When it comes to consoles and office furniture, the number one question asked: Is there really a difference between office furniture and consoles?

Yes, there is a significant difference between the two. The difference is in durability, functionality, and longevity.

In part one of a two-part series, industry expert Jeff Fairholm, Regional Sales Manager, Evans discusses the difference between the two and why it is important to invest properly in your mission-critical environment furniture.

Purpose-Built Consoles for Mission-Critical Workforces

Office consoles are purpose-built products. They are designed specifically for mission-critical environments and constructed to withstand your day-to-day operations of shift changes, upset scenarios, and technology requirements.

What makes a console so special?

  • the technology the console is housing
  • the number of operators that need to use the console at any given time
  • the size of the consoles
  • the number of monitors it can accommodate
  • the strength of the consoles, what they can hold and are built to withstand each day
  • the type of lighting they incorporate, specific to mission-critical environments
  • the ergonomic technology
  • cable management

… Just to name a few.

Technology, required sightlines, and the layout and size of the room drive the shape and size of the console. Recently there has been a greater emphasis has been on the number of desktop monitors required to carry out daily operations. With an increase of monitors comes the need to accommodate more CPUs etc. of all sizes. This type of equipment should be housed inside the office console substructure with easy access for maintenance.

Office furniture is not built with these considerations and requirements in mind. They are mass-produced, making it harder for them to not only fit into your control room but meet your technology requirements. A prime example is they cannot accommodate several CPUs - office furniture typically will place a single CPU on the floor or in a dedicated single CPU cabinet.

Durability in 24/7 Control Rooms

The requirement in almost every control room is the need for 24/7, 365 products. Operators in these environments are generally very rough with the furniture that they use. A good console manufacturer makes this its primary goal – to withstand the test of time in its environment, as consoles should be replaced once every couple of decades. Some of the features that regular office furniture does not design into their products that consoles do include:

  • Thicker worksurfaces
  • HPL on the worksurfaces on BOTH sides
  • Front nosing and edging of the worksurfaces include PVC edging
  • The worksurfaces are strengthened with a tubular steel cage under the work surface to prevent warping
  • The substructure of consoles are metal or high strength aluminum rather than wood
  • Slatwall or slatrail structures are manufactured to mount a large number of monitors and accessories and the ability to house the cables
  • In a sit-stand console the lift columns are designed to lift almost 2500 pounds per pair

Ergonomic issues for 24/7, 365 operations

Ergonomics is a term that is overused in all facets of commercial environments. With office furniture, they think that if they provide a sit/stand desk, a decent chair, and an articulating keyboard they have solved the ergonomic issues of the office.

A control room console differs significantly from that of a standard office environment. Consoles are required to withstand and adapt to 24/7 working environments. Operators typically have a primary, secondary, and often tertiary screen that they require visibility to. Some of the most important ergonomic factors in mission-critical environments are the number of screens an operator requires, the sightlines, and distances between them, and a common video wall (if there is one).

Proper control room acoustics, lighting, seating, flooring, and audiovisual are paramount to the success of the operator’s outcome. Whether it’s during regular operations or upset scenarios, there are several elements for consideration I office console and control room design.

Enhance Human – Machine interface to de-clutter the desktop

Whether during regular operation, a crisis, or an upset situation, the operator needs access to some of the most important information in order to quickly react to alarms in order to diffuse the situation at hand.

By providing a proper work environment, an office console can help the operator stay organized and alert. Consoles almost always use KVM technology to minimize the number of keyboards on the console thus allowing the operator to access and use the technology in an efficient manner.

Equipment Housing

The equipment in control room consoles is an important factor in its design and configuration. Everything from multiple screens, multiple PCs, annunciator panels, hard panel pushbuttons, large screen displays, turrets, and UPS units is considered a necessity for successful operations.

Office furniture is built to accommodate a single PC and a couple of monitors per position. They are constructed to be one size fits all. Additionally, equipment needs to be accessible to the technicians responsible for them. Created with this in mind consoles have front and rear access to all technology whereas office furniture is not.

Cable Management

Due to a large amount of technology in and on office consoles, there is an inherent need to accommodate the cables for this equipment. This is needed for a static console but even more important for a sit-stand console.

The way that consoles accommodate cables from a variety of locations is also very important. Are the cables coming from a raised floor, ceiling, or wall? Consoles need to adapt to any environment.

The ability to run all cables throughout the console substructure is important but the transition from the work surface to the sub-cavity is also paramount. With the number of cables and the fact that we are working in a mission-critical environment, cables cannot crimp or be hanging out of anywhere as this could result in a shutdown of operations.

Stay tuned, part two coming soon to a screen near you…

Topics: Control Rooms, Mission-Critical