Human Machine Interface, or HMI as it is also known is an interface between the machine and its user. An interface can include items such as MP3 players, household appliances, industrial computers and office equipment. However, an HMI is very specific to manufacturing and process control systems. It provides a visual representation of any control system as well as real-time data acquisition. There are many advantages to using an HMI such as increased productivity due to a centralised control centre and the user friendliness of the interface. But what are the other advantages to using an HMI?
Reduce Hardware Needs
An HMI is able to replace hundreds of selectors, lights and other unnecessary buttons. As a result of this you will see a reduction in consoles, panels and cables throughout the plant which will help to minimise space, cost and other unnecessary hassles.
High Quality Graphics
With high quality graphics the operator and the management will have a very realistic view of the plant. The operator will be able to control the plant from a central location and will not need to be close to the equipment in order to control the monitor; which may be very useful if there are any concerns about security or safety.
If you need to execute specific recipes whether they are simple or complex, then a recipe manager may be very useful. The recipe can be controlled with the HMI to ensure exact steps are taken and the outcome is successful.
Real Time and Historical Alarms
Being able to view alarms will help the operator to locate and react to any malfunction or abnormality. There are a variety of alarms that may be used in any particular situation such as preventative alarms; to be used if you need to create a warning alarm before a critical point is reached. You will also be able to use historical alarm logging to track problems and optimise the process which may increase productivity and reduce any time that may be lost.
Messaging is an interesting functionality on an HMI. It allows you to page, fax or message someone when a specific event happens. Let's say that the oil level in a piece of equipment is reaching a dangerous level; this problem will be noted and the system will be able to page somebody that is in charge to fix the problem.
Create a Simulation
If you have a high-quality HMI you will be able to use its flexibility and simulate the plant within your office. This will assist the PLC program developers by helping them test their programs without using any equipment or devices. This type of simulation is becoming more and more popular as it can reduce start-up time.
Animate Equipment and Instruments Based on Individual Requirements
With the ability to animate your equipment and instruments it will provide an improved view of the process you are undertaking and will flag up any abnormalities making it much easier to ensure that your system is working correctly and there are no safety concerns.
Companies such as Unitronics and their partners can provide these interfaces to your business as well as providing free program training and a full technical service if you require it. So if you have not already incorporated an HMI system into your plant, now may be the time to do so.
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