The Fraunhofer Institute of Labor Economics and Organization (Fraunhofer IAO) examined the quality and features of HMI development tools in its study “Usability and Human Machine Interfaces in Production”. Nine HMI/SCADA systems were assessed using the same framework, and zenon from COPA-DATA achieved top marks.
Ergonomic design and intuitive user interface handling not only support users in learning and system operation; they are valuable assets, offering more efficiency and productivity to industrial and manufacturing companies. Today, more than ever, intuitive Human Machine Interfaces (HMI) offer a unique selling proposition in comparison with competitors.
Matthias Peissner, Director of the Human to Computer Interaction Competence Center at Fraunhofer IAO, explains: “Human Machine Interfaces for the control and monitoring of machinery and systems are of strategic importance in the industrial environment today. If a system is extremely user friendly, it lowers the number of operating errors and minimises training requirements. Therefore, usability has a direct influence on the productivity of a company. A high-quality HMI also reinforces the innovation power and the quality standards of a company.”
Overview of HMI development tools System assessment in the “Usability and Human Machine Interfaces in Production” study framework was based on numerous aspects. Experts from the renowned Fraunhofer IAO ascertained the most important criteria for high-quality HMIs and the requirements users have of development tools. Criteria considered in the study included the project experience of Fraunhofer IAO, current guidelines and standards – such as the standard series ISO 9241 – and talks with the manufacturers regarding functionality and potential. Subsequently, based on a realistic HMI concept, the Institute tested nine of the 50+ available HMI/SCADA systems on the market. The results of this study serve to aid decision-makers and HMI developers in choosing a suitable tool.
Experts from Fraunhofer IAO examined, amongst other things, the display options and available HMI elements, critical aspects of user administration and access rights, recipe or parameter management, as well as capabilities for international use. In order to display alarm and event messages in the HMI, so that efficient processing is guaranteed, Fraunhofer IAO also added a description of the quality characteristics for alarm and event management. Furthermore, the Institute took the usability and development support of each tool into consideration as a criterion. In the evaluation of the results, based on 10 criteria, the HMI/SCADA software zenon received the grade ‘very good’ seven times and ‘good’ three times.
Frank Hägele, Sales Manager at COPA-DATA GmbH, explains: “We are really pleased to have achieved such excellent results in the Fraunhofer IAO study – with an outcome that can hardly be topped. This result demonstrates that zenon offers everything required to create an intuitive, easy-to-learn user interface. Our solution enables companies to give their employees positive user experiences and continually increase the efficiency of their company.”
zenon - an overview of the findings of the study
The specialists from Fraunhofer IAO particularly emphasised the following capabilities and functions of the zenon software in their evaluation of the HMI/SCADA solution.
- Usability of the development environment: well-thought-out arrangement of screens, helpful search and filter options, logging and procedure steps
- Flexibility of the development environment: more than 300 drivers for PLC and bus systems, OPC connection, link to other systems (VSTA, VBA, VB-Script, .NET, ActiveX, C, C++, DCOM, DLL, Java), storage and retrieval of various project states
- Graphical elements: all fundamental functions for editing graphics and text, as well as additional functions (colour gradients, shadows, transparency etc) , creation of grouping complex objects, simple creation and use of colour palettes
- Control elements: simple and intuitive creation of control elements, optimisation for touch screens, creation of individual control elements via combined elements or ActiveX programming, definition and allocation of individual context menus
- Animation: Dynamisation of all screen elements (blinking, colour, rotation, position, visibility)
- Integration of files and media: Support of all common pixel and vector graphic formats (BMP, GIF, TIF, JPG, PNG, WMF, DXF, PLT) , integration of browsers and audio and video files (MP3, WAV, AVI, MPEG)
- Visual mask design: Default setting of the appearance of a new user interface (background graphics, colours, side panels, menu fields) , screen types with specific elements (e.g. historical alarm list) , multiple use of screen templates (frame, colours and fonts, user language tables and additional files)
- User administration: freely parameterisable user administration, extension via the Windows user administration, logging of the user administration
- Internationalisation: Online language switching, including switching between language-dependent files (graphics, fonts, help files, audio and video files, HTML pages) , process image of Asian and Arabian languages thanks to Unicode
- Logging and Alarm Message List: Display and configuration of alarms, messages and events in the Chronological Event List, categorising in alarm groups and alarm classes, assignment of help files, very extensive archiving system, evaluation and analysis of process data with the Report Generator, implementation of recipes with the Recipegroup Manager
Further information regarding COPA-DATA and the Fraunhofer Institute of Labor Economics and Organization can be found on the websites www.copadata.com and www.iao.fraunhofer.de/lang-en. You can also download the study “Usability and Human Machine Interfaces in Production” (German version only).