reduced the time required to document a trip, including recommendations for further action. As 1986 passed, the scope and variety of jobs performed by the AT-class systems expanded. By the end of 1986, these systems were performing project planning, project management, cost tracking. computer-aided drafting (CAD), material tracking. communications, budgeting, presentation graphics, and mainframe connection. as well as the originally envisioned engineering analysis and word processing. Moreover, the range of engineering analysis was substantially expanded and additional programs were loaded on the hard disk of each system. On the basis of a postinstallation appraisal of the use of these systems, additional AT-class portable computers. though much smaller and lighter than the original models, have been purchased in 1987 and more are budgeted for 1988. The AT-class portables have the capability to act as full-function desktop computers, including mainframe connection, and connect to peripheral devices. such as printers, plotters. Bernoulli boxes, and mice. Systems are assigned to individuals rather than to a pool or group. because each individual is then able to configure the system to suit his or her job requirements. Thus, no matter where an engineer's assignment requires his/her presence, the engineer is able to bring to the job all the tools for analysis and evaluation normally used in the office. These include data files, as well as analysis programs. Such an approach eliminates the need for numerous field trips to make on-site inspections, return to the office to evaluate the data, contact the field office and try a new approach to solve the problem, and repeat the process unit a satisfactory resolution is achieved. Each AT-class portable computer now being deployed is equipped with 640k RAM, 40-megabyte hard disk, internal modem, gas plasma display, parallel/serial ports, 2-megabyte memory expansion, and expansion module containing two full-size slots. One of these slots is filled by the mainframe connection board. With portable computers equipped with all the mentioned options. a question to be addressed is in what circumstances a nonportable computer should be purchased. Because of the advantages offered by portability, an excellent case can be made that the portabic system should be the standard item purchased for engineering use as opposed to a desktop AT-type system.
Screen Graphics Capability
In regard to the screen graphics capability, the quality of the graphic representation must be addressed. If a monochrome system is used, it should have the ability to produce shades so as to simulate different shades of color. If this capability does not exist, it is very easy to become confused as to precisely what is being displayed. Historically, color monitors have not been as clear as monochrome monitors. Many high-resolution color monitor/board combinations are now available, however, for less than $1,000, with resolution exceeding monochrome systems. Because excellent-quality color systems are available at a low incremental cost, color systems are preferred because of the additional capabilities and benefits associated with their use.
Any workstation must have the capability to provide the staff with printed output from the system.
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