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Old October 15th, 2017, 08:53 PM   #1
Aggregateman
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Lets Play Critique My HMI

Hey everyone! I work for a small family business and am working on adding automation capabilities to our surface mining operations, for a little background last year I had no idea what a PLC even was, yet here I am, you guys helped me out a ton when I started on a small conveyor line project this spring, which I got up and running within the 2 week time frame, and had a barebones HMI setup ever since and let everything stay exactly as it was, because it worked. now its getting towards the end of the running season and I have some more free time on my hands, so I'm working on cleaning up my ladder logic and making the HMI look a little more professional.

So many of you are professionals that to absolutely top notch work, and whip up HMIs that I can only dream of, I was hoping for a little professional criticism of my current setup, and feel free to give me any advice/pointers, they all come greatly appreciated!

PLC is a Compactlogix 5370, HMI is a PVP Plus standard 7 10"

Here's my main screen, basically the operator hits the start button and it starts the conveyors in sequence after verifying that the previous conveyor has reached running speed, there are two equipment interlocks, if the slurry pump or the bucketwheel quit the line will immediately shut off, and both are toggle-able (for instance, we want to dewater the belts while starting the rest of the plant up)
Main Screen.jpg

The second screen allows for manual control of the conveyors in the line. fairly self explanatory, the little red indicator on each set of buttons turns green if the conveyor has reached running speed.
Manual Control Screen.jpg

Well, there you have it, feel free to tell me anything I did wrong, easier ways to do things, ETC. In the near future I would like to have some numeric displays/gauges for equipment amp draw and integrate the controls for the frequency drive that controls the feeder plate speed, as well as the input from the scale head that shows our production rate (tons per hour), however I have no idea how to even start on that, so any help in places to look to learn how to use those features would be awesome!
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Old October 15th, 2017, 11:03 PM   #2
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My biggest advice is to not strive to turn out glamorous HMIs but to turn out ones that are easy on the eyes and convey exactly what the operator needs to know. Granted, a little vanity never hurts but that comes with time.

Just remember with HMIs, convey what is needed and no more and if you can do it with a little sashay, then that’s ok too.

In your project, if it were me, I would ditch the company logo. Takes up a lot of space and doesn’t convey anything other than reminding the operator where they work.

Home buttons and/or Back buttons should always be in the same location no matter what screen they are on.
I tend to stick with a navigation bar at the top or button of the screen so that one can quickly and easily tell what page they are on and what information the other pages might give them. Also relieves up of needing a Back or Home button to contend with on every screen and also making room for it. Which sometimes will leave you with either making the button smaller than the rest and harder to press/find or making other indicators smaller and harder to read.

Displaying the date and time, most everyone has a cell phone or a watch. If this is in a location where neither are allowed and the only clock is the one hanging in the bosses office trailer, then date and time belong on the screen. Any other case I would leave it out unless requested.

You also need to keep in mind what PPE an operator will be wearing when using your hmi. Are they wearing surgical gloves or gloves insulated with goose feathers and sewn from beaver hide? Depending on which one, I might be intending to start Feeder 4 but unintentionally activate the horn. In your case it may be no cause for concern if I do, but what if it would cause a serious problem? Always keep adequate spacing between buttons.

I would recommend to incorporate some textual indicators with your graphic indicators. An operator would only know that the conveyor is at speed if you told them what that indicator meant. Consider having it display a textual status too. Stopped, Stopping, Starting, Running at Speed, etc.
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Old October 16th, 2017, 02:29 AM   #3
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Perhaps adding a third colour to give you an indication that it is stopping or starting such as yellow is a good idea.

The interlock buttons are they buttons or just indications? In case of being an indication, I would think that perhaps greying out the controls that they are interlocking would be a better way of displaying them.
If they are in fact override controls, I would put them elsewhere as it would be easy to be tempted to activate them to get the system going again.

As seth mentioned, a menu for you to have the navigation buttons and the current status would definitely be a plus.
A page to check alarms and perhaps some more diagnostic data from the PLC would possibly help you in the future. Although I don't know how good your alarms are.
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Old October 16th, 2017, 03:18 AM   #4
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Learn and Love FTView Faceplates, just implement them correctly. If this is a one off screen then ok, if you want advanced functions for each "device" then take the time to develop a faceplate. Then to take that one step further, develop a Rockwell AOI that matches that device. I can share examples of what I have done. There is power in Microsoft Excel and the L5K/XML formatting if you really want to develop standards.

Last edited by eckirchn; October 16th, 2017 at 03:21 AM.
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Old October 16th, 2017, 10:55 AM   #5
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I agree with a lot of what Seth said

Logos and images take up space and can make screens slow to load, especially with the Panelview family. Use the company logo for a screen saver instead - it's already a white circle so it would show up nicely!

Always keep the navigation & duplicate buttons in the same spot/location. Think of your phone - you're used to always having certain select/back buttons in the same spots. Your horn controls are different sizes and in different areas between the two screens.

For frequently used buttons like start/stop - I prefer to center those in the screen. Your start/stop are already the largest buttons so it forces the operator to see those first. Putting them in the center takes the focus one step further.

For someone with no experience it seems like you're doing a great job and have good future goals for your setup!
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Old October 16th, 2017, 08:03 PM   #6
Aggregateman
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eckirchn View Post
Learn and Love FTView Faceplates, just implement them correctly. If this is a one off screen then ok, if you want advanced functions for each "device" then take the time to develop a faceplate. Then to take that one step further, develop a Rockwell AOI that matches that device. I can share examples of what I have done. There is power in Microsoft Excel and the L5K/XML formatting if you really want to develop standards.
I would very much love to see some examples! Thanks!
Maybe some advice on how to set them up properly?

Also thanks everyone else for the suggestions, Iíll definitely be adding a Nav bar this winter when we rework how the whole feed line system works and I need to redesign the HMI anyways.
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Old October 16th, 2017, 08:21 PM   #7
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My biggest advice, work on your color choices. There are some theories on this, one is the "High Performance HMI", where color is used sparingly and majority of your HMI should be gray scale. I use some of this, however I also pay attention to color pallets and using colors that work well together versus the high contrast you are using.

Reference https://material.io/guidelines/style...palettehttp://. This is a google site for color selection/theory for app developers for android, but a valuable resource on color selection. I've been incorporating this into my hmi/scada screens along with parts of the High Peformance HMI Handbook and it's really improved the look and flow of my screens.
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Old October 16th, 2017, 09:33 PM   #8
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Paully's advice is good. I have one client for whom I developed a full-blown SCADA system, four touchscreen clients, the works.

The production manager (who doesn't actually work on the floor) always says things like "your SCADA looks s***" and "I can't believe it costs this much to make something so simple and basic" and "can't we have it look like [other machine's] HMI?"

The operators love it. From across the room, with a quick glance at the SCADA screens, they can see immediately if everything is OK, or if not, vaguely where the problem is. If they actually stand in front of the screen, the information they need right now to identify and address the problem is clear and obvious. Conversely, some of the other machine HMI's look spectacular, with 3D models and animated flames and spinning widgets. The operators wouldn't have a clue how to use probably 75% of it, it's confusing as hell and it's hard to find the button you're looking for when it's squashed into the corner to make room for fancy graphics.

There's a whole lot of work goes into making something look simple, while still conveying all of the information of a whole production line.

The biggest thing is: sparing use of colour. Get rid of colour anywhere you can. All your navigation buttons should be a uniform grey, and always in the same place so that after a day or two using the system, you instinctively know how to navigate the screen and stop even noticing them. I sometimes colour start and stop buttons red and green if they are a "whole system start/stop", but where I have multiple controls for multiple things, all the buttons are once again grey. If you need a running or faulted indication, a small green/red circle in the corner of the button will convey the information just as well as colouring the whole button, but with only 5% of the visual clutter.

If you have the space, a small roughly-to-scale overview of all your conveyors is a great idea - animate their colour based on their status (running, stopped, faulted, ready, auto, manual, etc etc). Maybe add a small "help" popup to explain the colour key, but again, once the operators are used to what each colour means, they can see the status of the entire system at a glance from across the room, and if one conveyor is flashing red, they don't have to start counting backward from the end to see which one it is - it's grpahically represented right in front of them.

Other than that, the #1 rule for designing a HMI is "make it do everything it needs to do". You seem to have nailed rule #1 on your first go, so whatever advice or criticism we might throw your way, you've done alright so far
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Old October 16th, 2017, 10:04 PM   #9
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Use a common navigation bar or menu bar. The operator will get used to knowing where to touch for all navigation. The "Home" button should always be in the same spot on all pages, likewise for other navigation buttons.

Give all numeric and text entry objects a specific look. I like to make mine "color" filled so that they are easily distinguished from display objects. The operator will quickly know that if the value has that specific color background, that he can adjust it.

Put the units on all the display and entry values. This is a pet peeve of mine. If there is a number of something, I want to know if it is inches, psi, gallons, meters... I will make an exception only if I am tight on space and all the items are the same units...then I will put the units as part of a header, but the units will be specified somewhere on the page.

I like to have an alarm banner and date and time at the top. I use Red Lion HMIs and the Master Slide feature to create my header (clock, alarm banner) and navigation menu (at the side or bottom).

If you have a lot of pages and not much real estate, just put a "Menu" button in a lower corner that calls a pop-up navigation page. Then it takes two button presses to navigate, but will allow the location of all the navigation buttons to be in a consistent location.

Consistency is really the key word for my designs. Some of them are quite plain, but very functional. I do subscribe to the "high performance" practices to a large degree. I will make use of a little more color than recommended at times, but those standards are really good.
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Old October 17th, 2017, 07:18 AM   #10
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Some of our screens

Here's an example of some of our SCADA screens showing some of the things previously discussed:

1. Time and date for operators convenience
2. Color denotes line(s) status
3. Navigation is at the bottom of all screens
4. "Back", "Return", "Home", "Main" buttons are in the same location on all screens. Not all screens "need" all Nav buttons, though.
5. An info banner on all screens.
6. Engineering units in screens...either in the description or right next to the data.

Your operators will let you know (and you should seek their input) on what is good/not good about the screens you've given them. After all, THEY use them and need to be efficient at doing so.

We recently brought a machine in that cuts open several sizes of boxes. To change from one size to another took over two minutes and multiple button pushes on multiple screens. We revamped the HMI and the PLC program and the box change process now takes 20 seconds.

Make you HMI work FOR you--not against you.
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File Type: jpg J2.jpg (79.8 KB, 166 views)
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Old October 17th, 2017, 08:13 AM   #11
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WOW that's a lot of information, the color coded buttons are a request from my dad, since everyone is used to good old manual push buttons, they want a little more color than is probably "recommended", most of this was put in as per operator suggestion. Everyone who operates this has suggested color coded buttons, which makes sense, so long as I can keep the color scheme consistent across screens. Thanks again for all the suggestions and criticism! It goes a long way!
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Old October 17th, 2017, 08:26 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aggregateman View Post
WOW that's a lot of information, the color coded buttons are a request from my dad, since everyone is used to good old manual push buttons, they want a little more color than is probably "recommended", most of this was put in as per operator suggestion. Everyone who operates this has suggested color coded buttons, which makes sense, so long as I can keep the color scheme consistent across screens. Thanks again for all the suggestions and criticism! It goes a long way!
When are we seeing version 2 of this HMI
Regarding the button colour, perhaps you can simulate the light up effect by using a bright green/red when it is in that state and a dim green red when not. It will indicate running status as well as keeping with the colour request.
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Old October 17th, 2017, 09:00 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aggregateman View Post
the color coded buttons are a request from my dad, since everyone is used to good old manual push buttons
I have done machines like this. The company will show you an old control panel with 12 push buttons and switches in it, then want the HMI to look like the old control panel simply for the sake of operator familiarity.

Here is an example of the first one I did some years back. It was a complete retrofit of all mechanical and electrical on a production line. I'm doing nicer work now but this one was specifically requested by the big guys to look just like the control panel.
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Old October 17th, 2017, 09:13 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aggregateman View Post
I would very much love to see some examples! Thanks!
Maybe some advice on how to set them up properly?
Advice you will find, but most are not willing to share examples. Good or bad. I have found that in the past.
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Old October 17th, 2017, 09:17 AM   #15
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Some of the best examples available are the sample projects that come with the software. In my case, ME, the instant fizz project is my go to for how to! It covers most available features in the software.
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