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 Cover Story
Cover Story
The Best Automation HMIs Keep Things Simple
Design standards and best practices for human-machine interfaces continue to evolve, but simplicity and clarity never go out of style.
 By Bill Dehner, AutomationDirect
Whether we think about it or not, most of us as everyday consumers have developed opinions about how human-machine
interfaces (HMIs) should look and feel. This is because we constantly use smartphones, websites, and even controls on our cars featuring digital HMI interfaces. As we interact with them, we intuitively understand what is clear to comprehend and actions that are easy to perform, as well as those that are awkward or downright difficult.
For factory equipment and systems, specialized industrial HMIs have been around for many years. The hardware and software have improved to offer extensive options, but sometimes there are so many choices that configurations can become more complex than necessary. Comprehensive standards, on the other hand, are a more recent development. However, standards are not always a clean fit for every industry, system type, or preference, and they may not be specific enough for all the unique items HMIs must represent.
Industrial system and original equipment manufacturer (OEM) developers need HMIs and want them to be useful, but they may not have time or dedicated staff for creating their own extensive HMI standards and styles. To address this issue,
the best choice is often simplicity and clarity, a proven approach for delivering the best situational awareness and usability for HMIs. This article offers some basic tips and best practices for planning and implementing an effective factory automation HMI.
Investigate Resources
As with most engineering endeavors, it
is important to check out available resources
before creating any designs from scratch. Industry documents and standards, such as ISA101 and those produced by other organizations, provide HMI design guidance. However, many of these
are focused on process, petrochemical, and
nuclear industries.
Many HMI developers find “The High-Performance HMI Handbook” by Bill Hollifield, Dana Oliver, Ian Nimmo, & Eddie Habibi to be a helpful resource. Not only does it present many best practice concepts, but it also depicts poor designs which are all too common. But again, this book is somewhat process-oriented.
Depending on the HMI platform being used, the development environment may offer standard or optional object libraries, along with other aids, for creating new projects, and these are always worth a look. Keep in mind that it is very common for these library objects to require some modifications before deployment as a company standard.
Creating an effective factory HMI for a new application is typically an iterative process, simplified if one starts with applicable standards or samples.
A good starting point is defining building
block objects.
Go to Article
Editor's Note
New Product Focus
- Expaded communications and analog I/O capabilities for the
- Control cabinet cable entry systems
- DURApulse® GS20 Series high performance AC drives
- ProSense® Advanced Process Conrollers
- Enclosure Thermoelectric Coolers
Tech Thread
Improvies, Adapt, Overcome
Business Notes
Cover Story
The Best Automation HMIs Keep Things Simple
What's New
User Solutions
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Student Spotlight
CPAPs RE-INVENT ed into Ventilators Using PLCs & HMIs
Break Room
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 Cover Story
Brain Teasers | Issue 44

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