Situational Awareness for All

Sept. 22, 2015
Through its HMI software and foundational platform, Schneider Electric has made situational awareness a more attainable goal for all industries and expertise levels, winning a UX Design award for its efforts.

Situational awareness has been around as a concept for a long time, especially within those industries like petrochemicals, where crisis avoidance means things don’t blow up and lives are not lost. But maintaining situational awareness has typically required access to a handful of experts and deep pockets.

Schneider Electric has applied best practices in HMI design to make situational awareness accessible and usable for all industries and for all levels of expertise—not just for safety, but also to help improve productivity and reduce waste, at dramatically reduced cost.

“We took it from the boomable industries and applied it everywhere, and made it easy for everyone to use,” said Phil Couling, director of HMI/supervisory software product marketing for Schneider Electric, who explained how the change in graphic displays has made it easier to improve plant performance.

Based on industry best practices, Wonderware InTouch software’s situational awareness graphics make tracking current processes easier and more intuitive for operators, who can assess and troubleshoot abnormal situations 40 percent faster than with traditional HMI, according to John Krajewski, director of HMI and SCADA product management for Schneider Electric Software.

“InTouch software and its situational awareness capabilities have been proven to help maximize productivity and availability while minimizing costs, such as raw materials, energy consumption and waste,” Krajewski said.

In fact, Schneider Electric Software announced today that it has won a 2015 UX Design award for its Wonderware InTouch HMI software. The International Design Center of Berlin presented the award to InTouch earlier this month for its outstanding design and user orientation.

InTouch was chosen among 50 nominated product solutions from 13 countries by a panel of independent and expert jurists, each with different competencies and specializations. The award criteria is based on the user experience and takes a comprehensive view of how users interact with the nominated products and services, including the emotional, cognitive, aesthetic and ergonomic aspects and context of use, user integration, serviceability, design quality and degree of innovation.

Jurists pointed to InTouch’s clear and intuitive design that helps users grasp information, helping to reduce operator fatigue, failure rates and efficiency gaps.

There was a time not so long ago when HMI design included beautiful buttons that looked like polished steel, along with loads of realistic graphics in a range of colors. Wonderware even considered giving users 3D glasses for increased reality, Couling recalled. All that has gone away in favor of the boring screens dictated by best practices.

Couling explained the principles: “Is there anything I need to act on? Then don’t bug me. If something’s actionable, then draw my attention to it.” There should also be an indication of what actions should be taken, and the consequences of not taking the appropriate action. Colors and shapes should be used sparingly to make it very obvious what operators need to pay attention to. “There’s dense information on the screen, which would be overwhelming if we weren’t applying best practices,” Couling added.

Winning the UX Design award validates Schneider Electric’s approach to HMI design, according to Krajewski. “Wonderware InTouch allows operators to take a proactive part in improving the plant’s productivity, safety and efficiency, and it demonstrates our commitment to enabling greater operations optimization, problem resolution and workforce improvements,” he said.

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