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What Is an HMI? Human-Machine Interfaces Made Simple

Industry 4.0 is all about efficiency, and it’s easier to be efficient when your ecosystem is seamlessly connected. A major component of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is a robust human-machine interface (HMI), also known as your dashboard.

An intuitive HMI is critical to increasing efficiency and safety in a manufacturing environment. In this article, we’ll cover what an HMI is, why it is important, and how it connects with other smart factory devices like Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC).

What Is a Human-Machine Interface (HMI) in Manufacturing?

A human-machine interface (HMI) is a dashboard or screen that connects a person to a machine, device, or system via programmable logic controllers (PLC). HMIs enable your technicians to interact, often remotely, with complex machinery and smart devices. HMIs help keep your interactions between your staff and machines safe and efficient.

What Does an HMI Do?

A human-machine interface lets human operators control and program complex machinery and functions. Here are a few examples of what an HMI does and how it increases efficiency in smart factories.

Intuitively Displays Data

First and most importantly, HMIs have a screen that displays data collected from the manufacturing process. Human operators interact with this screen to monitor and control machine processes. Your HMI may look like a massive control panel with switches and buttons, or it may look more like a traditional computer with a keyboard and touchscreen. It all depends on your needs.

Real-time data will appear on your HMI’s screen. This data might include information about machine performance, temperature readings, pressure and speed warnings, or the timeline for upcoming maintenance. The display allows human operators to consider this information and make adjustments remotely, such as starting or stopping machines or changing settings.

Increases Efficiency with Alerts

HMIs increase efficiency in a few different ways.

First, you can program your PLC to alert your team to any anomalies or issues in the system. If a machine’s speed slows down or the temperature gets too high, an alert will appear on your HMI before your machine breaks down. This helps prevent unplanned downtime.

Next, most HMIs have a user-friendly interface. There is often a learning curve because your team is managing complex systems, but the graphical representations of data and machine functions will help them immensely. Ease-of-use helps reduce errors and improve the efficiency of human operators.

Importantly, most HMIs can log and display data in intuitive ways and in real-time. This makes it easier for your team to make data-backed decisions regarding trends, processes, quality control, and more.

How Do HMIs and PLCs Connect?

HMIs and PLCs go hand-in-hand, and HMIs can also integrate with other hardware and software. Think of the HMI as the central interface that integrates with other systems like PLCs, Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition systems (SCADA), and other IIoT devices, providing a bird’s-eye-view of your entire manufacturing process.

Your PLC collects data from inputs like machines and smart devices. Because it’s a computer, you can configure it to store and analyze that data. Then, the PLC sends the processed data to your HMI for your team to consider and act on.

Conveniently, your HMI can be customized to meet the specific needs of a particular manufacturing process or operator preference, enhancing overall efficiency and user experience.

Explore HMIs for Your Smart Factory

HMIs in manufacturing are essential for the effective interaction between humans and machines, providing a critical link in monitoring, controlling, and optimizing industrial processes. If you’re ready to upgrade your system or just want to know more about your options, contact our experts at ProphecyIoT today.

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