Human Factors Engineering

When designing a hand control, it's not only size, shape and ergonomics that matter. How, why, when, where and by whom the control is being used are also just as important. Why? Because:

  • where a hand control is mounted and how an operator will be positioned relative to the control will affect how it is shaped.
  • how frequently the control is used will affect required actuation forces and which fingers will do most of the work
  • safety requirements can require specific operator actions before a control function is enabled
  • mission requirements can dictate the need for operation with gloves as well as day/night operations

These are just a few of the physical human factors design considerations MSI takes into account when designing a control system. In addition to the physical impacts on the operator when using a system, there are also cognitive impacts which will affect the ability of the operator to interface with and use the system effectively.

What is Human Factors Engineering?

Human Factors Engineering (HFE) seeks to balance or optimize the physical, cognitive, sociological and psychological impacts of an engineered system on the people who use or interface with the system. When HFE is integrated into the design cycle, operator effectiveness can be optimized resulting in a system that an operator not only finds highly usable, but will also value. When it comes to designing control systems and hand held controllers, the size, shape and configuration simply just need to make sense to the end user. For example, joysticks should be placed and oriented based on whether the operator will be using his thumb or index finger to operate them, and other control components should be placed based on how frequently they need to be accessed. Often times, our end user, who is the intended operator, doesn't know what feels best and what will work best until he can get his hands on a prototype. HFE is part of an iterative process as operator feedback is used to define and refine the control system design - it's for this reason that it's so important to integrate the operator into the system early on in a program.

Portable solutions

A portable control system such as our FMCUTM or our Tactical Edge Controller brings with it a whole separate set of parameters as the operator not only has to use the system, he also needs to carry and hold it. Now considerations such as Size, Weight and Power (SWaP), grip orientation and where the controller can be stored when not in use come in to play. MSI knows that lightening the soldier's load both physically and cognitively are high priorities and that's why we've reduced the size, weight and power consumption, not only for traditional controls like a Commander's control, but also for controllers like the Soldier Control Unit originally designed for Nett Warrior.

Why be concerned about Human Factors Engineering?

MSI knows from experience that integrating the operator into the system after the system is designed can result in issues including fatigue, increased training time, operator error and even worse - a poor operator attitude about using the system. Given that we make the part of the system that the operator touches, MSI knows that bringing the operator into the design cycle as early as possible improves both the technical and operational outcome of a program. As HFE experts, MSI will ensure that we produce not only the best technical HMI solution for your application, but also the solution that will make the most sense to an operator resulting in greater system success. When it comes to mission critical applications, mission success is what it's all about.

More information

For more information on any of our products, please contact us.