Great HMI programming and design can be a very effective tool to reduce operating costs through reduced downtime, easier maintenance, and more transparency into production trends. However, when new automated systems are created, HMI design is frequently an afterthought, only implemented at the very end of the project on a compressed timeline due to demanding schedules. We believe there can be a better approach to HMI programming and design that creates a competitive advantage for manufacturers.
Historically, HMIs have helped keep a particular process running, letting a plant operator or manager know if something was running well. Today, HMIs are transitioning from managing a process to managing the business. In order to do that effectively, HMIs need to be designed with the end user in mind.
Automationnth takes a deliberate, proactive, and iterative approach to HMI development in order to deliver an easy-to-use interface that provides relevant information at our customers’ fingertips. Instead of waiting until the end of an automation project to start HMI design, we work on HMI concepts with our customers at the beginning of the project. This enables the customer to provide feedback so we can iterate until we get the HMI design that will deliver optimal results.
As one of our Control System Integration services, our objective with HMI programming is to empower manufacturer’s employees by giving them cost-effective visualizations that are easy to use and enable faster decision making on the plant floor. We also offer our customers HMI training as a service to address gaps in skills.
Traditionally, HMI applications have been highly tailored to specific machines. Today, production environments and HMIs can be modeled on consumer technologies which emphasize customer experience and ease of development using fully evolved graphics. Simplicity and standardization help streamline the amount of information showcased on the HMI, making it easy to use for all skill levels in the plant.
In most plant environments, HMIs are used in a reactive way by responding to alarms if a machine isn’t working right, giving machine and control room operators limited information for troubleshooting or allowing them to lock out a system for safety purposes. However, with more connected assets and devices available through the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), HMIs can integrate other data sources and visualize new types of content. This can include proactive information including gauges that monitor electricity use, maintenance records from enterprise systems, geographic information system (GIS) data, and even weather forecasts that might change work procedures.
By using these sources of data in a proactive way, manufacturers can prevent issues before they happen, providing an excellent opportunity to improve profitability.
HMIs can now run on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, which opens up a new world of remote access applications for workers in the field or at home during off hours. This helps foster better decision making across the plant ecosystem. It can also enable remote support and troubleshooting which can reduce downtime.
By integrating data sources and alarms on equipment, manufacturers can have more real-time information on their HMI to help them make better decisions. For example, integrating the available data sources can highlight if there should be scheduled maintenance on an asset.
Having clear, simple HMI dashboards available to a lot of people helps operators increase production and lets the management team quickly see what’s going on so they can make adjustment as needed.
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