Reacting to the Right “Situation”

Oct. 6, 2016
Wunderlich-Malec built an intuitive situational awareness system for the City of Las Vegas that blends context and data, helping operators to take action.

There are many reasons why Wonderware System Platform is the preferred choice for Systems Integrators: Its in-depth visualization, alarm and reporting tools. Its role as a centralized management system for plant controls. And, its ability to be easily customized to fit industry-specific situations.

Take the case of the City of Las Vegas, which turned to Wunderlich-Malec, an engineering and systems integration firm in Nevada, to help operators in its Environmental Division quickly recognize issues in the wastewater operations. The problem was that 52 percent of the “trouble calls” were a result of human error. Sometimes the operator was not reacting to the right data served up on the HMI. And often, there were deviations in implementation, despite organizational standards.

The city wanted to do more with less and capture the tribal knowledge that exists in operators’ heads in order to help everyone make informed decisions about “why” something is happening right now.

“We had to fix this with intuitive operator displays that could bring the right data to the attention of the operator at the right time,” said Jason Moore, Las Vegas operations manager at Wunderlich-Malec. “We had to move the knowledge and perception from the individual to the system.”

To do this, Moore had to program more context into the system design and add situational awareness.

First, he got the SCADA master plan for the city and conducted a gap analysis. Then there was the research of abnormal situation management (ASM) and high performance HMI with prototype development. Wonderware System Platform from Schneider Electric was leveraged to integrate both Wunderlich-Malec and Schneider Electric’s situational awareness libraries, which Moore used to create a customized interface that allows the operator to instantly see, understand, make deductions and reason potential outcomes of what is being displayed.

The situational awareness set up is based on a hierarchy for navigation and aggregation that spans five levels of fidelity to enable fast decisions and action. Level 0 addresses concentrated data from multiple sites; level 1 takes single site data; level 2 pulls process data; level 3 uses the process control data; and level 4 looks at all of the devices.

The differing levels of fidelity span from the “big picture” to the small details of perception that provide clear comprehension for the operator, thereby allowing them act.

“We decided if we did something that had more context and value surrounding the data, then it had to include navigation based on tribal experience,” Moore said. “These are the breadcrumbs used to drag the operator to where the trouble is.”

How all of this is displayed is extremely important, as well. Too many lights and alarms—or not enough—can jeopardize the operator’s interpretation. “

“You have to prioritize where you use color and animation,” Moore said.

As a result of the work done with the City of Las Vegas, the Wunderlich-Malec team has a better understanding of how to add value for the operator as well as the business, and, as a result, the team is creating its next-generation of situational awareness tools.

“The road ahead is all about improving on yesterday,” Moore said.

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