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LogMate is the most reliable, proven software solution since 1990

    • Leadership Participation in Alarm Standards Committees
    • Dedicated Alarm Management Focus
    • Comprehensive Alarm Management Software Solutions
    • Adaptable Services Model
    • Flexible and Extensive Software Connectivity Portfolio
    • Broad Industry Experience

Introduction to Alarm Management

It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Quote #1Those who know me know that in addition to being super-enthused about all things controls and automation, I like endurance sports. There’s a saying that occasionally gets tossed around among athletes, especially when they aren’t happy with their race results: “Don’t be upset by the results you didn’t get with the work you didn’t do.” Athletes can be an unsympathetic bunch. When one is complaining about their poor race performance, the others are sometimes quick to remind them of all the early morning workouts missed because “snooze” was pressed a few too many times. Whether it’s a triathlon, a bike race, or a marathon, if you want to be happy with your results you’d better put in the appropriate amount of training.

What does this have to do with control systems – specifically HMI improvement projects? Technically speaking…nothing. However, by way of analogy, some in the industry take the same flawed approach to their HMI improvement projects. Many start their HMI project with far too much zeal to dive right into the weeds of re-drawing their graphics or changing the color palette of their screens, giving little thought to the marathon that an HMI project actually is. In some cases, the end result looks very much like a gray scale version of the old HMI system. In almost all cases, the end result is at least somewhat disappointing.

If the desire is to follow standards and best practices, (and it should be), such as ANSI/ISA-101 Human Machine Interfaces for Process Automation Systems, the reality of tackling a good HMI improvement project is that you are actually embarking upon a multi-staged lifecycle that never really ends. ISA-101 “…addresses the philosophy, design, implementation, operation, and maintenance of HMI’s…, including multiple work processes throughout the HMI lifecycle.” To skip steps is to invite failure.

Quote #2For example, ISA-101 defines three key standards documents that should be prepared as the foundation for an HMI system: HMI philosophy, HMI style guide, and HMI toolkit. The HMI philosophy document captures the guiding principles and conceptual foundation for HMI design and is platform independent. The HMI style guide applies the guiding principles and concepts of the HMI philosophy to provide implementation examples and guidance. Finally, the HMI toolkit is the platform-specific collection of graphic symbols, templates, and other elements required to implement the HMI style guide.

If an HMI improvement project is a marathon, then think of these standards documents as the training plan. I know the shiny medal at the finish line (i.e. – a high performing HMI) means eternal bragging rights (i.e. – a raise or promotion), and you want it bad, but don’t skip those steps. Your experience will not likely be a positive one.

HMI Article Pic #1

While not purposed to be a comprehensive design manual, the recently released ANSI/ISA-101 Human Machine Interfaces for Process Automation Systems is a huge step in the right direction for industry. If followed, users can get a firm foothold on systemizing a framework for managing all aspects of their facility HMIs.

Interested in running an HMI marathon? If so, ask yourself these 3 questions:

1. Do I have a working knowledge of ANSI/ISA-101 Human Machine         Interfaces for Process Automation Systems?

2. Does my facility have a training plan (HMI Philosophy and Style Guide)?

3. Is my HMI an effective tool to help manage abnormal process conditions?

If you need help getting started with an HMI improvement project, contact TiPS or SYCON International to see if you qualify to have a subject matter expert review, assess, and provide you a FREE written report on your current HMI configuration and work practices.If you answered no to any one of these questions, you likely have room for improvement in your training plan.

(512) 863-3653

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Marcus Dudoit – Partner & Sr. Consultant – SYCON International, LLC
David P. Garcia, TiPS Inc.
Kelsey R. Wright, TiPS Inc.