Our multi-machine workstations haven't changed much beyond the sophistication of the HMI software and better tactile input methods. The operators now spend more time at the workstation and less time patrolling the machines with clipboards since we have much more operational data feedback at the HMI. We need an ergonomic tune-up to make sure the operators are safely paying attention to the increased amount of operating data without being too comfortable to be attentive. Any experiences to share?
—From September 2014 Control Design
This can be best accomplished by employing a mixed-technologies approach along with ergonomic design principles when creating an optimal user interface.
By utilizing and implementing a design which incorporates all forms of human-machine interface (HMI), a complete and consolidated user experience can be accomplished. HMI systems have to be designed with the user and application environment in mind. You first have to define the operational and functional requirements. This can encompass durability requirements and environmental stresses including exposure to moisture, vandalism, temperature extremes, cleaning agents and general rough use. Operator feedback is critical to capture end-user attention and to ensure overall effectiveness and efficiency. Understanding the application can dictate the degree of HMI complexity. And regulatory standards must be considered to meet industry criteria.
Also read: Versatile HMIs Combine Functions
All of these aspects influence the design of the interface in order to capture user attention and to ensure safe operation. This is why a mixed-technologies approach is best. Not one single technology has the ability to provide an all-encompassing solution. Once the application and user requirements are defined, a mixture of pushbuttons, cursor controls, keyboards, touch technologies and interactive displays can interface with industrial computers to inform, alert and efficiently update the user of machinery functions. Use of illumination techniques such as ring, Halo or animation combined with audible alerts capture end user attention in both an aesthetically pleasing, modern appearance and forthrightly effective manner. The mixing and matching of components and technologies allow for a consolidated user interface along with a central and sometimes singular point of data feedback.
It's important to take the time to do an ergonomic tune-up. Ergonomics plays an important role in health, safety and productivity. Technological advances have overloaded operators with information, and their scope of responsibility is ever expanding. Many operators work long hours in less-than-ideal conditions. Well-designed control rooms balance productivity with ergonomics, and a key component is the operator console. The console is the bridge that connects the operator to the technology, and therefore has a significant impact on performance.
Sit/stand consoles are a great choice for an ergonomic upgrade. Recent studies have shown that too much sitting can be detrimental to your health. Movement throughout the day is important to maintaining good health. Alternating between sitting and standing is a healthy activity that increases energy and reduces fatigue. Sit/stand consoles also provide adjustability to meet the needs of each individual operator.
The ergonomic standards outlined in ISO 11064 are a good reference for any ergonomic initiative. ISO 11064 standards are designed to improve efficiency and reduce human error in the control room. A good ergonomics program translates into significant ROI in terms of reduced healthcare costs, increased productivity and fewer errors. Beyond the numbers, ergonomics can improve the quality of life for workers. Operators who are more comfortable and better able to do their jobs find more satisfaction in their jobs, which improves the morale of the organization.
As your question points out, even with sophisticated output from software, visibility to machinery is still key. In fact, lean manufacturing techniques have led to a shift in the use of control enclosures to allow visual contact between operations and cells. Luckily, there are a variety of HMI enclosure systems available beyond traditional, static workstations to help you create a solution specific to your business’ needs. Great examples of this are vertical motion and suspension systems, which allow operators to reposition equipment as necessary throughout their shifts. Look for a system that allows for multiple combinations of components for innovative system solutions for any work environment. For even more flexibility, you may want to investigate industrial tablets, which blend all of the benefits of modern technology with the ability to patrol machinery as you would with a traditional clipboard. Ultimately, there are more HMI enclosure systems out there than ever, which can be tailored to fit your application.
global product manager for large and HMI enclosure systems,