Not so very long ago, most filling machines had only pushbuttons and pilot lights as an interface with the operator. In order to communicate additional information to the operator, programmers became creative with flashing the pilot lights in a specific sequence, cadence, or both. As one might guess, the strategy was inherently weak, unclear, and ineffective.
In today’s production environments, information, specifically accurate information, is vital. Without it, we are guessing, and guesswork is a rarely a primary element of success.
Filamatic’s HMI (human-machine interface) implementations are somewhat varied, partially because of customer requirements, but also because of the personalities of the machines they serve. Although we apply similar strategies, the HMI’s can serve somewhat different roles.
Since it’s so easy to overlook, some customers might not think about this sort of minutiae when they buy new filling equipment, though when you stop to think about it, the HMI is one of the first items everyone looks at. Without stretching, I argue that the HMI is the single most-interacted-with device over a filling machine’s entire lifecycle.
As technology has improved and progressed, HMI’s are better able to do more, serve up more information more quickly, and help us produce more. By offering proper information in a timely fashion, —and without distraction—an HMI can help us with the over-arching goal: make more with less, and do it consistently and accurately. Herein lies the conundrum: In order to reach that goal, it is inevitable that we increase the complexities of the underlying systems. When we add complexity, we rarely do so without some sort of penalty. The key is to balance the equation so that the penalty is always less than the benefit. Sometimes less is more, and fewer screens and widgets might not be such a bad thing.
I hope that the next time you’re in the market for a new piece of filling equipment, you take a closer look at the HMI earlier on in the process.
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About The Author
Jack serves as the Chief Electrical Engineer for Filamatic. He loves new technologies and routinely engages in automation projects of varying sizes and complexities.
He can be reached at: Jack.Chopper@filamatic.com or you can find him on Twitter: @JackChopper