CALL NOW: 512-630-3401

What is the High-Performance HMI?

August is here and it is a very busy month for UCDS.  Dave and I will be gone for the whole month.  We start with the first couple of weeks doing a control room gap analysis and conceptual design for a mining customer.  We as always start the process with our Situation Awareness Workshop.  This really helps customers understand the important aspects of a control room.  It teaches how today’s designs compromise Situation Awareness and how they reduce operator performance and lead to Human Error, resulting in accidents.  Since we adopted the formal training program, customers now understand the significant changes in control room design.  It is not just about lighting and the environment.

I will be in Houston for a week working on several projects with customers.  I will be doing a mini High Performance HMI workshop, to help many customers who have not had the benefit of one of these workshops.  I also have two articles coming out in Control magazine on this topic.  Click here for the first article, “What is the High-Performance HMI?”

After this busy week, I will be flying back to Trinidad to complete the final phase of our customers control room Detail Design and also kicking-off a major joint project with our friends from Lin & Associates, a complete replacement of their traditional HMI for a new High Performance HMI.  Then it will be September before we know it.

Harry and team continue to make good progress completing the training manuals for the Mines new process and plant.  They are doing an exceptional job working with Jacobs Engineering and the customer.  I must say I am very proud of the Quality of their work.

As many of you are aware, Steve is in high customer relations mode and is making significant progress promoting two new alarm management tools that potentially will change the way we look and maintain alarms.  Steve has been attending several conferences this last month and recently gave an exciting paper at the software release party of one of the new industrial products with new UCDS associates, Operational Sustainability, LLC.  It is time for some new blood; we have seen the same old boring tools that badly attempt to provide statistical analysis of alarm performance, while struggling to accurately get the data from commercial DCS’s.  Not always the fault of the vendors, not that I am defending them, but we must realize that as these DCS’s evolved from the 70’s and the data was never intended to be extracted and analyzed. Something the manufacturers could eventually do.

We have seen two significant new contributions, one from OS as just stated, but also from PPCO in the UK, which addresses far more than alarms, CVE and has a major contribution to determining KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators).  What I really like is the ability to accurately understand and determine alarm setpoints.  For the most part, probably 50% of the existing values are poorly chosen and cause major alarm issues in the form of bad actors.  When analyzed, we see how poorly alarm setpoints have been assigned not protecting the process, equipment, environment and safety correctly.  The safety and environmental have more chance of being set correctly but from what we witness of new projects, no guarantees.  This is one of those less than professional subjects we are trying to change, where final values are left to commissioning engineers to determine a workable value.  I am grateful for the Engineers who wrote the Buncefield Standards Task Group (BSTG) Final report.  What a shame not many of our Pipeline customers have read and understood the teaching on setting alarms and how to work through a safety related alarm case.  Even more of a concern is PHMSA have not brought clarity to this issue but have masked it with old out-of-date Recommended Practices that have confused the whole market segment.  Most have never even heard of semi-quantitative methods available, such as layer of protection analysis (LOPA) and ALARP (which stands for “as low as reasonably practicable”).  Layers of protection analysis (LOPA) is a semi-quantitative methodology that can be used to identify safeguards that meet the independent protection layer (IPL) criteria established by CCPS1 in 1993.

I recently wrote a Technical paper for Pipeline customers on Determining Safety Related or Safety Critical Alarms – Each safety related or critical alarm should be derived by process hazards analysis (PHA).  If you would like a copy of this document please request a copy from

It is remarkable the number of new control rooms this year and new buildings also.  These are exciting times for all of us.  We continue to pursue good situation awareness through good alarm management, the High Performance HMI and the design of the control room.  If you need more information on these topics please make contact with us.

Dave is also fully engaged in providing workload staffing assessments and has done more in just a couple months than in previous whole years.  This tells me customers are getting significant benefit from our methodology and also that companies are becoming more aware of workload impact and recognition of the changing workforce as many experienced operators retire and a virgin workforce is being developed, trained and bridging the experience gap.  We have extended our workload studies to include Hours of Service and Fatigue Index into the methodology to fully meet API RP 755.  Customers are investing time educating the workforce about the impact of shift work and how to manage fatigue.  Again we have formal education, technical papers and studies to address this need.

I just got back from vacation and I am ready to tackle anything, which is just as well as my good friend Jack Pankoff of Production Excellence Inc. and myself will be starting a couple of significant projects to address Production Excellence and Best Practice Assessments.  We will try and keep you informed of these developments.