Human-Machine Interface (HMI) Software: Overview
ScienceSoft has been developing software for the manufacturing industry since 1989.
The Essence of Human-Machine Interface Software
Human-machine interface software (HMI software) provides an intuitive graphic user interface with input/output controls to help monitor and operate sophisticated industrial equipment. HMI software can be installed on HMI hardware or regular PCs, mobile devices, and wearables.
In most cases, HMI software enables the communication between an equipment operator and a Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) in charge of machinery. After receiving a change request from an HMI device, PLC triggers an action in the equipment. Equipment (or sensors/cameras integrated with PLC) communicates status change back to PLC to enable its visualization on HMI.
Earlier, HMI solutions used to communicate with PLC via Ethernet cables, but modern HMIs communicate with PLCs via Web APIs located on a cloud server, thus allowing for remote access as well as data collection and analytics in the cloud.
- Role-based access control – users of different roles have different data access permission levels.
- Data viewing restrictions – even if it’s included in monitoring tools and displays with common access, data that requires a higher level of user authorization for viewing will be automatically sanitized and won’t be presented on screen.
- Data input – triggering changes in machinery behavior via one-off actions.
- Data recipes – possibility to trigger a custom set of actions with a single command.
- Process visualization – animated on-screen visualization of an actual workflow in real-time.
- Automated status change actions – notifications via on-screen messages, sounds, emails, error log entries, etc.
- Dashboard personalization – possibility for machinery operators to choose their necessary tools and organize their own virtual working spaces.
HMI + PLC
via Web API for mid/large-scale solutions or via Ethernet for small-scale solutions; to enable communication with PLC and thus allow control of the machinery.
HMI + SCADA
to bind multiple HMIs in a network that can be overseen via supervisory software.
HMI + ERP
to allow ERP to regularly receive equipment operators’ activity logs that help measure labor efficiency.
With equipment operators’ work involving high levels of responsibility, stress, and fatigue, the major factor of successful HMI is the compliance of its graphic user interface with ISA101, meaning that it is designed to provide high situational awareness and easy situation control. The quality HMI user interface should:
Focus equipment operators’ attention on top-priority/high-risk processes.
Make critical issues and errors instantly noticeable.
Offer intuitive navigation for immediate response to any equipment status change.
Off-the-shelf HMI programming software requires from medium to heavy customization to properly reflect your specific industry workflows. The customization process may vary extensively, both time- and budget-wise, and the costs of a customized solution can sometimes exceed custom development costs – especially if you combine old and new software and hardware in your industrial workflows. Moreover, you will have to make concessions to adapt your needs to the product’s functionality – for example, abandon the idea of HMI sending alert signals to your operators’ mobile devices if the ready-made product doesn’t allow it.
With a custom solution, you define the time and budget on implementation from the start, have unlimited flexibility to meet all your functional and nonfuctional requirements to HMI, as well as can smoothly integrate your HMI solutions with all types of hardware and software you use. You also get a GUI designed and tested to match your working processes, which significantly shortens employees’ training efforts to adopt HMI.
Custom HMI Implementation
Drawing on our 32-year long experience in the manufacturing industry, we offer both consulting on and implementation of custom HMI software.
HMI implementation consulting
- Analysis of your industrial processes.
- Product vs. custom solution’ SWOT analysis for your individual case.
- Definition of custom HMI’s functional scope.
- Detailed plan of HMI integrations (with PLC, SCADA, ERP, etc).
- Interactive UX prototype as a PoC.
- Costs and development schedule estimates.
Custom HMI Implementation
- HMI consulting and planning of an implementation project.
- UX design and testing in cooperation with real equipment operators.
- UI design in full compliance with ISA101.
- Development and QA of a custom HMI solution.
- Deployment and integration with PLC, SCADA, ERP, etc.
- Continuous HMI support and maintenance.
ScienceSoft is a global IT consulting and software development vendor headquartered in McKinney, Texas, US. Founded with the focus on the manufacturing industry in 1989, we develop custom human-machine interface software to facilitate machinery operation and ensure the safety and effectiveness of industrial workflows. ISO 9001 and ISO 27001 certificates prove our professional approach to quality and data security management.