Some of the most exciting technology companies have shown me during the past three years or so has involved deep work into providing better operator displays for industrial plant operations. In this case, “better” means working with the people who actually use the displays–maybe the entire team from operators to maintenance to engineering–in order to develop displays that show the state of the plant at a glance.

Those of you who were around in the late 80s, do you remember the beginnings of PC-based document design applications? PageMaker and Ventura Publisher were new. They offered lots of fonts. People designed brochures with six different fonts on one page–in patterns. Then we had the ability to draw really cool graphics on the screen. I had a customer with a waste water facility. They coded in pages to reflect the seasons of the year (I remember the frog croaking representing summer in the river at the end of the process.)

What I’m saying is that we had the technology and we used it as much as possible. Then we discovered that we were giving too much information in too confusing a format.

New Product

This latest announcement is from PAS Corp. in Houston. It has released PowerGraphiX 2.0, a high performance human-machine interface (HMI) package for the power generation industry. The company promises PowerGraphiX, “will revolutionize the way operators view information at power plants.”

PowerGraphiX is comprised of predesigned graphic templates, object libraries and best-practice guidelines for the design and implementation of operator interfaces at power generation plants. Companies choosing to implement the application can expect vastly improved graphics at significantly reduced costs when compared with traditional methods. (I’ve seen samples.)

According to PAS, the software was initially developed because Southern Company Services Inc. had a vision of consistent HMIs and improved situational awareness in control rooms across the operating fleet. PAS is now making the product commercially available for all utilities.

“Southern Company is committed to proprietary research and development in order to deliver solutions to our company and the industry,” said Harvey Ivey, Southern Company Manager of Instrumentation and Controls Design and Support. “This particular software was originally created to streamline information displayed in control rooms across our generating fleet, significantly improving operator effectiveness.”

The methodology behind developing PowerGraphiX was based on the industry-recognized book “The High Performance HMI Handbook” by Founder and CEO of PAS Eddie Habibi and Principal Consultant for High Performance HMI of PAS Bill Hollifield. It addresses the use of color, pattern recognition, standardization and other principles to transform data into actionable information, providing operators with a more holistic view of plant operating conditions.

“PAS is committed to empowering operators by delivering the precise information they need to improve plant safety and performance,” said PAS Vice President of Technology Mark Carrigan. “PowerGraphiX makes interpreting a plant’s current condition simply intuitive.”

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