Better HMIs for Better Decision-Making

Today’s workplace is much more automated than in the past, and work is increasingly done by computers and other machines. The role of the human worker has changed, with many relegated to operating the machines that do the work rather than doing the work themselves. It’s hard to argue that most production environments have become more efficient and more productive as a result of automation. Much research has been done to compare the value of using a SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) and HMI (Human Machine Interface) system to the value of not using a SCADA/HMI system. What is often overlooked, however, is the cost of using a poorly designed HMI system compared to the cost of using a well-designed, user-centered HMI system.

A recent study by OSHA in Europe has compiled statistics on HMI-related errors in the workplace. Interestingly, research shows that the majority of problems are caused by human error, but not entirely because of mental and physical fatigue. More often, errors are caused by poor decision-making related to the way that information is processed.

Source: European Agency for Safety and Health at Work

A certain amount of human error is to be expected, as is a certain amount of machine failure, but errors caused by a lack of information (i.e. common safety procedures, maintenance procedures and history, expected machine performance, etc.) should be nearly unheard of in today’s information-driven world. All of this information can and should be made available in real time to all operators and key decision makers. Poor HMI design may be acceptable when everything is working well and without any abnormal conditions, but when something abnormal or unexpected happens, the HMI needs to be as transparent as possible so human operators can see what they need to see to make quick decisions. Too often, the HMI serves as a barrier to problem-solving rather than an ally.

Learn more about the value of more intelligent HMIs at