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Over the last 30 years HMIs have evolved from mechanical walls to high resolution screens with extreme sharpness and bright color possibilities, and with that extremely powerful HMI design tools that can emulate 3D, animations, shadows and all other marks of the gaming industry. The reason for developing the High performance HMI strategy was that the gaming look and feel simply doesn’t give you the right environment to quickly respond and react to changes in your process. Below you will find some explanations to what High Performance HMI is, what it can do and the results coming out of using it.
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Looking at the sample screen to the left you can see the difference between a “normal” HMI and one that has been applied with High Performance HMI principles. Basically the main principle is that things that are alright never should stand out, so the standard green coloring of a running pump is wrong. The soft colors has the purpose of showing the status but without drawing attention. The same goes for the use of schematics for showing “how it is all connected” that in many cases is a clear engineering perspective rather than an operator driven design. All to avoid things that makes the pictures messy or hard to read.
The operator screens shall be designed for the operator and not anyone that is interested in understanding the process. Another point that is also common today is the use of texts and numbers for displaying data and explaining things. Most of those should be transferred into graphical objects that is extremely more efficient to read, just compare a digital and analogue watch. You read the analogue without actually looking!
One of the most important parts in all HMIs are the values of different parameters, especially when things starts to go wrong. The ability to see what is happening and making decisions is all about creating an overview and can be interpreted by the operator in the fastest way possible. Therefore as already explained above, analogue is the way! But just presenting numbers with analogue meters will not solve the whole thing, the trick is to give as much content as possible. An important part of this is to display trends as often as possible! That tells you where we have been and where are we going, and also with what speed are we changing. Together with context about what values that are good and bad, it gives anybody a great overview in a fraction of a second.
It is important that the design and colors are soft and that the display is adding the right context, but it's equally important that the hierarchy of the HMI is structured and thought through. The idea should be to have a navigation strategy that is easy to understand and that it's common for the whole HMI. The number of levels can of course change, but the content on each level should be of the same type and level of detail.
How far down the road are you with your HMI? When starting to apply the principles of the High Performance HMI one uses a grad ranging from the lowest, an F, to the highest, an A. The criteria for getting between those grades can be extensive but the sad part is that most don’t even make it to an E where the criteria are the following;
With the applying of the basic rules of High Performance HMI you will be able to get further in this process and it gives you results.
The results that you can achieve is amazing and as you can see there is a lot to gain. A 5X increase in detecting problems before alarms go off is simply great. These data is based on real customer experiences where as you can see the shift have resulted in not just shorter response time, but also reduction time spent on actually fixing the issue.
In many cases there are procedures that needs to be followed both in start/stop situations, as well as in upset conditions. Those are many times placed in folders and needs to be found before they can be used. An important step in the journey of the High Performance HMI is to support these manual steps as much as possible. With the new tools to handle procedures and workflows these can be integrated into the HMI and you'll achieve the total integrated environment that you couldn’t get a few years back.
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