Putting the Human First in HMI Design

The Challenge for Designers of Human-Machine Interfaces (HMIs) Remains a Balancing Act

By Keith Larson

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Further, System 800xA provides support for the implementation of high-performance alarm-management strategies with features such as alarm grouping, alarm shelving (operator-driven alarm suppression) and alarm hiding (condition-based alarm suppression). "Alarm Response" is an 800xA feature that allows up to four relevant operator displays to be invoked by simply clicking on an alarm in an alarm list. These displays should be selected based on operator best practices and can be configured consistently across the entire system, or individually on an instance or single tag object. This functionality is designed to give the operator a contextual "head start" on solving a problem regardless of his or her experience level. These features reduce the number of nuisance and non-critical alarms and so help end users meet or exceed current guidelines and standards such as those from Europe's Engineering Equipment and Materials Users Assn. (EEMUA) and the International Society for Automation (ISA).

ABB's alarm management is fully built into System 800xA, which improves navigation, analysis and handling; it also costs much less than running and maintaining a standalone or integrated alarm management system. Without a separate system to distract them, operators can devote more time to running a safe and efficient process. Plus, the operator need only point to any alarm list in the system to generate alarm performance metrics—no rules files, parsing of data or connecting of OPC interfaces.

And because every relevant fact and event is accessible in one system, operators get consolidated time-stamped alarm lists that include information from power systems, safety systems and all controllers irrespective of brand or supplier. This all leads to an improved overview of what has happened in the process (and in exactly what order) plus what is happening right now. Troubleshooting is faster and more effective.

System 800xA also gives operators full insight into current alarm management key performance indicators (KPIs) including the 20 most-frequent alarms, 20 longest-standing alarms, average time to acknowledge, and alarm priority distributions. Furthermore, these calculations are presented as easy-to-understand graphics, helping users identify troublesome alarms and address—once and for all—underlying process problems.

Of course, the mere possession of tools does not a mechanic make. To that end, ABB provides a range of Consulting Services—from help implementing alarm management strategies to educational programs on how to run successful alarm management programs and projects.  The company's "packaged" services are designed to be purchased with an 800xA license and provide continued training on the system's extended functionality and possible ways to implement them. This relieves the initiative burden from the end user, and sets them up for success.

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