Centralization in plant telecontrol.
How to bring User-centered Design into Control Room?


The operation in the control rooms of utility domain is changing due to advancements in industrial technology.

The mobility context of operators necessitates accessing information on multiple devices, while remote work requires access to plant controls through interfaces distributed in other parts of the world.

The User-Centered Design approach allows for translating these new needs into design solutions aimed at enhancing plant supervision and control.

Design HMI
SDI Automazione
Alessandro Pollini 
Angela Di Massa
Luca Raschi
Tania Sabatini
Mario Di Giorgio
Andrea Castellucci
IF Design Award 2021's Logo

Image of a Control Room with SDI's Interfaces

An innovative HMI that prioritizes operators' needs, minimizing distractions, and enhancing the user experience.

Over the years, the client had developed human-machine interfaces (HMIs) for different types of applications aimed at monitoring and managing industrial plants in control rooms. These solutions were characterized by heterogeneous visual styles and poor structural consistency.

The BSD team was engaged by SDI Automation to develop an adaptable HMI framework for the eXPert oE software. This framework needed to be versatile, catering to various types of plants (e.g., power generation, water distribution, wastewater treatment, etc.), and enhance operators' performance in both local (at the plant site) and remote control rooms.

Mockup of the final interface showing a synoptic

“Today, operators have completely different needs; we are not only interested in the views but also in the functionalities.”

The project started with an in-depth analysis of the usage context. This involved comprehensive field observations, interviews with users and stakeholders, and a thorough review of relevant standards, technical specifications, and best design practices for SCADA system design. These activities helped in identifying the primary operator tasks, such as monitoring plant operating parameters, overseeing production processes, managing alarms, and remotely controlling components.
Based on the results obtained, the HMI framework and the main interaction model were defined, forming the basis for creating the primary layouts of the supervisory environment.

Mockup of the final interface showing the alarm page

A flexible system capable of evolving and improving.

Adopting a user-centered approach, iterative evaluations were conducted to ensure the solution's relevance to the project requirements. This process included involving operators in usability testing sessions, validating the effectiveness of the solution.

The insights collected became the knowledge base for enhancing the solution, thus culminating in the definition of a framework capable of seamless adaptation to both local and remote control scenarios. The project continued with the definition of a library of objects (e.g., valves, pumps, compressors) used to build the plant synoptic pages. The visual identity created recalls the visual style of the brand, the domain requirements, and the High Performance guidelines of the HMIs.

The iF International Forum Design GmbH awarded the IF DESIGN AWARD 2021 in the "User Interface" category to the eXPert HMI oE project, recognizing the value of the proposal's graphic innovation and for the level of usability and accessibility achieved.

Image showing interface components