by Panos Charitos. Published: 16 November 2013

Federico Ronchetti, in charge as leader of the ALICE Consolidation Task Force and current ALICE Run Coordinator, started a full review of the ALICE Control Room layout with the primary intent of improving the operational efficiency for the shifters while simultaneously enhancing the experience for the visitors.

Along with Gilda Scioli (former Run Coordinator), Roberto Divià (DAQ) and Ombretta Pinazza (DCS) they checked with a clear eye the space organization, the tools, and the procedures that shifters used to perform the ALICE data taking during the LHC RUN1 phase. “Our first intent was to optimize the original layout. However, during the review process we became aware we needed a radical change, and hence we started planning our next steps”, says Federico.

View of the new ALICE Control Room as work has started.

One important aspect emerged over all others: practically all the experiments use an open space control room. Federico adds: "We realized that running the experiment with four shifters is not the end of the story. On top of that we must collect valuable data, therefore we need the experts’ constant control over our subsystems. The obvious conclusion was to create a common environment for the designated shifters, including the trainees, the experts and the Run Coordination crew so that all of them are fully exposed to the operations flux in order to achieve the best possible operator efficiency”.

A different design of the ALICE control room has been proposed in order to implement the new paradigm. Federico explains: “We literally reverted the previous approach which was based on working rooms separated by multiple doors and corridors. We were determined to recover all possible usable space, not only by removing the internal walls, but re-thinking the whole layout. The key idea here was to rotate the full layout by 180 degrees to recover the dead space due to the two large structural pillars which will be now used to host an arc of giant screens.”

Exploring the new design…

The new control room open space will be accessed from an automatic sliding door, which will include an external ramp to allow access for mobility-reduced persons. The wall facing the hangar will feature three large windows, which will give the visitors a shift-leader like view of the operations, but without disturbing the crew since there will be no need for people to physically to enter the room. All subsystems will be hosted in the open space tables (old furniture has been re-used) for a grand total of 29 seats. All shifter workstations will be renovated with higher resolution 16:9 screens and will focus the operators view on the 7x75” screens arc between the pillars. Two additional pairs of screens will be available on the sidewalls to display less real-time information. All the status display interfaces will be optimized for the larger and higher resolution screens. On the left wall a fourth window will be installed to allow direct view of the LACS system for the ALICE cavern access.

Design of the new control room. Click here to view the full size image.

In addition, we will reuse some of the old 47” screens to display information in the P2 meeting room (for instance LHC Page1) and in the relaxation room so that the shifters can have a break without having to peek continuously back into the Control Room. More 47” screens will be installed outside the Control Room in order to display information optimized for the general public.

The re-design of the ALICE control room is based on a number of functionality principles and is expected to significantly improve the shifter exposure to the activity flux, hence the efficiency of the operations. Restructuring work started right after the CERN Open Days under the supervision of Arturo Tauro and is expected to finish at the end of April next year. “We are looking forward to the new environment”, says Federico “as it will be a major improvement in the ALICE operations and for all those who must work hard to take data for the next LHC runs. In this respect we agreed to baptise the project ARC: ALICE Run Control Centre.”