Illustration of man controlling agvs

AGVs benefit from updated interface and controls

Nov. 16, 2022
Replace legacy control and HMI to reduce ownership costs

Tom Jordan is marketing lead, ThinManager, at Rockwell Automation.

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

Tom Jordan, marketing lead, ThinManager, Rockwell Automation: We routinely work with incredibly talented OEMs who create HMI applications that are very specific for their particular machine workflows. They leverage our integration between the HMI and the controller to gain efficiency by presenting their operators with consistent data presentation and by using the controller as the single version of truth since things like data descriptions and alarms are managed in the controller. Many of these OEMs also take advantage of video content and PDF document display to help their operators more efficiently start up and troubleshoot their machines.

Also read: HMIs create a window of opportunity

For example, an OEM in Asia who was working with a well-known end user was recently asked to modernize an automated-guided-vehicle (AGV) system used for material handling which had previously been controlled by custom-built single-board computers and small alphanumeric displays. The OEM replaced those legacy systems with midrange controllers and industrialized HMI terminals. The end user was delighted with the change which illustrates how more maintainable systems can decrease total cost of ownership and how the boundaries between standardized HMI hardware/software solutions and open computer-based solutions continue to evolve.

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

Tom Jordan, marketing lead, ThinManager, Rockwell Automation: HMI products offer several options for remote monitoring and support. For example, virtual network computing (VNC) enables remote users to load a free client on their mobile device, use it to view the HMI screen and assist operators remotely. Remote users can open web servers with a browser. The remote user can view any screen on the HMI and is not limited to the screen that the operator is currently viewing. Some users develop special screens used exclusively for that purpose.

Also read: Membrane puts the human in HMI

Remote virtual-private-network (VPN) capabilities enable off-site personnel to connect to an HMI device remotely, as well as controllers and other devices on the same network, and manage their software, firmware and user applications.

The ability to trigger outbound email messages to remote support personnel when specified events occur and the ability to identify the source of an alarm, provide the responder with the proper application and automatically present the code that created an alarm can be done by the HMI.

All of these options enable end user engineering and maintenance personnel, as well as original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and system integrators, cost-effective ways to support installed systems that build collaboration and decrease downtime. 

Also read: The changing face of operator interface

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] 

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