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John McCulloch - Operator Interface Design

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Alarm Management

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The "Cool Screen" Concept

Sample Operator Interface Display
Those who have read my page on Alarm Management will realise that clear and easily assimilable display of alarms and alarm-related information is fundamental to the effective handling of disturbances. My approach to Operator Interface Design centres around the "Cool Screen" Concept. In this, alarms and other information indicating abnormalities are displayed in hot, bright colours, (red, yellow, orange, magenta and white), and all "normal" information is displayed in cool, dull colours, (blue, green, grey, teal, brown and black).

This philosophy goes against much research into Man-Machine Interface design. There is a good reason for this. Most MMI research is aimed at first time users, members of the public at air terminals or railway stations trying to make sense of the displays to buy tickets and to get to the right destination. The process operator is in a very different situation. He is using the same displays day after day. He sits in front of the screen for 8, sometimes 12, hours at a time. It is very important to him that the displays are restful and dull or he will be stressed by them and will soon suffer fatigue.

The only time that the displays start to flash and show bright, hot colours is when something is going wrong on the plant, and then he needs to be woken up and to feel an adrenalin rush.

I have experience of setting the Operator Interface Design philosophy for a new plant and reinstrumentation projects. This involves defining the interface mechanisms for information retrieval and for operator actions, (controller set-point, output and mode changes, batch start, stop, abort and continue commands). By defining the building blocks correctly at the start of the project, a consistent overall look and feel is presented to the operator which is efficient to use and satisfies his operational needs.

I have experience with Honeywell TDC 3000 and TPS, with Invensys IA and with Emerson DeltaV control systems, and I can easily learn others.



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This page last updated on 2013-08-06 JGM