In this day and age, human machine interfaces are everywhere. Think about every point of contact a human has with technology and it becomes a reminder that as humans, we interact with machines in just about every aspect of our lives today. Self-service checkout at the grocery store, plugging an address into your car’s GPS or getting some cash at the ATM are all examples of instances when humans interact with an interface designed to help foster human/machine communication.
As it applies to automation equipment in a manufacturing facility, human machine interface products offer the necessary electronics to easily control automation equipment in an industrial environment. HMI products can range from a simple design with basic screen controls to a more complex touchscreen with numerous features and windows. In most environments, whether for service oriented tasks or in an industrial environment, HMI systems must be resistant to dust, water, moisture, high or low temperatures and even chemicals.
There are many benefits to using HMI systems in an industrial environment. For starters, these systems help warn operators of potential equipment issues before they become an emergency. If an alarm or alert shows, it can allow the operator to locate machine malfunctions early in the process or to track potential problems before they happen. This increases overall productivity and reduces operational downtime. These systems can also provide messaging to operators, so they are alerted automatically about potential machine needs. Alarm and alert capabilities allow operators to work in a much more proactive way instead of a reactive one. Along these same lines, HMIs allow testing to be simulated which does not affect operations or require equipment to be tied up during the process. This helps increase overall production time.
Another benefit to HMI systems also has to do with planning. These systems provide an overall view of operations in real time so an operator can plan and control a manufacturing facility from a central location. This provides a secure way to manage equipment and facilities, especially in very risky or dangerous environments.
Because HMI systems are much simpler than their predecessors, they can reduce costs considerably. Maintaining one interface v. extensive selections of push buttons, selectors, indicator lights, and sensors can definitely save an operation a lot of money and prevent a lot of downtime.
When it is possible to repair rather than replace something it saves time and money too. Repairing an existing system saves on the cost of purchasing a new system, but it also saves time because there is no need for training operators on a new system. Another thought to consider is that often when an HMI system is changed, many other items may need to be modified as a result. This can become like a domino effect and cost an operation a significant amount of money. At Radwell International, the HMI Repair team can troubleshoot and repair down to the component level. With over 200 years of repair experience collectively, they are well versed in keeping HMI systems repaired and functioning at a high level.
Time is money and efficiency is a basic need to maintain and grow a profitable manufacturing environment. Because HMI systems create increased efficiency, greater productivity and a more proactive working environment, they can be the cornerstone of a better running operation and the path to future business growth.