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The Benefits of Robotics Integration in Manufacturing Industry

When Henry Ford realized he could not manufacture enough of the Ford Model T with conventional manufacturing, he invented the assembly line. That was over a hundred years ago, in 1913. The assembly line reduced the time it took to build a car from 12 hours to one and a half hours. Manufacturing found a solution for mass production without expanding operations and deploying additional labour. Today, most modern cars roll off the assembly line at rates ranging from 45 to 90 seconds. These are also much more sophisticated than the Ford Model T and involve a much larger number of parts. This has been facilitated by the gradual integration of robotics in the manufacturing process, taking automation to the next level.

 

Robotics Integration in Manufacturing Industry

The modern robot is about 60 years old and was first used in the automobile industry by General Motors. When introduced in 1961, Unimate was initially used to handle hot pieces of die cast metal, a difficult task for human workers. Gradually it was used to transfer these parts to the assembly line and weld them. The integration of robots in manufacturing automation had begun. More operations like pick and place, engine assembly, inspection, painting, etc., were gradually taken over by robots. Soon robots were also adopted by electronics and white goods industries. Today, apart from manufacturing industries, robots are widely used in service industries like healthcare, hospitality sector and logistics and warehousing, etc.

 

Benefits of Robotics Manufacturing

Robots in manufacturing bring many advantages to the enterprise as these take out the drudgery from many tasks and perform them better than human workers. Robots perform with high accuracy, can work continuously and the results are always consistent. This leads to vastly increased productivity and higher quality of production, while reducing the cost as the return of investment is quick. Robots also offer other advantages as better utilization of floor space, increased safety and flexibility of operations. The following paragraphs examine some of these benefits at length.

 

Enhanced Productivity and Operational Efficiencies

Whatever human workers do, robots can do faster, with more accuracy and consistency, which leads to better productivity and enhanced operational efficiency. The same amount of work gets done much faster, at higher efficiency, without any break or disruption. This is one of the biggest advantages of robots as, according to a survey, close to 25% of unplanned downtime in the manufacturing sector happens because of human error, compared to about 10% in other fields. It is important here to remember that if automation increases efficiency, robotic automation raises it even further.

 

Improved Quality Consistency

Unlike human workers, robots do not get tired even if the job is repetitive, nor do they suffer from attention deficiency, which results in poor quality of work. Once programmed for a specific task, the robot works continuously without break, with the same weld quality from Job 1 to Job 1000, without any flaw. The same is the case with machine tending robots which work continuously loading and unloading the jobs in machines nonstop. This not only results in high quality of jobs, but also the same quality maintained consistently.

 

Increased Workforce Safety

No matter how careful a worker is and how well maintained a facility, the probability of an accident or incident due to some lapse or human error is always present. Besides, many workplaces like welding shops and paint shops, foundries and heat treatment facilities, have high temperatures and toxic fumes, hazardous to human health. Robots can work without any glitch in such environments without suffering any loss in their regular efficiency. Once programmed, robots do not deviate from the set pattern of movement. They are also operating in enclosed areas for further safety.

 

Better Factory Space Utilization

Living creatures need space for freedom of movement and human beings are no exception – human workers need space to be at ease or else they will suffer claustrophobia. Robots do not need any extra room beyond their degree of movement and hence have a small footprint, which leads to better utilization of the shop floor space. An automated robotic assembly line will need much less space than one with human workers.

 

Escalating Throughput and Profit Margins

According to a comparative study of a manufacturing facility using only human workers with that of a plant using industrial robotic automation, robots help increase productivity by 50% with a corresponding increase in productivity by 50% and an increase in utilization of the facility by more than 85%. This directly translates into increased throughput and higher profit margins. There could be further gains if the manufacturing facility with robotic automation operates 24/7, as many facilities in more industrialized countries are doing for years, with the night shift having just a few human supervisors.

 

Scalability and Flexibility

Robots are both scalable as well as flexible. Once a manufacturing facility integrates robots in its operations, production can be scaled up by deploying additional robots. Unlike human workers who specialize in only certain skills, robots are programmable which means with appropriate changes, they can be deployed for jobs requiring various skills, making them highly flexible. This flexibility is highly desirable today in the era of mass customization as envisaged by Industry 4.0.

 

The Future Scope and Importance of Robotics

The present generation of robots is far more agile and sophisticated than the first generation, which was largely crude and capable of only a few operations. With application of artificial intelligence and machine learning, and equipped with machine vision, robots today are highly intelligent, and can run a plant autonomously. Japanese company Fanuc, which is considered the largest manufacturer of robots, has for years been running a fully robotized ‘Lights-Out’ facility for manufacturing robots! Given these abilities, robots are today deployed in almost every field – from tending machines to sweeping mines in war zones. The healthcare and hospitality industries are already using robots to reduce the workload on human workers, as wherever repetitive tasks are involved, robots are eminently suitable for the job. With the advent of collaborative robots or cobots, they are also working side by side with human coworkers.

 

Conclusion

Given the fact that robots are capable of massive productivity gains with their many advantages that result in higher profits, no manufacturing facility can today afford to ignore the reality. To compete globally in manufacturing, Indian companies have to deploy robots on a large scale. However, it is also important to first study the actual requirements and more important, whether robots are actually suitable for a given operation or factory. If a plant is running profitably without robots, investing in costly robotics may prove disastrous in case the ROI is not planned properly without corresponding increase in production and efficiency. It is here that expert advice is most needed, to understand the pros and cons of robotic automation.

For more information or assistance, send us an email at rfq@enwps.com.


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Everything You Need to Know About Robotics in Manufacturing

The term ‘robot’ is derived from Slavic roots denoting labour and was first used in 1920 by Czech writer Karel Čapek in a play about a factory fabricating artificial humans. Even before that, human beings were fascinated with the idea of some kind of automaton, which could do laborious jobs. Leonardo da Vinci’s Mechanical Knight from the Renaissance period was perhaps the best representation of this effort. It is not known whether da Vinci actually made a prototype, but a model constructed much later based on his design was found to be working with a combination of levers and pulleys.

 

The first modern programmable robot – a mechanical arm – was designed and manufactured by George Devol. Called the Unimate, Devol worked to refine this further with Joseph Engelberger, his contemporary and fellow inventor, who is today acknowledged as the ‘Father of Robotics’. The Unimate was an autonomous, pre-programmed robot designed to perform a task repeatedly. It was first installed in 1961 by General Motors at its factory to move pieces of hot metal. Thus began the evolution of the modern industrial robot.

 

Robotics in Manufacturing

Robots are ruling the manufacturing sector in the developed world. According to the latest sales figures released by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), the operational stock of industrial robots hit a new record of about 3 million units worldwide – increasing by 13% on average each year (2015-2020). The report also mentions 5 key trends that are shaping robotics and automation around the globe, and the top trend is that segments that are relatively new to automation are rapidly adopting robots. The fact of the matter is, in a globalized world where nations are competing in exports of manufactured goods and trade surpluses, robots are playing an important role in productivity and economies of scale. There is no single factor behind the increasing adoption of robots in manufacturing. The most common advantages of robots over their human counterparts are by now too well known – speed, precision and accuracy, besides the ability to operate in hazardous locations. Robots do not get tired, do not make mistakes and do not report sick or need vacations. Together, these attributes have worked well in increasing production efficiency manifold, while at the same time reducing costs significantly.

 

A Brief History of Robotics

As mentioned in the introductory para, the first modern robot was installed in 1961 by General Motors. The Unimate was a very basic, hydraulically actuated robot arm, noisy in operation. But as the automotive industry was trying to ramp up production, anything that speeded up the process attracted attention and eyeing the potential benefits, many competitors started working on similar products. In 1962, AMF Corporation manufactured the Verstran (derived from Versatile Transfer) cylindrical robot that was quickly adopted by rival Ford. By late 1960s, Japanese companies were competing in the US automotive industry and Kawasaki obtained a licence to manufacture the Unimate in Japan, thus becoming the first Japanese manufacturer. In 1969, inventor Victor Scheinman working at Stanford University developed the Stanford arm, the first all-electric 6-axis articulated robot. In 1975 ASEA, which later became ABB, developed the first electrically driven robot in Europe, which was also the first microprocessor-controlled robot that used Intel’s first chipset. By the late 1970s, several other companies had developed robots dedicated to specific tasks like welding and painting. By the mid-1980s, Yaskawa had launched the Motorman ERC control system in the US, with power to control up to 12 axes. In 1992, FANUC created the first prototype of an intelligent robot. The era of modern industrial robots had begun.

 

Major Types of Robots Used in Manufacturing

Industrial robots are classified based on mechanical configuration, and as such, there are six major types, viz., articulated robots, Cartesian robots, SCARA robots, delta robots, spherical or polar robots and cylindrical robots. That apart, robots are also classified according to motion control, power supply control and physical characteristics.

 

  • Articulated robot is one of the most common types and resembles a human arm, which is connected to the base with a twisting joint. Movement of the arm depends on the rotary joints ranging from two to ten – the more the number, the more the degrees of freedom. These robots are very precise and flexible, and are heavy duty workhorses used in material handling, foundries, assembly and welding applications.

 

  • Cartesian robots, also called rectilinear or gantry robots, have a rigid rectangular configuration. The linear motion of these robots is delivered by three prismatic joints sliding on three perpendicular axes (X, Y and Z). An attachment of a ‘wrist’ provides rotational movement if needed. These robots are not very expensive and are used in the majority of industrial assembly and other applications.

 

  • SCARA (Selective Compliance Assembly Robot Arm) robots consist of two parallel joints with a two-link arm layout similar to human arms that can extend or retract easily into confined areas. SCARA robots specialize in lateral movements and are mostly used for assembly applications. The SCARA robots can move faster and have easier integration than cylindrical and Cartesian robots.

 

  • Delta robots, also called parallel link robots, consist of three arms connected to universal joints at a common base. The arms only move in the X, Y, and Z direction with no rotation. The positioning can be controlled easily with its arms, facilitating high speed operation. Delta robots are generally used for fast pick-and-place or product transfer applications.

 

  • Spherical robots, also called polar robots, have a twisting joint connecting the arm with the base and a combination of two rotary joints and one linear joint connecting the links. These robots have a spherical work envelope and the axes form a polar coordinate system. These robots sweep a large volume of space, but the access of the arm is restricted within its workspace.

 

  • Cylindrical robots have at least one rotary joint at the base and at least one prismatic joint connecting the links. These robots have a cylindrical workspace with a pivoting shaft and an extendable arm which moves vertically and by sliding. These robots offer vertical and horizontal linear movement along with rotary movement about the vertical axis.

 

Common Applications and Robotics Integration in Industries

The various types of robots described above have distinct characteristics making them suitable for specific tasks like pick & place, machine tending, material handling, welding of various types, painting, packaging, assembly, etc. In other words, robots can be integrated into routine industrial operations to perform repetitive and tedious operations as also deployed in hazardous environments which is too dangerous for human operators. However, this may call for professional expertise to determine the exact selection of the robot and its accessories, as robots are an expensive investment, and a wrong choice of hardware can cause a serious setback. There are system integrators who analyze the operations of a plant and offer the correct recommendations about the type of robot best suited for a given operation.

 

Advantages of Robotic Automation

  • For countries with the highest robot density – number of robots per 10,000 population – like Singapore, South Korea, Japan and Germany, robots are a necessity to overcome shortage of labour. These are countries with high productivity in manufacturing industries, manufacturing engineering equipment, machinery, electronics, computers and peripherals, white goods, etc., with a high share of exports. Even China is fast catching up in robot deployment even though labour is abundant because it is competing with these countries in productivity.

 

  • If labour is one part of the productivity equation, quality is another. Robots are not only more productive, but they are also highly accurate and consistent. The most efficient human workers need rest, robots do not. The highly automated automobile plants where a car rolls off the assembly lines after every certain minute, are also high on robotic automation. The weld and paint quality that robots provide is impossible for human labour on that scale. Same is the case with white goods and consumer durables.

 

  • Another important advantage of robots is safety. Robots are often deployed in hazardous areas with high temperatures like foundries and furnaces in steel and heavy engineering industries as well as chemical plants, where human labour is exposed to higher risks. Robots take away the drudgery from human workers.

 

The Future Scope of Robotics in Manufacturing

As Industry 4.0 technologies usher in the era of smart factories and Lights-Out manufacturing, robots will take over more and more jobs, and work with their human counterparts. The entry of collaborative robots has made this co-working environment safe. In the next ten years, more and more people around the world will be working with robots. With programming and installation of robots becoming simpler and intuitive, most workers will be comfortable handling robots, which has so far been the preserve of experts. Collaboration and digitalization are key drivers that will benefit robot implementation. According to the IFR, in future, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning tools will further enable robots to learn by trial-and-error or by video demonstration and self-optimize their movements.

 

Robots will become smarter, more connected, more mobile and more ‘normal’. They will become an ever increasingly familiar sight not only in manufacturing but in our everyday life, from shelf management in the supermarket, to hotel concierge functions and even serving at restaurants.

 

Conclusion

Digitalization has unleashed the next wave of automation with emerging technologies helping robots to become even more agile and versatile. The Covid-19 pandemic has also brought home the need for more autonomous factory operations in future, and hence the prospects for industrial robots remain excellent. Robotic automation or use of robots in industry has many advantages that lead to increased productivity. But robots are an expensive investment, and the ROI must be justified, so deploying robots must be a carefully considered decision, with guidance from professionals.

For more information or assistance, send us an email at rfq@enwps.com.


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Design Considerations and Tips for Developing an Efficient HMI System

The HMI or Human-Machine Interface (HMI) evolved in the 1950s as a user interface that connects a person to a machine, when batch processing was the dominant mode of engaging with machines. At the most basic level, the HMI helps a user to interact with machines, most commonly in industrial processes or transportation systems like train and aircraft movements. It helps check the various parameters, displays the readings and generates alarms when these are exceeded. The evolution of the HMIs continues in the digital era with more and more features added, but the basic purpose remains the same – to provide insights into the performance and running conditions of machines and processes.

 

Importance of design in HMI

The HMI is what connects the machine or process with the human operator and hence performs a critical role in the smooth functioning of the machine or plant. It must provide, at a glance, all the critical parameters and functions of the machine in appropriate sequence and color codes to indicate critical parameters. A machine or process may have hundreds of functions, but not all are critical for safe running, so it is important to get the operator’s perspective when designing the HMI. At the same time it must also factor in the critical requirements of the process or operation and ensure the HMI serves the purpose for which it is designed. Above all, the HMI should be rugged to withstand the operating environment and last the life cycle of the equipment it controls.

 

How to design an HMI system?

Any device used for a critical function – the HMI falls in this category – must follow the standards prescribed for such devices in terms of design, layout, ergonomics, safety, and quality. One must also consider matters like the size of the HMI, the environmental conditions it will be exposed to, the materials of construction, IP ratings, etc., during the initial design process. Since the HMI is all about process parameters and machine health, it is important to capture all information and have adequate space for all the information that an operator must have access to, as well as presentation in appropriate format in terms of graphics, pie charts, tables, etc. It should not only indicate parameters and highlight abnormalities, but also generate alarms, and more importantly, log them. The HMI should also have the capability to interact with other devices, and above all, should be password protected to prevent unauthorized access.

 

Design considerations and tips

Since there is no one size fits all in matters of HMI selection, there are several important considerations when it comes to designing an HMI for a given application.

Here are the important considerations and tips:

  • General functionality: What are the tasks that will be performed by the HMI? What type of actuation modes are required to initiate action – switches, pushbuttons, etc., and whether multiple functions can be combined, the number of screens, among other things; as also the modes and methods of feedback – auditory, visual or sensory.
  • Defining the objectives: The short listing of the HMI design requirements begins by first determining the objectives. What is the equipment or process that is to be monitored, what are the controls to be vested with the operator, and what are the overall requirements of the HMI in the process.
  • Functions and controls: The next step is to decide on the number of functions to be monitored and controlled and on the exact manner in which it is to be done – the number of screen displays, and the method of intervention by pushbuttons or rotary switches, the nature of feedback – audio, visual or vibratory.
  • Degree of Input Complexity: It is important to decide the input mode – whether an On/Off switch or a sophisticated touchscreen display. Though touchscreen based HMI systems are preferred today, these are not suitable for all operating environments, especially in process industries. However, in certain applications, touchscreen operations are highly desirable, especially where there are many different controls in the process.
  • Operator Feedback: What is the feedback mode to the operator? This is critical – the feedback can be audio, visual or sensory, or a combination of all three. Feedback is an essential feature of an HMI since it is a confirmation of the actions performed or a call for action, and should be compatible with the input mode as well.
  • Interface/Interconnection with Other Systems: Since the HMI works in a manufacturing or process set up, it must be able to interface and connect with other devices for input or output like I/O points or serial bus. The HMI could also be networked with the MES system or in case of service industry, into the overall operations of the institution.
  • Environmental Considerations: The physical location of the HMI in a particular environment is an important design consideration as it could be exposed to heat, moisture, vibrations, wear and tear and even deliberate abuse by vandals. Whether the factory floor or process industry environment, indoors or outdoors, environmental considerations must be factored in.
  • Lifecycle Durability: Apart from environmental considerations, the HMI must be basically a sturdy unit to last as much as the equipment it is connected to, or its lifecycle. Failure of the HMI may cast a doubt on the entire equipment of the shop floor or the system.
  • Style: While in a typical industrial environment, style may not matter much, but an item designed aesthetically always creates a positive impact. In case of a service industry like luxury hotels and public utilities, style becomes a significant design element.
  • Regulatory/Standards Considerations: All industries are guided by certain engineering standards and regulatory considerations in terms of safety, durability and the operating environment. These could be standards and specifications as mandated by bodies like ANSI, IEC, IEEE or other industry specific standards for Oil & Gas and mining industries and even military grades, which the HMIs have to adhere to.
  • Define the Operator: Notwithstanding the sophistication of the HMI, the operator is an important link in the system. The HMI must be designed with the operator in mind, and skill levels. There are routine systems that need operators with just basic skills and there are critical systems where the operators also function as troubleshooters. The HMI design should ideally consider the operator skills and for what functions it is used.
  • Operators: Regardless of the profile and skills, the basic function of the HMI is to provide the operator access to the various controls for running the equipment for routine tasks, with information made available on request. The idea is to provide information for decision making, but at the same time reduce the possibilities to make errors.
  • Supervisors: Apart from the operator, the HMI is also used by the supervisor, who has a greater control on the operations and may have a different login access for that. Some HMIs may even have different screens and more control options.
  • Maintenance: There is yet another category who has even more access to the HMI functions than operators and supervisors and that is the maintenance personnel. So the HMI design must consider these distinctions and that should reflect in the design, layout, components, the screen presentation as well as safety aspects.
  • Panel Layout: One of the critical design aspects of the HMI is the panel layout which should display the information in a manner consistent with the operation sequence and for intuitive access. The operator must also receive the feedback on the actions initiated, with timely prompts for further actions. The design of the HMI should also consider the use of appropriate accessories like buttons and switches. The Emergency Stop button must be prominently displayed and should not be prone to accidental activation.
  • HMI Component Selection: The component selection for the HMI should be guided by practical considerations like the application requirements and how best are they suited in terms of electrical rating and safety, type of actuation – on-off/rotary, type of mounting, with/without pilot illumination, and the ability to withstand the operating environment.
  • Color Scheme: Colors provide options, other than the traditionally used Green for Start, Red for Stop and Amber or Yellow for warnings. While colors used must be bright, the HMI should ideally avoid the use of too many colors or flashy displays as that could be distracting. The color should supplement the information rather than be the only source of it.
  • Information Presentation: This is the main purpose of the HMI and it should be presented in as simple a manner as possible. There is no point in cluttering the display with too many data points as that could confuse the operator and cause errors and erratic responses. Clearly defined menus, use of graphics and separate screens for different sets of information may be considered.
  • User Feedback: Finally, the crux of the matter – getting the feedback instantly for the actions initiated from the HMI. The operator should receive the feedback for every action initiated through the HMI in auditory or visual form or illuminated LED or switch to indicate the system status. It can also be a combination of signals mentioned above.

 

How can ENWPS assist in HMI selection?

With the advent of many different resources and components, designing a UI/HMI is not nearly as difficult as it used to be. But what matters is putting together an ideal device that suits the application perfectly. This is where experience matters.

ENWPS has experience of a quarter of a century in the field of automation and robotics, offering countless solutions to leading enterprises in India and abroad. This includes installation, programming and commissioning with complete project management capabilities in controls, electrical and mechanical engineering, PLC programming, HMI/SCADA configuration, etc. The company has the expertise to get down to the brass tacks of any project requirement, and arrive at the exact requirements for the HMI for a given application. It can handle it as a turnkey project, or help execute it, sourcing all the aggregates required.

 

Conclusion

As the interface between human and machine, the HMI performs a crucial role in running the equipment or a process. An off-the-shelf unit may not serve the purpose and getting a customized HMI that meets all the requirements of a particular machine or process is not easy. In such a case, professional expertise is of great help that will greatly reduce the pain points. Professionals at ENWPS can help here with all the expertise from advising on the right design to sourcing all the components, or simply custom-design one on a turnkey basis.

For more information or assistance, send us an email at rfq@enwps.com.


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All you need to know about Human-Machine-Interface (HMI) Systems

The industrial landscape is becoming more sophisticated and expanding rapidly, arousing the necessity of an efficient user interface that allows operators to view, control, and manage operations from remote sites or on-premises. As the number of machines and equipment expands, the manual control and monitoring of each of them becomes impossible. HMI systems play a paramount role in the control, performance monitoring, and optimization of processes in an industrial setup. HMI systems are interconnected with PLCs and SCADA systems to gather the process data and showcase it graphically for easy comprehension of the operator to make faster decisions.

HMI Systems: An Introduction

The Human-Machine-Interface or HMI systems are hardware/software-based control system that allows interaction between humans and machines. Before HMIs (Human Machine Interfaces) gained momentum, the control and monitoring operations were conducted by a hardware control panel that consisted of hundreds of LEDs & pushbuttons. However, with modernization and the technological boom, many advancements in HMI technology occurred. Today, many industrial systems use software-based HMIs to enhance visibility, ease factory management, and support efficient & safe interaction between the operator and machines. An HMI allows operators/engineers to communicate and exchange data between devices on a broader level. HMI systems are used for various industry-specific functionalities such as – progress tracking, monitoring machine I/O, keeping a check on key performance indicators, mechanical process management, analyzing trends, etc. All this information is visible on the connected screen, laptop, or mobile device.

The modern HMIs use a hardware device that runs the HMI software allowing machine/field data transformation from industrial control systems into graphical representation for human readability.  Various HMI softwares are available in the market like FactoryTalk View Studio Machine Edition, FactoryTalk View Studio Site Edition, RS View 32, Eco Structure Operator Terminal Expert, etc., to name a few. These softwares come with different configurations, like FactoryTalk View Studio Machine Edition, which is used for programming standalone HMI terminals. At the same time, FactoryTalk View Studio Site Edition is deployed where control of an entire facility is involved. Similarly, businesses can choose from a varied range of software and use the best-suited one for their facility.

The HMI systems provide real-time monitoring and visibility into each production stage, allowing technicians to control overall processes from a centralized/distributed command center. The real-time visibility provides opportunities for process improvement as per operational requirements, aids in quality maintenance, leads to higher accuracy, mitigates downtime, improves efficiency and throughput. HMIs have found their usability in varied sectors as a problem diagnostic and data visualization tool. The HMI technology reduces the manual control, eliminating issues caused due to lack of data, process failure, or human error. All the information can be assessed through customized digital dashboards, in desired formats. Operators can manage notifications and alarms as per process requirements, all through a single console. Moreover, HMI systems enhance staff safety and aid in equipment maintenance by leveraging machine data and knowledge base systems.

History of HMI Systems

The evolution of HMI systems is derived from the need for a user interface with field machinery to control & monitor processes and increase production output levels. From push buttons to the invention of graphical user interfaces, the evolution of HMI systems has occurred unprecedentedly.

The Batch User Interface was one of the initial non-interactive user interfaces developed to control and monitor machinery.  Punch cards were perforated into batch machines along with codes to calculate the output once processing was done. However, it was impossible to feed codes during the machine processing, nor was it an interactive interface and had several limitations.

Later, with the popularity of computerized systems in industries, the Command-Line Interface emerged. A set of commands were fed into the computer system or software for performing a specific task, and the procedures were based upon the result on-demand approach. The Command-Line iInterface did overcome the interactivity issues of batch interfaces, but as complexities increased, there was a need for more enhanced visualization capabilities and easier-to-use interfaces.

With technological advancements, the Graphical User Interface (GUI) was invented, allowing more visual control through programs, symbols, display systems, and touch screens. This brought about revolutionary changes in industrial control and monitoring systems, and soon it became widespread in manufacturing facilities.

Even screen displays evolved from CRTs, LCDs, LEDs to recently used OLED displays. Today, HMI systems are available in different variations and are integrated with several other technologies for industry-specific needs.

Are HMI and SCADA Systems Similar?

Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) and Human-Machine-Interface (HMI) systems are often confused to be used in the same context. Both the systems are closely related and are essential elements of larger industrial control systems. Let’s understand the differences between the two.

SCADA stands for “Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition.” It is used for monitoring and controlling large industrial areas or an entire plant. SCADA systems combine many systems, including sensors, RTUs, PLCs, and SCADA servers. The data gathered from all these systems is transmitted to the central SCADA unit. That SCADA unit has its own HMI. The HMI or “Human Machine Interface” unit on the SCADA can monitor and control all interconnected devices. Therefore, arousing confusion that SCADA and HMI are one.

On the other hand, HMI systems work on a larger scale, using PLCs or other control systems as their central processing units to gather field data and showcase the data in graphical or user-defined formats using HMI software.

In conclusion, Every SCADA is an HMI, but every HMI need not be a SCADA.

To know more about SCADA systems, check out our blog: Blog Link: Everything You Need to Know About SCADA Systems)

Advancements in HMI Systems

HMI technology has evolved exceedingly to match the requirements of modern industries and support automation. There are three basic types of HMI systems- Pushbutton Replacer, Data Handler, and Overseer. The most basic HMIs replaced pushbuttons streamlining the manufacturing processes through a centralized control function. The Data Handler HMIs are used where there is a need for constant feedback from the operation floor. On the other hand, the Overseer one is the most advanced of all, which provides centralized control for the entire facility. It operates through connected ethernet portals, SCADA systems, and other software programs for more advanced control and monitoring. It helps analyze trends, diagnose errors in real-time, and manage factory data and operations.

Today, various other HMIs have evolved along with traditional HMIs to enhance the interface with equipment and efficiently analyze factory data. Below are some of the advancements that occurred in HMI technology.

Increasing Use of Touch Screens, Mobile HMIs, and Remote Monitoring

The emergence of touch screens and mobile HMIs have revolutionized industrial control systems. HMIs have replaced pushbuttons and switches, allowing instant access to operators through touch screens. Using mobile HMIs during remote monitoring allows operators to monitor equipment in real-time from anywhere. They are also convenient for projects that require industrial control via web-based applications. Remote monitoring through mobile applications-based HMIs allows greater flexibility and increases operational efficiency when off-site control is needed.

High-Performance HMIs

The High-Performance HMIs are the most widely used HMI technology, as it allows for better factory/operations surveillance and enhances situational awareness of the operators. Combining the state-of-the-art interface design, increased ability, better graphical representation, more optimized use of color, efficient use of screen display, and better system experience makes these HMIs widely used. These features result in improved quality of information, fault prevention, and increased operational efficiency.

Edge-of-Network and Cloud HMIs

Low latency, improved network connectivity, and reduced risks of security threats are the driving factors for the rising use of Edge-of-Network HMIs. This allows operators to access and visualize data in real-time directly. While Cloud HMIs are deployed for remote monitoring of industrial systems, their usability has increased in the post-pandemic world, as more industries realize the need to shift to remote monitoring. Additionally, both the HMIs are deployed in many industries, wherein control capabilities are reserved for the Edge-of-Network HMIs, and the local servers send the information to cloud servers for remote monitoring, data analytics, and empowering decision-making at enterprise levels. Furthermore, Cloud HMIs allow better computer resources to analyze data, study trends, widen opportunities for machine learning and overall process improvements.

Conclusion

With ever-increasing advances in technology, many new developments in HMI technology are taking place. Likewise – Voice-activated HMIs, AR/VR -based HMIs, Wearable HMIs, Gesture-technology-based HMI devices, Haptic technology and NLP-based HMI solutions, OLED touch screens, etc. The possibilities of advances and usability are limitless because, with each passing day, industrial operations will become more complex, and needs will evolve. Today, HMIs are widely used for various applications, including industrial automation, aviation, and space equipment, robotics control, automotive industries, etc. The HMIs empower faster decision-making, more productivity, flexibility, and profitability for businesses.

Selecting the Right HMI System for Your Enterprise

It’s quintessential to have a solid framework of HMI requirements and development considerations to be examined beforehand. It impacts many factors like- cost, efficiencies of the workforce, ROI, data processing and reporting, analysis and decision making, etc. Required attributes, compatibility with factory equipment, the nature of business, security constraints, low-risk investment, including other considerations, are to be focused upon when selecting an HMI.

At ENWPS, we have successfully implemented various industry control projects for global leaders in the industry from different sectors like automotive, manufacturing, FMCG, processing industry, etc. Having worked on several projects for the past two decades and more, our team has accumulated domain expertise and understands the finer details of the selection and installation process. We offer comprehensive PLC, HMI, and SCADA programming, development, and installation services. Our service offerings include-

  • Networking
  • Interfacing
  • Logic Development
  • Programming
  • Screens Development
  • Execution & Proving
  • Training & Documentation

For more information or assistance, send us an email at rfq@enwps.com.


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The Essential Role of SCADA Systems in Industrial Automation and IIoT

With burgeoning advancements in industrial processes, increasing complexities, and the ever-increasing need for more connected & automated industrial systems, many inventions took place in the 20th century. One such invention that wholly transformed industrial control and monitoring system were SCADA systems. Developed from the need to establish supervisory control over remote sites, SCADA systems have become necessary for industrial units. The adoption of SCADA systems has become widespread across multiple industry verticals to automate equipment or process control that is otherwise too troublesome for manual control. It has become possible to detect process parameters for remote monitoring and control through sensors and various other devices measuring equipment. SCADA systems can detect any abnormalities and send an automatic notification to operators or make automatic changes as per the pre-programmed control function fed into its system. With the advent of secure wireless communication channels and Wi-Fi technology, data transmission from remote locations has become easy, augmenting the reliability of SCADA systems.

Today SCADA systems have set the benchmark for smart factories to gather real-time data from the plant floor and transfer it to the enterprise level, empowering stakeholders to make data-driven decisions and improve operational efficiency.

Understanding How SCADA Systems Facilitate Industrial Automation

SCADA Systems connect the field level devices to a centralized control for easier and flawless management of industrial operations. For instance, consider the complexities of oil and gas industries, which involve control and management of distinctly situated onshore and offshore oil fields. It includes hundreds of interconnected machines located in hazard-prone areas. Would it be feasible for technicians to go near each piece of equipment and manually control or check it? This is precisely where the usability of SCADA systems proves effective. Modern industries have grown complex and involve hundreds of machines expanding in large geographical areas. SCADA systems provide precision control over processes, eliminating potential human error or process failure. It improves productivity, reduces costs, prevents downtime, and enhances overall business profitability.

Below are some of the functionalities of SCADA systems, proving their necessity for industrial automation.

  • Real-time control and management of industrial processes & machines located remotely.
  • Providing event and alarm notification in case of errors or potential failures.
  • Data transfer, logging, archiving, retrieval, and generating customized reports for analysis. Eventually, opening new avenues for process improvements and innovation.
  • Detecting and rectifying issues before they could hinder the plant process.
  • Provides enhanced visibility and traceability for equipment and processes, helping key stakeholders make informed and smart decisions.
  • Automates routine and repetitive tasks that earlier required human involvement. This results in increased productivity and improves facility management.
  • Optimizes overall equipment effectiveness, through real-time status updates. It not only ensures optimal use of equipment but increases equipment life expectancy.
  • Producing graphical representations of process through HMI.
  • Interpreting machine data into actionable insights for easier comprehension of technicians/operators.
  • Measures trends overtime for reducing lead times, quality control, and mitigating downtime.
  • Generating alerts for maintenance and anticipates potential failures, including other functions as per industry-specific requirements.

SCADA Systems and IIoT Implementation

In the highly competitive industrial world, a business’s success depends on both the factors- plant operations and enterprise-level management. SCADA systems have become the enabler for efficient management and act as source data for IIoT applications with data gathering capabilities. IIoT involves breakthrough technologies like data analytics, machine learning, and cloud computing. SCADA systems provide real-time access to IIoT devices for data interpretation and help execute other functions. This allows for improved scalability, flexibility and smart control over industrial operations. These two technologies are opening new avenues for industrial process optimization, enhancing customer experience, and boosting the profitability of businesses with hybrid control architecture. While many discussions suggest that IIoT technology will take over SCADA systems, instead SCADA helps bridge the gaps between the adoption of IIoT.

Today, businesses require high-speed data transfer, advanced wireless networks, improved security, and control architecture that efficiently manages highly complex systems. SCADA systems powered by IIoT are providing solutions to these requirements of businesses. Regardless to say, SCADA systems are here to stay and will continue to support industrial operations for the times to come as they become more potent with technological advancements.

Conclusion

SCADA systems support business efficiencies and help improve competitiveness. Apart from primary control and management functionalities of SCADA systems, the data gathering and mining capabilities backed with IIoT technologies, garners innumerable benefits for businesses. Enhanced engineering efficiencies, operational excellence, improved cost-effectiveness, quality consistency, and increased efficiencies are remarkable advantages fueling the adoption of SCADA systems for industries.

About ENWPS

ENWPS is an automation and robotics solutions company, helping industries escalate their operations for enhanced factory management, increased production rates, and higher profit margins. Our professionals ensure quality and precise services ranging from SCADA programming, device integration, testing and simulation, software integration, and developing customized SCADA systems. Our service areas extend to developing all types of SCADA and HMI systems, including scripting in C, VB, SQL database system, both regular and Web Reporting Systems.

Our project implementation capabilities include multiple industrial sectors like automotive, pharma, process, food, and beverage, incorporating other discrete and hybrid industries. You can send in your requirements at rfq@enwps.com and our team shall be happy to assist you.


About ENWPS


ENWPS has a two-decades legacy of providing innovative Automation and Robotics solutions – from concept to implementation, providing quality and comprehensive innovative systems coupled with technology expertise.

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rfq@enwps.com