Human Factors Topic: SKILLS/KNOWLEDGE

What is the impact of skills/knowledge on performance?


In addition to the obvious that a person needs to know what to do and be able to do it, increased skill and knowledge on a task reduces the mental workload demands associated with that task.

The Center has conducted numerous studies in the area, including defining the attributes of expert operators, identifying the cues used by experts, and developing methods to define operator mental models.




  • Can differences in operator skills be quantified?
  • Do operator skills degrade with advanced control?
  • How does qualifying for several jobs impact skill level? How often is refresher needed?
  • How much variance exists in operator skills?
  • What is an operator’s “mental model?”
  • How much faster can an operator who already knows one job learn another?

Do you have a question or hot button issue that isn’t on our list?
We’d like to hear from you so send us an email with your concerns and suggestions.


  • Review the Completed Projects and Current Work of the Center on ways to enhance operator performance. Members can access project reports in the Members-Only Section.
  • The Keys to Operator Performance Operator Error Rates Double on the Ninth Day of Work After Eight Days of Consistent Performance
    Recap of several interesting findings from ongoing COP projects with Penn State University, Louisiana State University, and Klein Associates
    Author: Aaron Hand
    Publication: Control Design, May 2012, Access Article
  • How to Build a Better Operator Collaborative Research Effort Looks for Keys to Improved Effectiveness
    A summary of the Center for Operator Performance presentations at ABB Automation & Power World
    Author: Aaron Hand
    Publication: Control Design, April 2012, Access Article
  • Operator Training Gains Ground
    Initiatives build on established methods as well as emerging technology
    Author: Seán Ottewell
    Publication: Chemical Processing, June 2011, Access Article
  • Collaboration Picks up Speed Industry and academia pull together harder
    Author: Seán Ottewell
    Publication: Chemical Processing, May 2010, Access Article
  • Simple, Strong and Easy-to-Use
    User-Centered Design Makes Operators More Aware of Their Processes and Better Able to Respond Fast.
    Author: Jim Montague
    Publication:, March 2010, Access Article
  • Build Operator Expertise Faster
    Following a few do’s and don’t can significantly speed learning.
    Authors: David A. Strobhar, Beville Engineering, and Danyele Harris-Thompson, Klein Associates
    Publication: Chemical Processing, December 2009, Access Article
  • How Good is Your Operator’s Mental Model?
    Author: Martin Berutti, December 2009, Access Mynah Website Article
  • Succession Planning: Avoid a Dumb Move
    Stinting on capturing the expertise of departing employees is a false economy.
    Author: Mark Rosenzweig
    Publication: Chemical Processing, June 2009, Access Article
  • Operators Get More Help
    Efforts aim to provide insights and tools to boost performance.
    Author: Seán Ottewell
    Publication: Chemical Processing, January 2009, Access Article
  • Improving Human Effectiveness
    Publication: Automation World, October 2007, Access Article
  • Leadership Focus Podcast: Operator Performance
    Traci Purdum, Chemical Processing’s senior digital editor, talks with Dave Strobar, principal human factors engineer for Beville Engineering
  • DCS Console Operator Issues in Related Industries
    2011 TAPPI PEERS Conference, Portland OR, Oct 2-5 2011
    Presentation by David A Strobhar, PE
    Access Presentation (1.7MB PDF), Paper (20KB PDF)