The Human-Machine Interface is the main tool through which line operators and supervisors coordinate and supervise industrial and manufacturing processes in factories.
A Human Machine Interface (HMI) is a user interface allowing a person to be connected to a machine, to a system or to an appliance. In theory, therefore, it is possible to use this term to define any screen that allows a user to interact with a device. However, it is generally used in the context of an industrial process.
An interface between the process and the operators:
The Human Machine Interface (HMI) is the interface between the process and the operators – in essence, the operator dashboard. It is the main tool through which line operators and supervisors coordinate and supervise industrial and manufacturing processes in factories. Human-Machine interfaces are used to transform complex process variables into usable and exploitable information.
The near display of real-time operational information is the domain of the HMI. Graphical process visuals give meaning and context to valve and motor status, vessel level and other parameters. HMIs provide operational insight into a process and enable control and optimization by regulating production goals.
Traditional HMIs have inherently created information overload situations.
This problem has been greatly exacerbated by the fact that there is an overall shortage of skilled manpower to understand all the information delivered by HMIs. In addition, the responsibility of operators is often enormous, their shifts are often too long and lead to fatigue.
With these problems constantly growing every year, the ease of use and operation of HMIs has never been stronger.
First, modern interfaces should automatically and intuitively grab the attention of operators when something goes wrong. They must apply standard operating procedures and ensure easy identification of abnormal conditions in a timely manner. An advanced “situational awareness” design should help the operator understand what is going on, focus on the problem, and instantly deliver intuitive interfaces to quickly take corrective action.
Second, modern HMIs should aim to provide more than a visualization of processes. They must enable the connection between people, applications and machines for greater collaboration, efficiency and economy. HMIs need to expose the right information to the right people at the right time; allowing them to make the best decisions.
Other terms can also be used to refer to this technology:
Operator Interface Terminal, Local Operator Interface, or even Operator Terminal. On the other hand, IHMs should not be confused with Graphical User Interfaces (GUI). These are often used within an HMI interface for visualization purposes.
HMIs can take different forms. These can be screens built directly into machines, computer screens, touchpads, and more. Regardless of the form, however, the purpose of these interfaces remains the same: to provide insight into machine performance and progress.
Human-machine interface: what is it for?
In an industrial context, HMIs can be used for several reasons. They can be used to display data visually, or to track production times or trends. They can also be used to monitor performance codes or to monitor machine inputs and outputs. These are just a few examples, but HMIs can have many other use cases.
For example, a plant operator can use an HMI to monitor and control the temperature of an industrial water tank, or to check whether the various pumps in the complex are operating correctly. These interfaces, therefore, serve as gateways between operators and industrial equipment.
Who uses human-machine interfaces?
HMI technologies are used in almost all industrial companies, as well as by other companies, to interact with machines and optimize industrial processes. Human-machine interfaces are used in particular in the energy, food, manufacturing, oil and gas, energy, recycling and transport industries.
The people responsible for using the HMIs are mainly, operators, system integrators, and engineers (more particularly control system engineers). They use these interfaces as essential resources to monitor processes, diagnose problems, and visualize data.
What is the difference between HMI and SCADA?
HMIs are similar to SCADA (Control and Data Acquisition System) systems and are often used simultaneously within an industrial control system. However, they have several differences.
HMIs mainly allow information to be displayed visually to allow the user to supervise an industrial process. SCADA systems, on the other hand, have a higher capacity in terms of data acquisition and use of control systems.
Unlike SCADA systems, HMIs do not allow information to be collected or stored. They also cannot connect to databases. These are communication tools that function as a part (or in addition to) of a SCADA system.