High Performance HMI: Practical lessons for getting started and leveraging data


Our research shows that 90% of companies are collecting industrial data but only 30% are analyzing that data.  Even less, just 2%, are acting on the information.  With so much money being spent on collecting data, why aren’t organizations better utilizing it?


The answer is often simpler than you might expect. Too often, data isn’t accessible in an easy-to-interpret way. The good news is this is a barrier we can start removing quickly by following these four steps to enabling High Performance HMI and making important, data-based information jump out. 

Step #1

Bring the team together.


High Performance HMI projects with high adoption rates share a common trait. Involving your key stakeholders early on in a project can help solidify the common challenges, explore the best opportunities, prepare requirements and even test user interfaces. Ensure operators are included in this team, they will make or break the success of your program.

Step #2

Build a workshop mentality into your review processes.


It’s not enough to bring a group of stakeholders together, brainstorm and then send them on their way. Your stakeholders should have planned review checkpoints to optimize results. These checkpoints are critical for stakeholders to feel part of the journey, raise concerns earlier in the program cycles and ensure there is a highly likelihood of agreement.

Step #3

Document and share more.


Write it down, write it all down. I can’t say this enough. The advice is so simple, yet it is a step that many overlook. Documenting decisions, learning and work plans is a critical requirement to aligning the team and holding each other accountable.

Step #4

Go after low-hanging fruit  


Projects often begin with a boost of excitement but quickly dissipate because the core team gets pulled back into their day-to-day tasks. The most effective path to keeping everyone focused on the long game is to build low-hanging fruit milestones into your project plan. These keep the team motivated and help paint a vision of your future vision.


When it comes to designing High Performance HMI, there are a number of design options which I’d consider low-hanging fruit improvements. Below are seven options that make a world of difference.



  • Replace data links with gauges. A picture really is worth a thousand words. Rather than ask operators to link to data in another location, make it easy for them to quickly visualize what needs attention.


  • Display trending objects. Numbers don’t always tell the full story. By tracking trends, you can quickly see what might be improving or degrading over time. This will impact the actions taken by operators in both the immediate and long-term time horizon.


  • Update piping/other PID elements.  Illustrations that mimic piping and other system elements in realistic fashion can make it difficult for operators to quickly isolate issues. Simplify representations and make sure they are accurately depicting the current state of your equipment.


  • Remove distracting visual elements. This includes gradient coloring, animations and flashing objects.  These design elements distract the operator rather than draw them in to what most needs attention.


  • Add or modify background color to improve contrast. It’s remarkable how changing the background of a display improves the human eye’s ability to process visual information. Our eyes are trained to look for contrast.


  • Encapsulate process areas in a card. Make it easy for your team to see related processes next to each other, even if the physical footprint of your solution is separated.


  • Consistent fonts, units and naming conventions. Consistency is key to processing visual information. This is a simple fix that can quickly make it easier for operators to focus on what’s critical.