Upgrading a DCS with an HMI graphical user interface

Upgrading a distributed control system (DCS) with a human-machine interface (HMI) was a simple process until the development team tried duplicatiing the functionality and identifying tag information.


A recent project involved upgrading the console screens of a Provox distributed control system (DCS) system to one using General Electric's (GE) Cimplicity 8.2 as the human-machine interface (HMI) graphical user interface (GUI). Duplicating the static look and feel was not too difficult, but when it came to duplicating the functionality and identifying tag information was a little tricky.

Not wanting to spend countless hours at the customer site reverse-engineering every type of screen object to determine functionality and tagging information a set of standard smart objects was created for similar applications of motors, valves, analog displays, etc., changing the color standards as needed to those required by the plant. Specialty objects were created as needed to satisfy the void where standard objects were not sufficient. This was a good strategy and the customer was satisfied with the overall look and feel of the screens.

To assist in the object functionality, location, and tag association, the customer supplied text file exports of the Provox screens and their configurations along with screen-shots of both the running and configuration screens. This information proved to be monumental.

The example below shows the conditional and color characteristics of an auto/manual indication and a control valve object on the screen.

Example of a conditional and color characteristics of an auto/manual indication and a control valve object on the screen. Courtesy: Art Howell, Maverick Technologies

The following information below shows the XY coordinates and conditional information along with tag information of various objects on the screen.

Example of XY coordinates and conditional information along with tag information of various objects on the screen. Courtesy: Art Howell, Maverick Technologies

By using the screen-shots and these text files, we were able to tag and recreate animation functionality for more than 80% of the screen objects.

These are just a couple of examples of the use of text file exports from the Provox system that can be used to reverse-engineer a system and assist one in the upgrade process. Anyone that is doing an upgrade of a Provox system should consider using this information; it will save countless hours of sitting at a Provox console and manually reverse-engineering screens and their objects.

What tools have you used in this application?

This post was written by Art Howell. Art is a senior engineer at Maverick Technologies, a leading automation solutions provider offering industrial automation, strategic manufacturing, and enterprise integration services for the process industries. Maverick delivers expertise and consulting in a wide variety of area including industrial automation controls, distributed control systems, manufacturing execution systems, operational strategy, business process optimization and more.

Maverick Technologies is a CSIA member as of 3/10/2016

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