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Think Simple for Effective HMI Design

Posted by John Ruth on May 18, 2016 11:27:10 AM

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No matter how cutting edge, industrial machinery can only be as effective as the operator at the controls. In order to have an effective operator, the machines need an interface that can relay commands and represent important data without losing anything in the machine-to-man translation.

Human-Machine Interfaces (HMIs) are devices designed to give operators full access to all the controls and information relating to the machines they are running. Discipline and passion are required to design a proper, cost effective HMI solution for interfacing man and machine while facilitating production efficiency, increasing safety, and reducing any accidental damages. An HMI should be easy to use, intuitive, and consistent with similar devices.

HMI Design: What Not to Do

With today’s modern HMI design software, there are a buffet of options awaiting the designer. Not all of these options are worth pursuing.

Although modern technology pushes toward the use of futuristic looking devices, an effective HMI should, quite frankly, remain a simple instrument. There is no need for flashing lights or vibrant color coding, and in fact, a proper HMI will use flashing lights very sparingly and keep a strict and simple color scheme.


Limited Lights

An HMI should reserve any flashing lights for the case of an alarm or other emergency situation such as a breach in safety. These situations themselves should be very limited, to prevent the operator from becoming insensitive to an alarm’s warning procedure. Thus, the use of warning lights should be minimized by keeping the number of alarms to a minimum.


A Simple Palette

Something else to keep in mind during design is the level of technicality involved in your interface and the existence of vibrant or otherwise intense color schemes. When shooting for intuitive ease-of-use, an HMI should be designed as simply as possible. Any number of operators may be using the device, and each one should be able to use it with minimal effort. Enforcing a simple and standard color scheme for HMIs means that an operator who has used one HMI has used them all, and that reduces the cost of internal training.

HMI Design: What to Do

When designing an HMI to be straightforward and easy to use, it’s important to represent the machine’s state using tangible information as opposed to the numbers and other raw data spit out by the machine.

A good HMI will parse this information and effectively relay the machines conditions to any operator regardless of their familiarity with the specific machine. In perfect tandem with this, the HMI should focus on relaying only the important information to the operator. An operator should never feel bogged down with so much info that they begin to ignore the condition of the machine or feel strained while locating the information they need.

A helpful way to arrive at a strong and well-functioning HMI is to thoroughly communicate with the customer. Ultimately, they need to be able to use the device you’re designing for them, so they ought to have a share in what is defined as necessary and nonessential. Ultimately, after all of the standards are met, the interface needs to meet the customer’s needs.

Implementing Effective HMI Design for Your Application

In addition to the design factors above, there are many more in-depth design standards to be met, such as the ISO 11064-5:2008 and the ISA 101.

PanelShop.com can meet and exceed these standards. If you need HMI panels for your next project, our experienced staff can help you with everything from specifying the HMI enclosure to consulting on the entire design.

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Topics: HMI Panels

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This blog will bring you the latest industry news in Industrial Automation, helpful Engineering tips, and exciting company updates. Whether you're behind a desk or out in the field, the PanelShop.com Blog will keep you up-to-date and informed from  new product releases to determining factors in automation equipment upgrades.

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