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High Performance Graphics to Maximize

Operator Effectiveness
Version 2.0: Including a Major Case Study
Written by
Bill Hollifield, Principal Alarm Management and HMI Consultant, PAS
Hector Perez, HMI Product Manager, PAS

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PAS 2012

Introduction
The human-machine interface (HMI) is the collection of screens, graphic displays, keyboards,
switches, and other technologies used by the operator to monitor and interact with the
control system (typically DCS or SCADA.) The design of the HMI plays a critical role in
determining the operators ability to effectively manage the operation, particularly in response
to abnormal situations.
For several reasons, the current design and capability of most HMIs are far from optimal for
running complicated operations. Most of these consist simply of schematic-style graphics
accompanied by numbers. Such displays provide large amounts of raw data and almost no
real information. They provide inadequate situation awareness to the operator.
This paper concentrates on proper and effective design of the graphics used in modern
control systems.

HMIs Past and Present


Before the advent of sophisticated digital control systems, the operators HMI usually
consisted of a control wall concept.
The control wall (see Figure 1) had the advantages of providing an overview of the entire
operation, many trends, and a limited number of well-defined alarms. A trained operator could
see the entire operation almost at-a-glance. Spatial and pattern recognition played a key role
in the operators ability to detect burgeoning abnormal situations.
The disadvantages of these systems were that they were very difficult to modify. The addition
of incremental capability was problematic, and the ability to extract and analyze data from
them was almost non-existent. The modern
electronic control systems (DCS/SCADA)
replaced them for such reasons.
When the modern systems were introduced,
they included the capability to create and
display graphics for aiding in the control
of the operation. However, there were no
guidelines available as to how to actually
create effective graphics. Early adopters
created graphics that mimicked schematic
drawings, primarily because they were
readily available.
Figure 1: Example of a Control Wall

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PAS 2012

Figure 2: An Early Graphic Exhibiting Many Problematic Practices

The limited color palette was used inconsistently and screens began to be little more than
crowded displays of numbers.
Graphics such as Figures 2 and 3 were developed over 20 years ago and remain common
throughout the industry. Indeed, inertia, not cost, is the primary obstacle to the improvement
of HMIs. Engineers and Operators become accustomed to this style of graphic and are
resistant to change.
As a result, industries that use modern control systems are now running multi-million dollar
operations from primitive HMIs created decades ago, at a time that little knowledge of proper
practices and principles was available.

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PAS 2012

Figure 3: A Typical Crowded, P&ID-Style Graphic

As control system hardware progressed, graphics from the manufacturers began to develop
very flashy example graphics which were used for marketing purposes. While good for that,
they are quite ineffective for actually controlling a process. Many companies and projects,
however, began to use those flashy examples. The results were displays that are actually suboptimal for operators.
Figure 4 is an example of flashy design taken from a power generation facility to illustrate
the point. The graphic dedicates 90% of the screen space to the depiction of 3-D equipment,
vibrantly colored operation lines, cutaway views, and similar elements. However, the
information actually used by the operator consists of poorly depicted numerical data which is
scattered around the graphic, and only makes up 10% of the available screen area.

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PAS 2012

Figure 4: A Flashy Graphic Inappropriate for Actual Operational Control

There are no trends, condition indicators, or key performance elements. You cannot easily tell
from this graphic whether the operation is running well or poorly. That situation is true for
more than 90% of the graphics used throughout the industry because they were not designed
to incorporate such information. Instead, they simply display dozens to hundreds of raw
numbers lacking any informative context.

Justification for HMI Improvement


Poorly performing HMIs have been cited time and again as significant contributing factors
to major accidents. Yet our industry has made no significant change in HMI design. There is
another industry that learns from its accidents and has made phenomenal advancement in
HMI design based on new technology. That industry is avionics. Lack of situation awareness is
a common factor cited in aviation accident reports.

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PAS 2012

Modern avionics feature fully-integrated electronic displays (See Figure 5). These depict all
of the important information, not just raw data, needed by the operator (i.e., pilot). Position,
course, route, engine diagnostics, communication frequencies, and automated checklists are
displayed on moving maps with built-in terrain proximity awareness. Real-time weather from
satellite is overlaid on the map. Detailed database information on airports is available with
just a click. Situation awareness and abnormal situation detection is far improved by these
advances. This capability impossible even a dozen years ago in multi-million dollar airliners
is now standard on even the smallest single engine aircraft.

Figure 5: Garmin G1000 Avionics Package in a Small Plane

Since safety is significantly improved with modern HMIs, it is only logical that we would want all
operators to have access to them. Yet most companies have done little to upgrade.
There have been tests involving actual operators running realistic simulations using traditional
graphics vs. High Performance ones. PAS participated in such a test at a large power plant,
sponsored by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). The results were consistent with a
similar test run by the ASM (Abnormal Situation Management) Consortium on an ethylene
plant. The test showed the high performance graphics provided significant improvement in the
detection of abnormal situations (even before alarms occurred), and significant improvement in
the success rate for handling them. In the real world, this translates into a savings of hundreds of
thousands of dollars per year.

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PAS 2012

Proper Graphic Principles


Ineffectively designed graphics are very easy to find. Simply search the internet for images
under the category HMI. Problems with these graphics include:














Primarily a schematic representation


Lots of displayed numbers
Few trends
Spinning pumps/compressors, moving conveyors, animated flames, and similar
distracting elements
Brightly colored 3-D vessels
Highly detailed equipment depictions
Attempts to color code piping with contents
Large measurement unit callouts
Bright color liquid levels displaying the full width of the vessel
Lots of crossing lines and inconsistent flow direction
Inconsistent color coding
Misuse of alarm-related colors
Limited, haphazard navigation
A lack of display hierarchy

Ineffective graphics encourage poor operating practices, such as operating by alarm.


By contrast, High Performance graphics have:















A generally non-schematic depiction except when functionally essential


Limited use of color, where color is used very specifically and consistently
Gray backgrounds to minimize glare
No animation except for specific alarm-related graphic behavior
Embedded, properly-formatted trends of important parameters
Analog representation of important measurements, indicating their value relative to
normal, abnormal, and alarm conditions
A proper hierarchy of display content providing for the progressive exposure of
detailed information as needed
Low-contrast depictions in 2-D, not 3D
Logical and consistent navigation methods
Consistent flow depiction and layout to minimize crossing lines
Techniques to minimize operator data entry mistakes
Validation and security measures
Embedded information in context (via right-click menus or similar methods) such as
alarm documentation and rationalization, standard operating procedures, etc.

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PAS 2012

Data or Information?
A primary difference of high performance graphics is the underlying principle that, wherever
possible, operational values are shown in an informational context and not simply as raw
numbers scattered around the screen.
Information is data in context made useful.

As an example, consider this depiction of a compressor (see Figure 6). Much money has
been spent on the purchase of instrumentation. Yet, unless you are specifically trained and
experienced with this compressor, you cannot tell if it is running at peak efficiency or is about
to fail.

55.7 psig
65.1

155.2

135.1
psig

108.2

2.77
MSCFH

Cooler
Oil 155.2 F
Oil 85.1 psi

West

190.5 psig
166.1 F

East

W. Vibration: 2.77

E. Vibration: 3.07

Drive: 232.2 amps


Figure 6: All Data, No Information

The mental process of comparing each number to a memorized mental map of what is good is
a difficult cognitive process. Operators have hundreds (or even thousands) of measurements
to monitor. Thus the results vary by the experience and memory of the operator, and how
many abnormal situations they have experienced with this particular compressor. Training new
operators is difficult because the building of these mental maps is a slow process.
Adding more numbers to a screen like this one does not aid in situation awareness; it actually
detracts from it.

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PAS 2012

By contrast, these numbers can be represented in a bank of analog indicators, as in Figure 7.


Analog is a very powerful tool because humans intuitively understand analog depictions. We
are hard-wired for pattern recognition.
With a single glance at this bank of properly designed analog indicators, the operators can tell
if any values are outside of the normal range, by how much, and the proximity of the reading
to both alarm ranges and the values at which interlock actions occur.

RECYCLE COMPRESSOR K43


Cool
gpm

Suct
psig

Inter
psig

Dsch
psig

Suct
degF

Inter
degF

Dsch
degF

E. Vib
mil

N. Vib
mil

W. Vib
mil

Motor
Amps

Oil
psig

Oil
degF

Alarm
Indicator
Interlock
Threshold
Alarm
Range

Desirable
Operating
Range

42.7

38.7

93.1

185

95

120

170

12

170

80

290

Alarm
Range

Figure 6: All Data, No Information

In just a second or two of examination, the operator knows which readings, if any, need further
attention. If none do, the operator can continue to survey the other portions of the operation.
In a series of short scans, the operator can be fully aware of the current performance of their
entire span of control.
The knowledge of what is normal is embedded into the HMI itself, making training easier and
facilitating abnormal situation detection even before alarms occur, which is highly desirable.
Similarly, depiction of PID controllers is accomplished with the addition of easily scanned
setpoint, mode, and output information as in Figure 8.

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PAS 2012

Analog Controller: Add


Setpoint, Output, and Mode
to standard analog indicator
2

If Final Control
Element has
Position feedback:
2

32.1

Shows any
mismatch
between
output and
actual
position

Output bar
Scaled
0-100%

Setpoint
Diamond
562.1
AUTO
485.0
AUTO
2%44%

562.1
AUTO
485.0
2% 22%

Actual
Position
Output

Small
Mismatch

Setpoint diamond and PV pointer line up when


controller is working properly

Figure 8: Analog Depiction of PID Controllers

Color
Color must be used consistently. There are several types of common color-detection
deficiency in people (red-green, white-cyan, green-yellow). For this reason:
Color, by itself, is never used as the sole differentiator of an important condition or status.
Most graphics throughout the world violate this principle. A color palette must be developed,
with a limited number of distinguishable colors used consistently.
Bright colors are primarily used to bring or draw attention to abnormal situations, not normal
ones. Screens depicting the operation running normally should not be covered in brightly
saturated colors, such as red or green pumps, equipment, valves, etc.
When alarm colors are chosen, such as bright red and yellow, they are used solely for the
depiction of an alarm-related condition and functionality and for no other purpose. If color is
used inconsistently, then it ceases to have meaning.
So what about the paradigm of using bright green to depict on and bright red for off, or
vice versa if you are in the power industry? This is an improper use of color. The answer is a
depiction such as Figure 9.

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PAS 2012

Wrong

Better

Pump Not
Running

STOPPED
(Shape is Filled
Darker)

Pump
Running
Wrong

Better

RUNNING
(Shape is Filled
Brighter)

Figure 9: Depicting Status with Redundant Coding and Proper Color Usage

The relative brightness of the object shows its status, plus a Process Value WORD next to
it. Equipment items brighter than the background are on (think of a light bulb inside them).
Items darker than the background are off. If equipment has no status that is sensed by the
control system, but is desired to be shown on the graphic anyway, it is shown with a fill the
same as the background color.

Alarm Depiction
Proper alarm depiction should also be redundantly coded based upon alarm priority (color /
shape / text). Alarm colors should not be used for non-alarm related functionality.
When a value comes into alarm, the separate alarm indicator appears next to it (See Figure
10). The indicator flashes while the alarm is unacknowledged (one of the very few proper
uses of animation) and ceases flashing after acknowledgement, but remains as long as the
alarm condition is in effect. People do not detect color change well in peripheral vision, but
movement, such as flashing, is readily detected. Alarms thus readily stand out on a graphic
and are detectable at a glance.

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PAS 2012

Figure 10: Depiction of Alarms

It is highly beneficial to include access within the HMI to the alarm rationalization information
contained in the Master Alarm Database (See Figure 11). If these terms are unfamiliar, you are
advised to read the ISA 18.2 standard for Alarm Management in the Process Industry, or read
the API RP-1167 Alarm Management Recommended Practice if you are in the pipeline industry.

122.1 degC

Right-click call-up

TI-468-02 Column
Overhead Temperature
Alarm: PVHI
Class: Minor Financial
Priority: 3
Setting: 320 deg F
Response Time: <15 min

Reveal Alarm
Rationalization
documentation
on demand!
Information
recalled from
your Master
Alarm Database

Shape and Size


of a standard
faceplate if
possible

Alarm Consequences:
Off spec Production
Lowered efficiency
Alarm Causes:
Excess steam
Pressure excursion
Insufficient reflux
Feed composition variance
Corrective Actions:
Adjust base steam rate
Check pressure and feed
parameters vs. SOP 468-1
Adjust reflux per
computation; check
controller for cascade mode

Link to
Procedures

Check feed composition

Figure 11: Linked Alarm Information


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PAS 2012

Trends
The most glaring deficiency in HMI today is the general lack of properly implemented trends.
Every graphic generally has one or two values on it that would be far better understood if
presented as trends. However, the graphics rarely incorporate them.
Instead, engineers and managers believe claims that their operators can easily trend any
value in the control system on demand with just a click. This is incorrect in practice; a properly
scaled and ranged trend may take 10 to 20 clicks/selections to create, and usually disappears
into the void if the screen is used for another purpose!
This deficiency is easily provable; simply walk into the control room and count how many
trends are displayed. Our experience in hundreds of control rooms is that trends are vastly
underutilized and situation awareness suffers due to that.

49.1

West Comp Flow MSCFH

55.0

45.0

-90

-60

-30 2 Hours

West Comp Discharge Temp C

50.0

40.0

-90

-60

-30

44.1

2 Hours

5000
15
Main
Steam

4150

Feed
Water

3280
Drum
Level

-0.5

0
-10

1 Hr

Figure 12: Trend Depiction of Desirable Ranges

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PAS 2012

Trends should be embedded in the graphics and appear, showing proper history, whenever
the graphic is called up. This is generally possible, but is a capability often not utilized.
Trends should incorporate elements that depict both the normal and abnormal ranges for the
trended value. There are a variety of ways to accomplish this (See Figure 12).

Level Indication
Vessel levels should not be shown as large blobs of saturated color. A simple strip depiction
showing the proximity to alarm limits is better. A combination of trend and analog indicator
depictions is even better (See Figure 13).

100

Crude
Feed
TK -21

Very Poor
Vessel
Level
Indication

Better
Vessel
Level
Indication

2 Hrs

86.5%

Trend and
Analog
Level
Indication

Figure 13: Vessel Levels

Bar Charts
Attention to detail is important. It is typical to use bar charts to show relative positions and
values. While this may be better than simply showing numbers, it is inferior to the use of
moving pointer elements since as the bars value gets low, the bar disappears. The human eye
is better at detecting the presence of something than its absence. The example in Figure 14 is
superior in showing relative values, besides the color improvement.

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PAS 2012

Analog Position Poor Bar Graphs


0%

25%

50%

75%

Valve
V-1
V-2
V-3
X-1
X-2
X-3
X-4
S-1
S-2
K-1
K-2

100%

100%
100%
95%
88%
100%
100%
75%
0%
55%
100%
100%
Analog Position - Better
0%

25%

50%

75%

Valve
V-1
V-2
V-3
X-1
X-2
X-3
X-4
S-1
S-2
K-1
K-2

100%

100%
100%
95%
88%
100%
100%
75%
0%
55%
100%
100%

Figure 14: Bars vs. Pointers

Tables and Checklists


Even tables and checklists can incorporate proper principles (See Figure 15). Consistent colors
and even status indication can be integrated.

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PAS 2012

Air
Comp

Status

Mode

Diag

C #1

RUNNING

AUTO

OK

C #2

STOPPED

MAN

OK

C #3

RUNNING

AUTO

OK

C #4

STOPPED

AUTO

FAULT

Startup Permissives
Breaker 15 Power
OK
Oil Temp 16-33
OK
Oil Pres Status
OK
Level in TK-8776
OK
Gen System Status
OK
Comp 88 in Auto
NOT OK
Lineup Ready
OK
Sys Status Checks
OK
Bearing Readouts
NOT OK
Comm check
OK
Outlet Temp < 250
OK
Cooling Flow
NOT OK
Internal Circuit Check
OK
Bypass Closed
OK
AFS Function
OK

Figure 15: Tables and Checklists

There are dozens of additional principles like these. See the References section.

Display Hierarchy
Displays should be designed in a hierarchy that provides progressive exposure of detail.
Displays designed from a stack of schematic designs will not have this; they will be flat
like a computer hard disk with one folder for all the files. This does not provide for optimum
situation awareness and control. A four-level hierarchy is desired.

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PAS 2012

Level 1 Operation Overview


This is a single display showing the operators entire span of control, the big picture. It is an
overall indicator as to how the operation is running. It provides clear indication of the current
performance of the operation by tracking the Key Performance Indicators (See Figure 16).
Control interactions are not made from this screen.

Unit 2
Overview
05-31-10
13:22:07
Total
Alarms
1

PULV

5000
5000
15

7500
1250
5

1200
1200
3000

Steam
KLBH
4750

Air
KLBH
7400

Steam
F
990

Fd Wtr
KLBH
4580

Coal
KLBH
1000

Reheat
F
1005

Drum
Lvl in.
-0.5

Furn
Pres
-0.5

Steam
psig
2400

1 Hr
0
0
-15

Status
A-ON
E-ON A
B-ON F-ON
C-ON G-OFF E
D-ON
H-ON

Turbine Generator
Gross MW Net MW

1 Hr
0
0
-5
B

Alarms
C

MVAR

D
H

HZ

PUMPS A2 CWP
ON
AND
B2 CWP
FANS
ON
LPT-A
in.hg

LPT-B
in.hg

Pump Status / Alarms


C2 HWP
A2BFPT
ON
ON
SUBFP
B2BFPT
ON
ON

A2 HWP
ON
B2 HWP
OFF
Hydrogen
psig

1 Hr
600
600
0

Hydrogen
F

Turb Oil
F

Stator
GPM

A2 ECW
ON
B2 ECW
ON

Fan Status / Alarms


B2 FD
A2 PA
ON
ON
B2 ID
B2 PA
ON
ON

A2 FD
ON
A2 ID
ON

CondenserFeed Wtr
A2 BPFT B2 BPFT

Drum Lvl
in.H2O

C-SBAC
ON
D-SBAC
ON

HW Lvl
in.H2O

DA Lvl
in.H2O

20.1

0.0
AUTO

9.0

SO2
#/MMBTU

Stack CO
ppm

Inst Air
psig

200

90

DA Wide
FT.H2O

Cond Hdr
psig

702.1
Boiler
A/F Ratio

640.1
BBD
pH

- 5.2
Econ
pH

60.00
Econ Gas
Out F

0.2
Aux Stm
psig

0.2
Fans
Furn in.H2O

49.1

104
AUTO

115
AUTO

A2 ID
Stall

A2 FD
Stall

B2 ID
Stall

351
B2 FD
Stall

3.1

3.1

Econ
% O2

Sec Air
in.H2O

-0.5

CEMS/MISC NOX
% Opac
#/MMBTU

400
AUTO

7.1

9.4

9.4

775

300

- 0.5

25

25

25

25

6.0

7.0

21.0

0.45

0.9

Figure 16: Example Level 1 Display

The Figure 16 example is from a large power plant. We often hear But it doesnt look like a
power plant?! Correct! Does your automobile instrument panel look like a diagram of your
engine? The display is designed so that important abnormal conditions and alarms stand out
clearly.

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PAS 2012

Level 2 Unit Control


Every operation consists of smaller, sectional unit operations. Examples include a single
reactor, a pipeline segment, a distillation train, or a compressor station. A level 2 graphic
exists for each separate major unit operation. It is designed to contain all the information and
controls required to perform most operator tasks associated with that section, from a single
graphic (See Figure 17).

Feed Composition
%A %B %C

80.5

15.5

4.0

Coolant:
GPM C

80.5

15.5

Cat. Purge Conv.


Act% MCFH Eff. %

4.0

80.5

Feed
MPH

ADTV-1
MPH

77.5
AUTO
76.0
33.1%

15.5

11.9
AUTO
12.0
22.3%

ADTV-2
MPH

4.0
AUTO
4.0
44.3%

Temp
C

45.0
AUTO
45.0
54.1%

Pres
psig

Product: Thionite

State: Mid-Run

I-5A

I-5D

Feed

Temp

SHUT
DOWN
M5

97.2
AUTO
95.0
44.3%

I-5B

I-5E

ADTV-1

Pres

VENT
M5

I-5C

ADTV-2

I-5F

Level

Reserved
Faceplate Zone

Interlock Actions:
OFF
Stop Feed
Stop ADTV-1 OFF
Stop ADTV-2 OFF
Max Cooling OFF
OFF
Max Vent

When any item


on the screen is
selected, the
faceplate for
that item
appears in this
reserved area.

ISOLATE
M5

FREEZE
M5

Material Balance

80.0

Reset

VENT SYS

Feed
MPH

To Coils

Reactor

OP
72.0

RTAM: ON-OK

Run Plan:
Actual:

-90

-60

-30

2 Hrs

M5

Agitator
ON

Lvl
%

Prod
MPH
+10%

Analysis: Purity %

14.0

40.0

Main Menu

Chem
1
MPH

0%

-90

-60

-30

32.0

2 Hrs

6.0

-90

-60

-30

2 Hrs

Analysis: Inhibitor Concentration %


6.0

Chem
2
MPH

-10%
75.9
AUTO
75.0
54.3%

92.0

-90

-60

-30

2 Hrs
4.0

48.0

-60

-30

2 Hrs

-90

-60

-30

Pumps
Pump B STOPPED
Needed 1

2 Hrs

L2 RX Summary
---- Level 3 ---Daystrom Pumps

Pump A RUNNING

OP

L2 Compression

5.0 %
M5 Circ
74.3 %

Temp
C

40.0

-90

L2 Feed System
L2 Prod Recovery

IN OUT %DIFF
Tot. In: 19707
Tot Out: 19301
Calc Diff: 2.1 %
Hours: 238.1

OP
2.0

L2 M5 Startup
L2 M5 Scram

OP
10.0

All control
manipulation is
accomplished
through the
standardized
faceplates.

M5 Interlocks

PRODUCT

M5 Cooling Sys

OK
FAULT

M5 Vent Sys
3

M5 Agitator

Figure 17: Example Level 2 Display of a Reactor

Level 3 Unit Detail


Level 3 graphics provide all of the detail about a single piece of equipment. These are used for
a detailed diagnosis of problems. They show all of the instruments, interlock status, and other
details. A schematic type of depiction is often desirable for a Level 3 display (See Figure 18).

High Performance HMI | Page 17


PAS 2012

West Compressor
OH

Speed
%

EAST COMP

20.1 psi

Tot Flow
MSCFH

1 Stg
psi

2 Stg
psi

CLR IN CLR OUT


C
C

WC Speed
P
90.8 %
S
90.0
O
90.0 %
CAS

WEST
COMP
RUNNING

MANUAL ACTIONS

Winding
C

IDLE
WEST
COMP

PURGE
WEST
COMP

ISOLATE
WEST
COMP

SHUT
DOWN
WEST
COMP

111.0 C
95.1 Oil psi
48.0 psi
65.0 C

1
Stage
st

Intercooler
44.0 C

90.8
76.8
CAS
AUTO
90.0
76.0
90.0 %
88.5 %

20.0 C

CW

90.0

65.0

111.0

32.0

28.0 C

2
Stage
nd

Flow Demand
P 76.8 MSCFH
S 76.0
O 88.5 %
AUTO

32.0 C
EAST COMP

90.0 psi

48.0

48.4 MSCFH

50.0

55.0

When any item


on the screen is
selected, the
faceplate for
that item
appears in this
reserved area.
All control
manipulation is
accomplished
through the
standardized
faceplates.

SPEED
CASCADE
IN EFFECT
RECOVERY

West Comp Discharge Temp C

Reserved
Faceplate Zone

West Comp Flow MSCFH

95.0

Main Menu
L2 Compression

West Comp Speed %

L2 Recovery
---- Level 3 ---Sequence Overlay
Startup Overlay
40.0

-90

-30 2 Hours

-60

West Compressor Interlock Initiators


Comp in Overspeed
Winding Temp is High
Vibration is High
Oil Pres is Low

W-1A
Mech

45.0

W-1B
Flow

-90

W-1C
Pres

-60

-30 2 Hours

85.0

-90

-60

-30 2 Hours

West Cooling

West Compressor Interlock Actions

NO

1 Stg Pres is High

NO

W. Comp Shutdown

NO

2 Stg Pres is High

NO

Inlet Block Valve

NO

Suction Pres is Low

NO

Outlet Block Valve

NO

Total Flow is Low

NO

E. Comp Override to 100%

Flow Cascade to Manual

NO

OPEN

2 Stg High Press

OK

OPEN

W. Suction Pres Low

NO

NO

West Interlocks

Total Flow Low

East Comp
---- Level 4 ---Logic Diagrams

OK
PAS - Confidential
and Proprietary
2012 | 57
Procedures
OK

Figure 18: Example Level 3 Display

Level 4 Support and Diagnostic Displays


Level 4 displays provide the most detail of subsystems, individual sensors, or components.
They show the most detailed possible diagnostic or miscellaneous information. A Point
Detail display is a typical example. The dividing line between Level 3 and Level 4 displays can
be somewhat gray.

API-1165: Recommended Practice for


Pipeline SCADA Displays
In 2006, API issued a document on SCADA HMI displays. There are some inconsistencies
within that document.
Overall, the concepts incorporated in the text portion of the document are valid. It mentions
several good practices. The examples section, however, provides several depictions that are in
direct violation of the text principles.

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PAS 2012

For example, Section 8.2.4 states Color should not be the only indication for information.
That is, pertinent information should also be available from some other cue in addition to color
such as a symbol or piece of text.
Yet throughout the remainder of the document, examples are shown that routinely violate
this principle. Figure 19 shows only a few of the recommended practice examples from APIRP-1165. In many of these examples, only subtle color differences, not distinguishable by a
substantial fraction of the operator population, are the only means to distinguish a significant
status difference.
In one table, API-1165 recommends color coding alarms by type. The well-known best practice
is that they are redundantly coded by priority, not type.
Users of API-1165 are therefore advised to pay more attention to the principles it contains than
to the example depictions.

Figure 19: Sub-optimal Examples from API-RP-1165


High Performance HMI | Page 19
PAS 2012

A Real-World Case Study and Test of


HP HMI Concepts
The following section is taken from a study conducted by the Electric Power research Institute
(EPRI).

Operator HMI Case Study: The Evaluation of


Existing Traditional Operator Graphics vs. High
Performance Graphics in a Coal Fired Power Plant
Simulator , Product ID 1017637
The EPRI study tested these HP HMI concepts at a large, coal-fired power plant. The plant
had a full simulator used for operator training. The existing graphics on the simulator (created
in the early 1990s) operated the same as those on the actual control system. PAS was
retained to prepare several high performance graphics for the simulator. Several operators
were then put through several abnormal situations using both the existing and the new high
performance graphics.
Four examples of the existing graphics are in Figure 20. They have the following
characteristics:











No graphic hierarchy
No Overview
Many controller elements are not shown on any of the existing graphics
Numbers and digital states are presented inconsistently
Poor graphic space utilization
Inconsistent selectability of numbers and elements
Poor color choices, overuse, and inconsistencies. Bright red and yellow are used for
normal conditions
Poor interlock depiction
No trends are implemented, trend-on-demand is not used
Alarm conditions are generally not indicated on graphics even if the value is a
precursor to an automated action

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PAS 2012

Figure 20: 1990s Graphics from the EPRI HP-HMI Test

The operators used dozens of such graphics to control the process.


PAS prepared the following high performance graphics:



Power Plant Overview (Level 1) see figure 16.


Pulverizer Overview Graphic (Level 1.5) see Figure 21
Individual Pulverizer Level 2 Control Graphic see Figure 22
Runback 1 and 2: Special Abnormal Situation Graphics see Figure 23

The Level 1 Overview


(see prior Figure 16)
The Overview graphic shows the key performance indicators of the entire system under the
operators control. The most important parameters incorporate trends. It is easy to scan
these at a glance and detect any non-normal conditions. Status of major equipment is shown.
Alarms are easily detected.
The operators found the overview display to be far more useful than the existing graphics in
providing overall situation awareness and useful in detecting burgeoning abnormal situations.

High Performance HMI | Page 21


PAS 2012

The Level 1.5 Pulverizer Overview


Graphic (Figure 21)
The operator controls eight identical, heavily instrumented, and complex pieces of equipment
called coal pulverizers. At normal rates, seven are in use and one is on standby in case of a
problem. The seven that are running should be showing almost identical performance. It was
immediately apparent that an Overview graphic of just these eight items would be very
useful to the operators, since much of their activity is in monitoring and manipulating them.
Being mechanical, they are subject to a variety of problems and abnormal conditions. There
were three separate existing graphics needed for monitoring and controlling each pulverizer,
24 in total for them all. Monitoring using 24 graphics was difficult for the operators.
The new Pulverizer Overview in Figure 21 depicts more than 160 measurements on a single
graphic! The key to making this understandable is that the devices are supposed to run
alike. Instead of blocks of indicators for each pulverizer being grouped together, the same
measurement from each pulverizer is grouped together. Any individual unit operating
differently than the others stands out. The unit that is in standby service also is easily seen. Air
damper positions, a source of problems, are clearly shown.
Note that the trends seemingly violate our recommendation of showing no more than 3 or 4
traces on a single trend. In this case, what the operator is looking for is any trend line that is
not bunched in with the others. For such a condition, having these 8 traces was acceptable.
Note that the standby pulverizers trace is normally on the bottom.
Even with such a dense information depiction and with so many measurements, the
operators found it easy to monitor all eight devices and easily detect burgeoning abnormal
situations. It is easy to scan your eye across the screen and spot any elements that are
inconsistent. Alarm conditions are also easy to spot.
Note that control actions are not taken on this screen, but rather on the eight individual Level
2 graphics, one for each pulverizer.

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PAS 2012

PULVERIZER OVERVIEW
Pulverizer Status

Trend

Coal Flow

A B C D E F G H
A A A A M A A A

Burn
Diag Maint

OFF

08-15-2009
Trend

Diff Pres

A B C D E F G H
A A A A M A A A

Pri. Air Flow

A B C D E F G H
A A A A M A A A

A ON
B ON
C ON
D ON
E
F
G
H

Trend

Mill Amps

Trend

A B C D E F G H
A A A A M A A A

14:22:09

Primary Damper

A B C D E F G H
A A A A M A A A
H

ON
ON
ON

S. Air Flow

113

112
0
112
113 113 113 112

Trend

A B C D E F G H
A A A A M A A A

42

43

42

44

43

43

43

North Damper

South Damper

A B C D E F G H
A A A A M A A A

A B C D E F G H
A A A A M A A A

8.0

10.0 0.6
9.5
9.8
9.5
9.8
9.0

204 204
0
204
205 205 205 205

Trend

C/A Temp

A B C D E F G H
A A A A M A A A

Hot Damper

204 204
0
204
205 205 205 205
Flame

M1

75 78 78 75 0 50 75 55 75 78 78 75 30 50 75 55
74 77 78 74 0 50 76 51 74 77 78 74 30 50 73 51

M2

Diff
Pres
PSI

Main
Flame
ON

90

ON

90
8

Igniter
Flame
Fuel Type
Gas -1

OFF

30

SWG Valves

OPEN

FlmMnt
MntMod
Mod
Flm

NORM

L1 OVERVIEW

OFF

30

A B C D E F G H
A A A A M A A A

135 135 277 135


135 135 135 135

16

Cold Damper

A B C D E F G H
A A A A M A A A

75 78 76 75 51 50 75 55
74 45 74 74 50 50 65 51

75 78 78 75 40 50 75 55 75 78 78 75 50 50 75 55
74 77 78 74 40 50 65 51 74 77 78 74 50 50 73 51

140

Coal
Flow
KLB/HR

A
B
C
D

A
B
C
D

E
F
G
H

E
F
G
H

OPEN
NORM

RUNBACK 1

2 Hrs

0
RUNBACK 2

PULV A

PULV B

PULV C

PULV D

2 Hrs

1
PULV E

PULV F

PULV G

PULV H

Figure 21: The Level 1.5 Pulverizer Overview

The Level 2 Pulverizer Control Graphic


(Figure 22)
Rather than using three separate graphics to control each pulverizer (24 graphics total), a
single Level 2 graphic for each pulverizer was created with everything needed to accomplish
all typical control manipulations.

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PAS 2012

08-15-2009

PULVERIZER A
Diff Press

A Coal Flow

140
100

Mill Amps

A C/A Temperature

220
100

Coal
Flow

14:22:09

Hot Damp

200

PA Flow

Klb/Hr
113

Klb/Hr
200

F. Speed
AUTO
BIAS 0.0
P 81%
S 80%
O 80.8%

PA Flow
AUTO
BIAS 0.0
P 92.3%
S 92 .3%
O 49.0%

10.7

40
28
900
86

Damper Pos

A Primary Air Flow

45

100
45

2 Hrs
Sec Air N Sec Air S

A Sec. Air Flow (Total)

N Damp

S. Damp

Flame

A1

Main
Flame

90

ON

312

312

50

AUTO
S 49.0%
O 49.0%

2 Hrs

Sec Air
Total
Klb/Hr
615
Sec Air
Total
AUTO
BIAS 0.0
P 50.1%
S 50.0%
O 60.0%

Air
Tmp
AUTO
P 135
S 130
O 71.2%

49

Igniter
Flame

50

30

A2
90
ON

30

72.1

2 Hrs

50

A3

A5
90

90

ON

ON

ON

ON

30

30

30

Gas
AUTO
S 50%
O 50%

2 Hrs
A PULVERIZER

START

OFF

OFF

OFF

OFF

OFF

OFF

SWG Valves

OPEN

OPEN

OPEN

OPEN

OPEN

OPEN

FlmMnt
MntMod
Mod
Flm

NRML

NRML

NRML

MNT-B

MNT-B

MNT-B

Sequence Blocked By:

STOP

Start Sequence

Ready
Ready

Start Pulv

Sec Air to L.O.

Ready
Ready

Start Feeder

Start Ltrs.

Ready
Ready

Pulv Tmp to Auto

Rel Sec Air

LTR oil press low or HDR VLV not open


Feeder inlet gate not open

Flame detected

Start PA Flow

Ready
Ready

Stop Ltrs

Open Swg Vlvs

Ready
Ready

Rel Pul Dmd

Any pulv grp trip not reset

IG HDR VNT VLV

CLOSED

IG GAS TRP VLV

OPEN
CLOSED

Trip Status

Reset

IG OIL TRP VLV

PTR

Reset

BRNR VNT VLV

Pulv A Diag
FAULT

PULV OVRVIEW

PULV B

PULV C

No coal on the f eeder belt

PULV D

PULV E

PULV F

PULV G

CLOSED

Open Swg Valves


EXECUTE
CANCEL

Any Seal Air blower stopped

L1 OVERVIEW

AUTO
S 9.0
O 2%

Min boiler A.F. required


Flame det clg air press lo
Lube oil pump not running
Lube oil press low

Ready
Pulv Grp Dmd L.O. Ready

TRIP A
Pulv Group

Pulv seal air dif f press low


LTR atom air press low

NOT OK

VALVES

All PA f ans stopped or PAH stopped


Status Done

Status Done

AUTO
BIAS 0.0
S 50%
O 50%

MN GAS HDR PR

5.9

Fuel Type

200
19

AUTO
S 28.8%
O 28.8%

90

90

30

GAS PRESS
LOW

A7

A6

AUTO
S 71.2%
O 71.2%

PULV H

Figure 22: Level 2 Pulverizer Control

While complex in appearance to the layman, the trained operator had no difficulty in
understanding and accessing everything they needed for pulverizer startup, shutdown, and
swap situations that arose during the test. Much of the text on the screen has to do with the
status of automated sequences that sometimes require operator intervention. Everything on
the screen is selectable, and when selected the standard faceplate for the element appears
in a reserved faceplate zone rather than floating around the screen obscuring the graphic.
Element manipulation is made via the faceplate.

Abnormal Situation Response Graphics


The operator response for many abnormal plant situations is to cut rates by half, from 700MW
to 350MW. Called a Runback, this is a complicated and stressful procedure that takes about
20 minutes to accomplish. If done incorrectly or if important parameters are missed, the plant
can fall to zero output, a very undesirable situation. One of the main purposes of the simulator
was to regularly train the operators for this situation. The operators have to use more than
a dozen of the existing graphics to accomplish the task, involving much navigation, screen
callups and dismissals, and control manipulation.

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PAS 2012

However, in more than a decade of such training, it had never occurred to anyone to design
special graphics specifically designed to assist in this task! This demonstrates the power of
inertia in dealing with our HMIs. Specific Abnormal Situation Detection and Response graphics
are an important element of an HP HMI.
PAS created two Runback graphics designed specifically to assist in this task. Every element
that the operator needed to effectively monitor and control the runback situation was
included on them. In use, the operators placed them on adjacent physical screens. Figure 23
shows Runback 1, Runback 2 was similar. The reserved faceplate zone is on the lower right.

Figure 23: Abnormal Situation Graphics Runback 1

As a simple example of providing information rather than data, consider the trend graph at
the upper left of Runback 1. To be successful, the rate of power reduction must not be too
slow or too fast. The existing graphics had no trend of this, simply showing the current power
megawatt number. This new trend graph had the sloped-line element placed next to it,
indicating the ideal rate of power reduction, the full load zone, and the target half-rate zone.
On the figure, the actual rate of drop is exceeding the desired rate, and that condition is easily
seen. (Note: It would have been more desirable to have the sloped lines on the background of
the trend area itself, but the DCS could not accomplish such a depiction. This is a compromise,
but one the operators still found very useful.)

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PAS 2012

The Testing
Eight Operators, averaging 8 years console operating experience each, were used in the test.
They received only one hours familiarity with the new graphics prior to the start of testing.
They were tested on four increasingly complex situations, lasting about 20 minutes each.



Coal Pulverizer Swap Under Load


Pulverizer Trip and Load Reduction
Manual Load Drop with Malfunctions
Total Plant Load Runback

All operators did all scenarios twice, using the old graphics alone, and the HP HMI graphics.
Half used the old graphics first, and half used the HP HMI graphics first).
Quantitative and qualitative measurements were made on the performance of each scenario
(e.g. detection of the abnormal condition, time to respond, correct and successful response).

The Results
The high performance graphics were significantly better in assisting the operator in:




Maintaining situational awareness


Recognizing abnormal situations
Recognizing equipment malfunctions
Dealing with abnormal situations
Embedding knowledge into the control system

Operators highly rated the Overview screen, agreeing that it provided highly useful big picture
situation awareness. Even with only a few hours total with the new graphics, operators had no difficulties
in operating the unit. The High Performance graphics are designed to have intuitive depictions.
Very positive Operator comments were received on the analog depictions, alarm depictions,
and embedded trends. There were consistent positive comments on how obvious the HP
HMI made the various process situations. Values moving towards a unit trip were clearly
shown and noticed by the operators.
The operators commented that HP HMI would enable faster and more effective training of
new operations personnel. The negative operator comments generally had to do with lack of
familiarity with the graphics prior to the test.
The best summary quote was this one:

Once you got used to these new graphics,


going back to the old ones would be hell.

The effect of inertia being the controlling factor for HMI change was once more confirmed. The
existing HMI had been in use since the early 1990s, with simulator training for more than a decade.
Despite clear deficiencies, almost no change to the existing HMI had been made since inception.

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PAS 2012

Operators using the existing graphics first in the test were then asked What improvements
would you make on the existing graphics to help in these situations? In response, there were
very few or no suggestions!
However, operators using the existing graphics after they used the HP HMI graphics had
many suggestions for improvement, namely analog depictions, embedded trends, consistent
navigation, etc!
So, people get used to what they have and do not complain or know what they are missing
if they are unfamiliar with these HP HMI concepts.

A lack of complaints does not indicate that you have a good HMI!

The Seven Step Work Process


There is a seven step methodology for the development of a high performance HMI.
Step 1: Adopt a high performance HMI philosophy and style guide. You must have a written
set of principles detailing the proper way to construct and implement a high performance
HMI.
Step 2: Assess and benchmark existing graphics against the HMI philosophy. It is necessary to
know your starting point and have a gap analysis.
Step 3: Determine specific performance and goal objectives for the control of the operation
and for all modes of operation. These are such factors as:







Safety parameters/limits
Production rate
Run length
Equipment health
Environmental (i.e. Emission control)
Production cost
Quality
Reliability

It is important to document these, along with their goals and targets. This is rarely done and is
one reason for the current state of most HMIs.
Step 4: Perform task analysis to determine the control manipulations needed to achieve the
performance and goal objectives. This is a simple step involving the determination of which
specific controls and measurements are needed to accomplish the operations goal objectives.
The answer determines the content of each Level 2, 3, and 4 graphic.
Step 5: Design high performance graphics, using the design principles in the HMI philosophy
and elements from the style guide to address the identified tasks.

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PAS 2012

Step 6: Install, commission, and provide training on the new HMI.


Step 7: Control, maintain, and periodically reassess the HMI performance.

HP HMI Implementation on a Budget


While desirable, it is not necessary to replace all of your existing graphics to obtain much of
the benefit of HP HMI. A partial implementation can provide most of the benefits. A partial
implementation involves:



Design new Level 1, Level 2, and Abnormal Situation Management graphics


Existing graphics can be designated as Level 3 and navigation paths to them altered
Improvements to those Level 3s (correcting color choices, adding status indications,
adding embedded trends, and providing proper context.) can be made over time

Any facility can afford about twenty new graphics! A High Performance HMI is affordable.
Conclusion
Sophisticated, capable, computer-based control systems are currently operated via ineffective
and problematic HMIs, which were created without adequate knowledge. In many cases,
guidelines did not exist at the time of graphic creation and the resistance to change has kept
those graphics in commission for two or more decades.
The functionality and effectiveness of these systems can be greatly enhanced if redesigned in
accordance with proper principles. A High Performance HMI is practical and achievable.
References
Hollifield, B., Oliver, D., Habibi, E., & Nimmo, I. (2008). The High Performance HMI Handbook.
Operator HMI Case Study: The Evaluation of Existing Traditional Operator Graphics vs. High
Performance Graphics in a Coal Fired Power Plant Simulator , Product ID 1017637

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PAS 2012

About the Authors

Bill Hollifield

Hector Perez

Bill R. Hollifield, PAS Principal Alarm Management and HMI Consultant


Bill is the Principal Consultant responsible for the PAS work processes and intellectual property
in the areas of both Alarm Management and High Performance HMI. He is a member of the
American Petroleum Institutes API RP-1167 Alarm Management Recommended Practice
committee, the ISA SP-18 Alarm Management committee, the ISA SP101 HMI committee, and the
Engineering Equipment and Materials Users Association (EEMUA) Industry Review Group.
Bill has multi-company, international experience in all aspects of Alarm Management and HMI
development. He has 26 years of experience in the petrochemical industry in engineering and
operations, and an additional 9 years in alarm management and HMI software and services for
the petrochemical, power generation, pipeline, and mining industries.
Bill is co-author of The Alarm Management Handbook, The High Performance HMI Handbook,
and The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) guideline on Alarm Management.
Bill has authored several papers on Alarm Management and HMI, and is a regular presenter on
such topics in such venues as API, ISA, and Electric Power symposiums. He has a BSME from
Louisiana Tech University and an MBA from the University of Houston.

Hector R. Perez, PAS High Performance HMI Product Manager


Hector oversees the High Performance HMI business line at PAS. He is a chief designer of high
performance graphics intended to facilitate situation awareness in a variety of industries. At
PAS, Hector oversees PAS software directions to improve product design and capabilities.
Prior to working with PAS, Hector was a senior engineer at Schlumberger. His strength in design
contributed to his success in creating new and improved HMIs for reservoir evaluation services
and interfaces for business Key Performance Indicator tracking.

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PAS 2012

In addition to his expertise in High Performance HMI, Hector has widespread experience in all
aspects of Alarm Management. He has facilitated numerous Alarm Management workshops,
conducted alarm rationalization projects, and developed Alarm Philosophy documents for a
wide range of clients in the petrochemical, power generation, pipeline, and mining industries.
Hector has authored technical articles on High Performance HMI. In 2009, he collaborated with
the Electrical Power Research Institute (EPRI) on a comparative research study evaluating high
performance graphics and operator effectiveness.
Hector holds a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering from Rice University.

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PAS 2012