diagram of data connections for smart factory

Edge-level devices with data storage improve operator interface

Oct. 13, 2022
Data collection enables historical analysis and monitoring of operations and status

John Dunlap is vice-president of channels and business development at ADISRA. He has more than 35 years’ experience in industrial automation, having worked previously for Rockwell Automation, InduSoft and Aveva. He has also worked in the computer-security and semiconductor industries. Dunlap holds a bachelor of science degree in computer engineering and a juris doctor degree from the University of Toledo.

Also read: HMIs create a window of opportunity

Tell us about your company’s state-of-the-art operator-interface technology for manufacturing.

John Dunlap, vice-president of channels and business development, ADISRA: ADISRA has developed SmartView for human-machine interface (HMI)/supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), InsightView for overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) and advanced analytics and KnowledgeView for predictive analytics/machine learning. These products provide powerful and cost-effective solutions to monitor machine operations and overall production efficiency, along with the tools to optimize production results.

What have been the biggest improvements to operator-interface technology in the past five years?

John Dunlap, vice-president of channels and business development, ADISRA: Among the biggest improvements associated with operator-interface technology in recent years is the integration of edge-level devices with on-premise and cloud-based data-storage systems, allowing collection of real-time production data. Comprehensive data collection enables historical analysis and monitoring of past production operations and machine operational status. Another improvement regards the evolved variety of operator-interface form factors, allowing operators to monitor and control machinery and processes using headless devices in conjunction with Web browsers and mobile devices.

Also read: Membrane puts the human in HMI

What’s the most innovative or efficient operator-interface technology application you’ve ever seen or been involved with?

John Dunlap, vice-president of channels and business development, ADISRA: A configurable low-code operator interface application that allows users—engineers, technicians and operators—to create, configure, delete, modify and customize their HMI application at run time; it does not require a development environment (Figure 1). This allows for improved agility, higher productivity, decreased costs and faster transformation.

How has operator-interface technology benefited from remote monitoring and connectivity?

John Dunlap, vice-president of channels and business development, ADISRA: Following the COVID pandemic, many organizations have found themselves short-staffed. Remote monitoring technology provides organizations with greater flexibility to manage their production operations more efficiently, by allowing operators, supervisors and managers to connect with processes from anywhere.

The wealth of connectivity available in operator-interface technology is a catalyst in the convergence of data silos, accelerating digital transformation and analytics used in human-machine-interface applications.

Also read: Operator interface benefits from increased transparency to runtime data and system support

Can you explain how software development has changed operator interfaces in manufacturing?

John Dunlap, vice-president of channels and business development, ADISRA: Operator-interface technology has evolved greatly over the years, progressing from simple HMIs that just replaced manual pushbuttons and indicator lights to comprehensive SCADA systems incorporating machine operational data, OEE reporting, production trend displays, remote thin-client viewing and operational control, as well as logging of production data into SQL-compliant databases for historical data analysis. This evolution of HMI/SCADA technology provides production personnel with a greatly increased ability to monitor and control their production operations.

How do operator-interface technologies figure into digital-twin platform models being used by manufacturers?

John Dunlap, vice-president of channels and business development, ADISRA: Digital-twin technology is used to model real-world production processes. But, as with any modeling technology, there can be shortcomings that do not account for the overall operational behavior of manufacturing equipment. Predictive analytics associated with operator-interface technologies can assist with the monitoring of production operations to improve efficiency and minimize downtime and help improve digital modeling.

When will operator interfaces become IT-friendly enough that engineers are no longer required for installation and operation?

John Dunlap, vice-president of channels and business development, ADISRA: One can argue that we are already there. Of course, engineers and programmers will still be required to architect the applications, but the installation of the equipment can be done by technicians and the operation of the equipment can be done by plant production personnel—operators. Low-code applications empower users of all types to modify and improve operator interfaces at run time.

What future innovations will impact the use of operator-interface technology in manufacturing operations?

John Dunlap, vice-president of channels and business development, ADISRA: New technology is being developed by companies such as Texas Instruments (TI), providing low-power, high-performance microprocessor technology designed for implementation in edge devices to implement artificial intelligence (AI). For example, TI has recently introduced its 64-bit Arm Cortex AM62X series of products.

As improved hardware technology such as this is introduced, it will allow cost-effective implementation of predictive-analytics technology at the edge, minimizing the amount of data required to be pushed to the cloud. Of course, data will still need to be communicated to report production results, but innovative technology such as advanced analytics and machine learning will turn data into knowledge and provide actionable information direct to the operator.

About the Author

Mike Bacidore | Editor in Chief

Mike Bacidore is chief editor of Control Design and has been an integral part of the Endeavor Business Media editorial team since 2007. Previously, he was editorial director at Hughes Communications and a portfolio manager of the human resources and labor law areas at Wolters Kluwer. Bacidore holds a BA from the University of Illinois and an MBA from Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. He is an award-winning columnist, earning multiple regional and national awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He may be reached at [email protected]