New ISA book advances the role of situation management in industrial control room operations

  • February 28, 2019
  • Research Triangle Park, North Carolina

The International Society of Automation (ISA) today announces the publication of Situation Management for Process Control, a new book that is intended to unify industry understanding of how to deliver real value to control room operations.

Written by Douglas H. Rothenberg, Ph.D.,-a globally recognized expert in alarm management and operator support technology-the book explores control room management as a discipline, focusing on the applicable tools, technology, and methodologies that foster safer, more effective control room functioning and improved industrial production.

Situation management is the sum total of the real-time decisions and actions that the operator makes that determine whether or not the enterprise operates safely and productively. These include accurately and appropriately assessing the current operating environment, transforming that assessment into needed action for proper management of abnormal situations, and validating the effectiveness of the action.

"Properly understood and executed, it is a game changer in safe and effective operation of industrial plants and operations," states Rothenberg. "It advances a firm technical framework that ties together all of the traditional individual aspects (e.g., procedures, the human machine interface, control room design, and more) into a technology to understand and design effective control room management operations. This is a unified approach with explicit tools to deliver situation management to control room operators. The tools to see problems are followed by the tools to manage them."

New contributions, Rothenberg points out, are the concepts and technology of weak signals and their use to supplement the alarm system and cover situations that alarms are not intended or able to manage.

"Weak signals are small indicators of things that don't appear quite right," he explains. "They can be discovered everywhere; understanding and exploiting them will lead to valuable clues and the ability to confirm something likely going amiss."

Rothenberg emphasizes the importance and relevance of the book to managers, supervisors, operators, human factors engineers, safety personnel, and technicians in industrial enterprises and operation centers as well as to regulators, specialists, engineers, system designers, and trainers at commercial firms (controls equipment manufacturers, A&E firms, systems integrators) who provide monitoring and controls hardware, software and technology for end users.

Below are two notable comments about the book.

"The book provides a valuable look into the mission-critical world of control room operators. I recommend reading this book as it furnishes essential insights into the dynamics of control room operations and the unique concerns and important responsibilities of control room operators. It also provides a best-practice approach to managing abnormal operating conditions and avoiding common pitfalls. Many of us have had to learn how to deal with these things the hard way."
Dan Scarberry, former Manager of Gas Supply Planning and Control Room Operations at Dominion East Ohio Gas in Cleveland, Ohio

"This book is shaping out to become one of those once-in-a-decade seminal texts."
            Walt Boyes, former editor-in-chief of Control Magazine

To purchase a copy of Situation Management for Process Controlclick here.

For more details, read the informative author interview

For greater perspective on the value and significance of the new book as well a more detailed overview of its content, read the Q&A feature with author.

About ISA

The International Society of Automation ( is a nonprofit professional association that sets the standard for those who apply engineering and technology to improve the management, safety, and cybersecurity of modern automation and control systems used across industry and critical infrastructure. Founded in 1945, ISA develops widely used global standards; certifies industry professionals; provides education and training; publishes books and technical articles; hosts conferences and exhibits; and provides networking and career development programs for its 40,000 members and 400,000 customers around the world.

ISA owns, a leading online publisher of automation-related content, and is the founding sponsor of The Automation Federation (, an association of non-profit organizations serving as "The Voice of Automation." Through a wholly owned subsidiary, ISA bridges the gap between standards and their implementation with the ISA Security Compliance Institute ( and the ISA Wireless Compliance Institute (