Smart Interface 63f2c3196fcdc

Smart, dynamic HMIs connect users with the digitalized environment

Feb. 20, 2023
Web-based interfaces boost performance and throughput
Timothy Lomax is senior product manager—HMI at Phoenix Contact Americas.

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

Timothy Lomax, senior product manager—HMI, Phoenix Contact Americas: The Phoenix Contact WP 6000, our HTML5 web-based human-machine interfaces (HMI) panels, is a series of flexible panels that are ideal for manufacturing.

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

Timothy Lomax, senior product manager—HMI, Phoenix Contact Americas: In the marketplace, HMIs have quickly evolved from a simple machine interface or monitor to something that is way more dynamic or smarter in design. HMIs must provide more than crude bit and byte status but complex machine and system data at the push of a button. Users are integrating interactive dashboards and cloud connections, so data can be consumed and manipulated by a variety of sources.

Get your subscription to Control Design's print magazine, free to qualified individuals in North America.

Web-based HMI products continue to boost performance and throughput, support simultaneous connections to multiple web servers, add projected capacitive touch technology to the panel, integrate virtual-networking-computing (VNC) functionality for remote access and allow usage of the panel as a monitor.

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

Timothy Lomax, senior product manager—HMI, Phoenix Contact Americas: Normally, I would say that designs, applications or HMI elements that blend animation, graphics and videos together for the expected user—target audience—are cool-looking. In terms of innovation, I think that is about more than just how the user interface (UI) looks and is more about how it connects with the user.

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

Timothy Lomax, senior product manager—HMI, Phoenix Contact Americas: Remote monitoring has allowed users to remotely diagnose, service and check the status of their machinery from anywhere in the world. Saving time, travel and resources is important for machine builders, integrators and facility personnel.

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

Timothy Lomax, senior product manager—HMI, Phoenix Contact Americas: There are so many lenses to look at software development as whole; it’s hard to put your finger on a single point. Traditional designs that are considered rigid by some are still very effective in manufacturing, but the trend toward web-based/cloud-based is also extremely popular. Software development must continuously balance the demands for more data, which is a never-ending saga, with other needful requirements. Now throw in emerging concepts like artificial intelligence, analytics and machine learning, and it becomes a real challenge to deliver it all. We live in a space that is data-centric and data-driven, so there is only one way it can go: more.

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

Timothy Lomax, senior product manager—HMI, Phoenix Contact Americas: Some would say by disruption, and others would say in baby steps, but I think we are at a point somewhere in between where we see a steady progression into the digitalization era. Many technologies today put us on this path, but, clearly, many more will need to be developed along the way. Emerging digital concepts, including virtual and 3D drawings, digital product data, electrical computer-aided design (ECAD) and mechanical computer-aided design (MCAD) are out there for consumption, but the key is connecting these concepts and data to the users that need it most.

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

Timothy Lomax, senior product manager—HMI, Phoenix Contact Americas: Those days are already here. One of the biggest benefits of HTML5 panels is that operational personnel can continue to easily program programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and other devices with the necessary reporting and visualization and then hand these panels off to IT to be deployed. Commissioning and setup are done by entering the uniform resource locators (URLs) of the web servers, and they are up and running. No more complicated setups.

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

Timothy Lomax, senior product manager—HMI, Phoenix Contact Americas: Most trends are leaning toward a more cloud-centric approach, but that doesn’t necessarily work for everyone. I think we will see more of a blend of technologies that seamlessly stretch between local, real-time monitoring to more web-based and virtual designs.

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] 

Sponsored Recommendations

2024 State of Technology Report: Motors, Drives & Motion

Motion makes manufacturing move. Motors and drives are at the core of industrial operations. Without them, production comes to a halt. This new State of Technology Report from...

Case Study: Conveyor Solution for Unique Application

Find out how the Motion Automation Intelligence Conveyor Engineering team provided a new and reliable conveyance solution that helped a manufacturer turn downtime into uptime....

2024 State of Technology Report: PLCs & PACs

Programmable logic controllers (PLCs) have been a popular method of machine control since the PLC was invented in the late 1960s as a replacement for relay logic. The similarly...

Power Distribution Resource Guide

When it comes to selecting the right power supply, there are many key factors and best practices to consider.