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Fewer machine operators means more HMIs

01 March, 2004

Fewer machine operators means more HMIs

The uptake of HMIs (human machine interfaces) in European industrial plants is growing rapidly, according to a new study from the market researcher Frost & Sullivan.

"The number of operators per machine has reduced sharply over the past decade and HMIs facilitate easy monitoring of complex manufacturing systems," says F&S research analyst Gabriela Martinho. "Easy to install, operate and maintain, these devices allow companies to focus on more value-added operations such as speed-to-market, reliability and the capability to develop new products."

The inclusion of some traditional SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) features in recent HMIs increases the flexibility of manufacturing systems, according to F&S. It sees this adaptability as a key trend, both in discrete manufacturing and in the process industries, where easy and quick reconfiguration is becoming essential.

Discrete manufacturing is the largest application sector for HMIs, though process industries are catching up. F&S says that HMIs will be needed increasingly in food and beverage applications while the pharmaceuticals industry is investing in HMI technologies to help it to comply with strict requirements for close monitoring of equipment and processes. The pulp and paper and automotive segments are turning to HMIs to achieve production efficiency to offset the impact of economic lows.

In the packaging industry, the development of technologically advanced machinery is creating the need for more innovative operator interfaces.

Expanding acceptance of PC-based open platforms is boosting end-user demand for software-based HMIs, which can also help manufacturers to offset the impact of declining prices, says F&S.

Graphic operator interfaces are currently the biggest single segment in the HMI market, accounting for 42.6% of revenues in 2003. Their relative flexibility compared to text-based interfaces, and end-user familiarity with this type of interface is expected to boost revenues further.

The second-largest segment is touchscreen operator interfaces which simplify the interface for large or complex equipment by eliminating keyboard, mouse and other peripheral devices. These HMIs are usually industrial grade and resistant to dirt, grease, shock, vibration and electromagnetic interference.




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