Increase Efficiencies with Standardized HMI

Every manufacturer has a HMI or Human Machine Interface, but they might not know it. From physical pushbutton stations to sophisticated graphical interfaces with 3D representations of equipment – HMIs are the visible part of a controls and/or manufacturing intelligence system. Unlike controller code that is seen by few, anyone and everyone can see the HMI. As the manufacturing industry moves rapidly into the virtual, paperless era, the standardized working environment for managing manufacturing operations require tools like HMI 3D visuals and flat screen monitors in control rooms and at strategic points throughout the facility.

HMI Standardization is Essential

Programming standards give manufacturers the ability to achieve the same look and feel across platforms. These standards aren’t a luxury, they are an operating necessity. Consistent look and feel promotes greater efficiency on the plant floor. The HMI platforms we program are often driven by our clients because of currently installed systems. Examples of HMI platform products include; Wonderware® InTouch®, and Rockwell Automation’s FactoryTalk View®. Polytron is a Certified Solution Partner in both of the platforms.

Platform Providers or Integrators

Platform providers tend to have well-defined and more rigid HMI standards in order to minimize their costs. System Integrators also have well-defined HMI standards, but they include more flexibility to accommodate customer requirements. It is possible to blend flexibility and standardization with an 80-20 approach ― a standard that accommodates 80% of provider standards with 20% for project-specific requirements. Applying standards at the proper level of granularity is vital to this approach.

The 3 Most Important Benefits of Standardized HMI

As standards are applied at greater scales, benefits multiply:

  1. Increase in productivity – The ease of use and functionality of HMI systems will increase your OEE and workforce productivity. The updated control system makes it easier to start, stop, troubleshoot and make changes in production.

  2. Easy to understand technology – In addition to increased productivity for operators, other tasks improve as well. Training, troubleshooting and line changes are simplified. A trained line operator can walk up to the HMI at any time/location and easily understand what is going on in a particular stage of production. Applied programming standards make it easy for users to dig deeper into the controls through the HMI to receive more information about a situation.

  3. Cost Efficiency – The return on investment for HMI standardization is quickly recaptured through the efficiency it brings to operations through reduced downtime for equipment issue resolution and changes, and increased productivity by operators, maintenance and engineering.

Benefits at Every Level

At the system and machine level, HMI design consistency promotes user confidence with regard to expectations on how the interface operates. For example, a button that takes you back to the main menu should be placed in the same location every time it is used. If the location varies from screen to screen, confusion and inefficiency prevail. In addition, if controls for seldom-accessed devices work in the same way as frequently-accessed devices, then the user can interact with those devices just as easily and with the same level of confidence.

With displays that show the status of all of the motors and machines and their current speeds, operators can have a clear understanding of what is occurring on the line at all times. Faults or alarms can sound on the screens giving operators the ability to quickly diagnose a problem so that it can be fixed immediately.

At the site level, users who move between manufacturing systems in the same facility understand how controls work regardless of assignment. Consistent HMI controls benefit operational performance by allowing line personnel to efficiently work on multiple systems more seamlessly. In addition, maintenance and engineering benefits from consistent troubleshooting capabilities across the facility. For example, a motor fault on Line A is reported and reset exactly the same way as on Line B. Additionally, consistent HMI systems reduce line training efforts for both students and trainers.

One of the biggest benefits of HMI standardization is realized at the enterprise level. Users who move between sites know how to operate and troubleshoot more efficiently. Training and documentation become even more efficient at the enterprise level. And, from a development perspective, those with the proven best practices can leverage solutions across the enterprise. For example, Plant A may have more experience on process, while Plant B has more experience on packaging. Plant A can leverage process solutions for both sites while Plant B leverages packaging solutions. Standardization allows all plants to share solutions and maximize the capability and efficiencies across the manufacturing enterprise. Think about how you interact with the ATM at your bank. If it is different from branch to branch, you need to re-learn for each ATM visit. If standardized, you can make your transactions quicker and easier no matter which banking branch you visit.

Additional Benefits

Since the HMI and controller devices work closely together, HMI standards advance additional efficiencies through controller programming standards. Consistency on the graphic and logic sides further reduces effort and provides more time for the 20% project-specific requirements. This leads to enhanced code reusability which significantly reduces application development effort. In the same way that standards help the customer to leverage consistent experience in the enterprise, standards also help developers to “not reinvent the wheel” and apply industry expertise effectively.

Beyond application development, standards facilitate documentation and training. Standard documentation and training materials can be developed for the 80%, forming a module – complete with graphics, controller code, documentation, and training materials. These modules can form the basis for a comprehensive application development library.

Polytron’s 3D HMI Model

A top-down view of a production line is typical in a HMI. However, when the line contains a spiral or multi-level conveyor, a top-down view will significantly diminish the power of the HMI for appropriate line management. So, as an HMI 3D expert, Polytron builds a 3D model to view the line from the side, at different angles and levels, with the ability to zoom in at any point. This provides operators and technicians the ability to clearly see what is happening on the entire line from the perspectives they need to make better decisions and changes.

It’s important to focus on an efficient HMI design that functions well and looks good. Polytron upholds a high graphics standard among nearly any combination of hardware and software. Flashy animations and software might look impressive in an HMI demonstration, but doesn’t contribute to the HMI’s effectiveness ― in fact it slows down the operator’s navigation to devices and information.

All of these benefits add up to an overall increased efficiency in manufacturing system and a reduction in mean time to repair by as much as 50 percent.