As the complexity of tasks within the industrial and commercial sectors grow, there is an ever-expanding need for systems that allow people to work with them. This might be for analysing data, measuring performance, or simply providing a machine with instructions on how to manufacture a particular product.

In short, there is a need to make industrial and commercial processes more human-compatible, so that communication between machines and processes, and their respective personnel, is clearer, more efficient, and more effective.

One such answer to these challenges comes in the form of human-machine interfaces (HMI), which while having been around for a long time, have only grown in their sophistication over the years.

Opting for these systems has become an essential part of running businesses out of certain industries due to their intuitive and user-friendly nature.

So, can your business benefit from implementing HMIs as part of its own processes? We will explore this matter here.

To do this, we will start by taking a closer look at what exactly human-machine interfaces are, which industries make the most use of them, what these systems can be used to accomplish, as well as their benefits and drawbacks within a business environment.

So, let’s get started:

What Does HMI Mean?

This term is an anagram for Human Machine Interface, and as the name suggests, this technology provides a platform for people to interact with machines.

The goals for doing so vary greatly according to how the HMI is being applied within a work environment and we will discuss that a little bit later, but it is important to know that these interfaces can be found in nearly all types of technology that we interact with on a daily basis.

Having an argument with the printer in the office? It’s because you might not understand the workings of its touch screen panel.

That digital display on your thermostat? It can be considered an HMI.

So basically, any digital device that allows you to interact with a machine in any way, whether giving it instructions or getting data out of it, can be considered a human-machine interface.

This is a fairly broad definition of what these systems are. And while those screens that allow you to interact with devices on a daily basis can technically be lumped into the same category, the term is generally reserved for those dashboards used to interact with machines, systems or devices within an industrial or commercial setting.

Industries that Rely on HMIs

So, if they are better reserved to describe dashboards used inside of industrial settings, let’s take a closer look at some of the industries that are most reliant on HMI systems for their daily tasks.

These include, but are by no means limited to data collection and management, manufacturing and production, logistics and transport, monitoring and control for compliance, energy and power, and many of the other fields of petrochemistry.

Data Management

Data management is big business, and as the name would suggest, works with incomprehensible amounts of raw information gleaned from a multitude of sources.

The nature of these businesses is so complicated that machine learning systems are often employed to help process the staggering amounts of information available.

This means that machines are put to work wherever data is collected and analysed, from where extremely valuable findings need to be reported back to personnel in the industry.

This means that HMIs are not only beneficial to data collection and management but are actually an essential component for it.

Production & Manufacturing

Production and manufacturing plants of all types make extensive use of complicated machines such as 3D printers and CNC machines.

In these industries, HMIs thusly work to perform two separate, though equally crucial tasks.

Firstly, they allow operators to provide instructions to machines as to what to produce, the number of items produced, and the amount of time it needs to be done in.

On the other hand, machines need to be able to report back to personnel about the success of the production, the efficiency of the process, how it affects costs, alongside a host of other types of information.

In order to do this with any level of accuracy, HMIs are essential.

Logistics & Transport

Few things in this world are more complicated and sensitive to even the smallest changes than the many tasks and processes involved with logistics, transport and distribution.

Routes need to be meticulously planned to account for traffic, travel time, petrol or diesel costs, weight, tariffs, wear and tear on vehicles, alongside a range of other important, though easily overlooked factors.

In such settings, human-machine interfaces are crucial to the success and profitability of businesses in these industries.

Monitoring & Control

Those businesses that help clients prepare compliance with their products through rigorous testing and monitoring, make extensive use of sensitive digital technology to make measurements, set parameters and obtain relevant data from tests.

These types of industries work through a range of specialist devices, all of which are communicated with through HMIs.

Energy, Power & Petrochemical

These interrelated industries all work with very sensitive equipment, as well as highly hazardous and volatile materials.

Their processes are remarkably complex and rely on a smorgasbord of different activities all being carried out at once.

Because of the complex nature, and the hazardous nature of the work, there is extremely little room for error.

To ensure that things are orchestrated properly and streamlined, HMIs are heavily relied upon in these industries.

Uses for HMIs

With so many different industries reliant on effective HMI technology, it is easy to see why these systems play a pivotal part in general business.

But being widely used doesn’t say an awful lot about what these systems are actually used for. The applications span far and wide with very few limitations.

So, we will take this moment to explore some of the most common uses for human-machine interfaces.

Display Data Visually

One of the most basic functions of HMI systems is to provide operators, moderators, managers and anyone else involved with related processes, with the ability to obtain a wealth of information about processes, at a glance.

This could be related to production efficiency, the cost, time taken, the quality of output, or could even simply be related to processed data.

The point is, that HMIs gives operators the ability to understand the parameters of mechanical, electrical or digital operations, in a format that is easy to understand.

Track Production Processes

In production environments HMIs can provide operators with essential information related to all aspects of production, from potential costs, interruptions and their reasons, where the process can be further streamlined, and what production costs per unit; just as a few examples.

Performance Indicators

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are an important part of measuring the effectiveness of just about any business in terms of reaching production goals.

For some businesses, this means sorting through an overwhelming amount of data relating to production tasks, staff and processes. When handled without digital assistance, this can be remarkably time consuming and complicated.

With the assistance of the right HMIs, however, KPIs can be streamlined effectively, and clearly communicated with those responsible.

The Benefits of HMIs for Your Business

With these basic functions out of the way, many readers might find it easy to see how these human-machine interfaces can benefit just about any business that they are implemented.

There is a wide assortment of excellent advantages to be had when using them, but we will speak about those that have the greatest impact on the businesses that use them.

These include early alerts to possible concerns, improved reliability of information gained from these systems, better accuracy during tests and simulations, as well as better overall communication within a business.

Be Alert to Changes

The right HMI systems in place can allow businesses to pre-empt issues and complications by having machines let them know when any changes to the process have occurred.

This is particularly helpful in industrial applications where sudden changes to pressure or temperature could mean danger ahead or may have a negative impact on the production itself.

By being given early warnings in terms of deviations in production patterns, businesses can prepare themselves thanks to human-machine interface systems.

Improve the Reliability of Information

Data gathered directly from the devices involved in the production, that can be presented as usable information to operators, gives businesses a reliable set of insights into the various aspects of their systems.

This allows them to make educated decisions and beneficial changes where needed, that allow processes to be optimised for better performance and results.

Enhanced Accuracy During Simulations

When specific tests are carried out, particularly in monitoring and control situations, operators or facilitators need to be given results that are as accurate as possible, if they are to make the most of informed decisions.

Many HMI systems even provide information about simulations in real-time, which means that adjustments or tweaks can be made on the fly during testing, leveraging these changes off of accurate results.

This will allow production changes to be made in less time, with better, more succinct outcomes.

Improved Time & Cost Efficiency

Since HMI systems enable operators to streamline every element of their processes using accurate and detailed feedback, these systems make optimising simple.

This, in turn, can have a vastly positive impact on the efficiency of each level of productivity.

The results of this are improved efficiency in terms of both time and monetary costs of production. This translates to a better bottom line.

Better Communication

Having a wealth of information on hand, that is reliable and relates directly to the facets communicated through the HMI, allows decision-makers to foster better communication between each other.

Ideas can be discussed based on solid collections of information to make the best possible decisions and communicated effectively down the line to streamline procedures.

The Drawbacks of Using HMIs

As it is with any system, there are one or two downsides to HMIs that business owners need to be aware of. For the most part, they are dwarfed by the advantages and can be navigated effectively with the help of the right provider.

Cost of Investment

There is, of course, a cost to implementing HMI systems in any business. You will need specific hardware and consultations that allow them to be successfully integrated into your processes. This naturally comes at an expense.

However, considering the ability to further streamline your processes and boost productivity, these systems should be looked at in terms of their return on investment rather than their cost.

Learning to Use the Interface

Learning to use an HMI system can also be quite complicated, especially for those with limited experience of similar interfaces.

This shouldn’t put you off, however, as the right supplier should be able to provide you with ample training on how to use these systems most effectively.

Contact Ana-Digi Systems for Details on Our Offers

Here at Ana-Digi Systems, we provide a wide range of specialised technological solutions, including cutting edge HMI systems that are designed to streamline a multitude of industrial and commercial processes.

If you would like to know more about our offers, feel free to get into contact with one of our representatives today, or visit our website for additional information on our offers.