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In machine-to-machine interaction (HMI-A), screen development can have multiple uses. Implementing a successful plan takes discipline. An image, a sound, and an intuitive experience can vary greatly given modern HMI software. Guidelines, standards, and guides for HMI development are available from ISA ASM ISO / NUREG. This resource describes several design and maintenance options for effective HMI use.
Conclusion on HMI Designs
Industrial HMI design is a valuable part of the machine-to-machine interaction. The power and flexibility of HMI software allow you to design an effective interface from large, animated displays to small 'busy' indicators. To create a more effective environment for your machines or devices, use several guidelines and principles as established by ISA S84 ASM ISO / NUREG.
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HMI Design Best Practices
Industrial HMI designs are versatile and powerful. The large range of options for design elements allows you to create a pleasant, clear, and effective interface for your machines or devices. Here are some helpful tips when designing an HMI environment:
For good readability, ensure that the background is dark and the text is brightly coloured. In other words, use high-contrast colours. Using a light background with dark text reduces disturbance from reflected light reaching the operator's eyes. Also, try to standardize on a single colour for all success messages in a system, but vary the colour used for warning and failure messages to improve recognition efficiency. Remember that different languages can have differences in how they view colours depending on the cultural perception of these colours.
For the general appearance, you should follow industry standards to ensure consistent branding between interface elements and application software. In general, avoid using pop-ups as they can be disruptive. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) recommends a 4:3 aspect ratio for HMI screens. For more efficiency during touch screen operation, increase the size of interactive areas such as sliders and buttons so that they retain their shape even at lower pane sizes.
Design a machine interface with readability in mind by using large font sizes and reducing the number of colours used on a screen to just two or three that contrast well together. If you have multiple monitors per operator station, arrange them side-by-side so that only one operator's view is obscured at a time, and be sure to optimize each station's display for the task.
HMI design. Introduction
Industrial machine-to-machine interaction (MMI) is a powerful form of communication. The benefits are many, but they vary greatly depending on the design of the screen. A good industrial HMI system is an effective tool - one that can communicate effectively with operators or technicians working in real-time to achieve better efficiency and reliability for your process plant.
The International Organization for Standardization's ISO 8402 standard describes many aspects of good human-machine interfaces (HMIs). Here are some key principles listed in this standard:
Machine control environment
A machine controller should be designed with ergonomics in mind so that people using it can do their jobs efficiently with no loss of safety. The workstation equipment should be arranged to allow the operator or technician access to all components. It is important that any process control station or machine controller does not have a dominant position about plant layout, and that it does not impede circulation around any required emergency stop buttons, shutdown devices, or other safety functions.
Process control environment
A single system should be used for all information regarding a given process variable regardless of how many pieces of equipment are involved. Information from multiple sources can be included on an MMI screen, but there should only be one line per variable. In general, you should avoid using superimposed graphics when communicating values from different types of sources because confusion could result from non-standardized scales and units.
The HMI design should be standardized so that operators looking at screen readouts can understand or identify it quickly. The display should also have a fast on/off time, long service life, and no sharp edges to reduce the risk of accidents for people working in the vicinity of the device.
The ISO standard recommends that warning messages be presented with an orange message field on a black background while failure warnings use red backgrounds with black text. A yellow message field is recommended for information-only messages, which are not critical but informative. You can also use colour-coding to represent specific values - green for normal values, blue for minimum values, red for maximum values, and yellow for variable values between min/max levels.
Avoid using pop-up effective HMI screens or windows to convey important information. These can be disruptive and require the user to search for the window in question every time it appears. The use of text messages instead of symbols is recommended because they are easier to understand at a glance. Avoid using images that take too long to load or that do not display correctly on low-resolution screens because this could result in operator confusion.
The human-machine interface design should ensure consistent branding between application software and graphical user interface elements, which will help improve efficiency when switching between different machines or varying task levels within one system. A consistent look-and-feel highlights how HMI screen design components function so operators can learn them quickly even if they have never seen them before. When designing an MMI interface, try to keep it simple so that it can be learned quickly.
It is important to include only the necessary controls on the interface screen. Specialized functions should not be included if they are not essential to achieving the task in question, no matter how intuitive they might seem. This helps reduce operator errors that can shut down or damage your process equipment. The HMI technology design should provide clear guidance on when and where it is required for operators to intervene, helping them avoid mistakes while allowing them to focus their attention on more challenging tasks.
The standard recommends consolidating all possible information into a single display rather than splitting data into multiple screens because this will cut down on processing time by limiting the number of calls-for-information from a machine controller to a displaying data server. It also reduces the risk of errors where information is missing or presented out-of-sequence. A good HMI design will also try to avoid the use of alarm levels, emergency stop buttons, and shutdown devices because these can confuse when it comes to prioritizing problems that require immediate operator attention.
The interface should be designed for multiple modes of operation, including manual mode (free run), automatic mode (closed-loop feedback control), remote mode (manual override by external means), and failure mode where all actuators are disabled. The choice of which mode to use depends on the task in question but you need to make sure operators understand how the process variable responds under each operating condition.
When creating an MMI user guide, it is important not to mention the interface more than is necessary because this can become confusing for operators who may not read it closely or skip over some sections. The guide should only be used as an additional reference point when designing the HMI to help reduce training times and errors by making it easier to find relevant information.
The standard recommends checking the design of your MMI every six months using a checklist that includes all of these key tasks.
Replace one-line text messages with warning icons whenever possible.
For process variables controlled by automation, make sure variable values are always displayed even if they might fall outside their normal range. This will remove the need for alarm limits and continuous monitoring which increases operator workload unnecessarily. Ensure all components have clearly defined functions and meaningful titles that are easy to understand. Ensure the interface has a single mode of operation. Design your MMI for multiple modes of operation but make sure you clearly define which mode is selected and how it affects the process variable. When creating an MMI user guide, only include important information because operators may not read everything written down or look at screenshots carefully enough. Check the interface design every six months using a checklist that includes all of these key tasks.
HMI Design - Key elements of the best practice
1. Look-and-feel of HMI simple - use colours that are easy to distinguish, text that is clear and concise, buttons only where necessary
2. Controls essential for the task at hand - Only include controls on an interface that are needed to operate the machine
3. Modes of operation - Multiple modes of operation e.g manual/automatic/remote / failure
4. Consolidate information into a single display screen - Need to split data across multiple screens based on your device? Then you need to consider how this will affect the user experience
5. Alarm limits/emergency stop buttons confusion - Need alarm limits if significant safety hazards arise but operators can become confused with too many alarms highlighted at once so keep these changes as minimal as possible
6. Check HMI design every six months - Use sensible task checklists to make sure the changes made are effective
Summary: Best Practice for HMI Design
1. Keep it simple with user-friendly interfaces that differentiate between colours (e.g green/red), minimal text, etc
2. Only include essential controls that allow operators to carry out the task at hand
3. For flexible control, employ multiple modes of operation e.g manual/automatic/remote / failure
4. Consolidate all necessary information into a single display screen rather than splitting data across multiple screens
5. Avoid alarm limits/emergency stop buttons because these can become confusing when prioritizing problems or errors
6. Check your design every six months against a sensible checklist that includes all of these key elements.
Industrial HMI Design - Simple vs Complex Screens
1. Keep the look-and-feel simple so it can be learned quickly
2. Only include controls that are essential to achieving a task in question
3. Multiple modes of operation for flexible control
4. Consolidate all possible information into a single display rather than splitting data into multiple screens
5. Avoid the use of alarm limits, emergency stop buttons, and shutdown devices because these can confuse when prioritizing problems or errors
6. Check your design every six months using a checklist that includes all of these items.
HMI Systems - Choosing the Right HMI Hardware
1. Ensure your hardware uses a standard operating system so your HMI can be purchased from many different suppliers
2. Use intuitive hardware that is simple to operate and install
3. Consider how you will connect the hardware so it operates efficiently with other devices on site with control systems
4. Keep it simple, small, flexible, tactile, solid-state, network-ready* (*depending on which OS choice)
5. Regularly check these areas by asking questions like: How easy is the hardware to understand? Can I change the software to suit my needs? What are its shortcomings?
Advanced SCADA Solutions - Understanding Your Needs for Your Industrial Automation Project
1. Ensure your requirements match the capabilities of an advanced SCADA system
2. Decide whether a PLM or PLC solution is best for your project
3. Understand the flexibility of an advanced SCADA system as it relates to your project
4. If you need a more advanced solution, ensure an advanced SCADA system is flexible enough to handle all of your needs and regularly test its capabilities
5. Regularly ask questions like: How does the software help streamline my manufacturing process? How robust are the operators I can choose from? Is there a common platform across all devices used in my plant if they do differ from device to device?
In conclusion, implementing Industry 4.0 concepts is not something that should be rushed into because improving efficiency with significant new technologies can have some serious side effects if not carefully thought out. If you are looking to implement data capturing methods for optimization purposes, have a look at this guide on a collection of process data. For more guides on Industry 4.0 concepts and implementations, visit our blog often or subscribe to our monthly newsletter below.
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