Why Choose TiPS?

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

If you wear corrective lenses, you probably remember the day when you knew your vision was becoming a problem. Maybe it was while trying to read, work at a computer, or drive. In any case, you knew in your heart that you were going to have to go to the eye doctor. You probably resisted for a while though; most of us do. It’s tough to accept the fact that we’re aging. For the vain among us, putting on glasses for the first time can represent a threat to our carefully crafted image, and that can be unsettling. Finally, the cost of glasses, contacts or corrective surgery might cause some of us to put it off.

Similarly, many industrial facilities know that their control system is no longer contributing to the reliability of their process nor is it enhancing the situation awareness of the operating staff. Still, they resist updating their control system technology and/or their HMI design. When it comes to updating technology, the perception – and sometimes the reality – is that it will cost a lot of money. When it comes to changing the design of the HMI, many want to hang on to the old “look and feel”. This is particularly true if they had a hand in creating the current design.

I know you spent a ton of money installing that old system and I wish I could say it will last forever, but it won’t. I know you’re so proud of that cool animation and clever use of scripting on your screens, but it probably adds no value to your operator’s situational awareness of the process.HMI Image #1

There can be challenges to updating your control system technology, but the good news is that there are a plethora of migration strategies that have become available to end-users. From complete “rip and replace” options to more incremental approaches, nearly every control system vendor offers a path to their latest technology offering. Any way you choose to go, a technology upgrade project is a golden opportunity to embrace standards and best practices regarding your HMI design, operation and maintenance; you’ll get few better opportunities. This is likely the best way for you to cure your HMI vision. Think of it as LASIK.

HMI Image #2But wait! There is another way. What if you want to embrace modern HMI standards and best practices, but are not quite ready to upgrade your control system technology? One approach that’s worked well for some is to simply focus on improving overview/dashboard screens, while leaving the lower level, detail oriented screens mostly as-is, improving them as budget or technology constraints are eased. This approach, while not perfect, yields reasonable improvement in situational awareness. Think of it as giving that old process control system a pair of bifocals…it’s not LASIK, but it will still help tremendously!

Of course, any major HMI project or system change – even if executed incrementally – should begin by developing system standards. An HMI philosophy will form the guiding principles and conceptual foundation for HMI design, while a style guide document will apply them and provide implementation examples. Assess your current system against your new system standards and performance metrics and design the new graphics to achieve your goals.

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. It “…addresses the philosophy, design, implementation, operation, and maintenance of HMI’s…, including multiple work processes throughout the HMI lifecycle.” If followed, users can get a firm foothold on systemizing a framework for managing all aspects of their facility HMIs. If good training is coupled with sound design principles for displaying information, you are likely to have HMIs that promotes safe, effective and efficient process control, even as the face of the workface is changing.

Interested in taking steps toward improvement? If so, take the following HMI Vision Exam:HMI Image #3

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

2. Does my facility have an HMI Philosophy and Style Guide?

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

If the answer to any one of these questions was blurry, you likely have room for improvement in your facility.

If you need help getting started with an HMI improvement project, contact TiPS 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 in order to help you develop system standards.

(512) 863-3653



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