Next Generation HMIs Are More Than Pretty Pictures

The new Wonderware InTouch 10.0 HMI and System Platform 3.0 software provide system-wide visualization with a common integration architecture that meets the information requirements of operations, IT and engineering personnel.

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For decades, the Human Machine Interface (HMI) has been the window on the process for plant-floor personnel, and the means for operators to interact with manufacturing. The Microsoft Windows operating system, introduced in the mid-1980s, provided a way to create graphics with screen navigation, and transitioned many hardware-based HMI systems to software-based HMI systems. In 1989, when Wonderware, a business unit of Invensys based in Lake Forest, Calif.,
introduced the first Windows-based HMI process visualization package, true operator interface evolution really took off—and developments have not slowed since.

Advances in networking technology, database technology and enterprise applications changed many user requirements, and HMI technology evolved to respond. The advent of the Internet era introduced additional technologies and provided a vehicle for remote management, thin clients and other Web-based applications. The modern HMI is more than just pretty graphics—it’s a complete plant visibility and operations interface for manufacturing personnel.

In today’s global manufacturing environment, manufacturing applications extend beyond the traditional plant-floor personnel to involve users from three domains: Operations; Information
Technology (IT); and Engineering. Information and visualization needs have changed. Operations
teams deal with a lot of information from many disparate sources. They want a robust, reliable and
consistent interface to plant data with clutter-free and intuitive displays, built-in diagnostics, and
compatibility with their existing systems. The IT and infrastructure team is interested in hardware
and software deployment, patch management, security infrastructure, database maintenance, user
accounts and high availability solutions. The engineering and maintenance teams are more focused
toward building and managing HMI applications. They want to reduce the amount of scripting, easily
maintain many different HMI applications and use the latest tools to develop applications.

To address these user challenges, industry needs a new version of HMI software that is better equipped for today’s business needs. In parallel, industrial and manufacturing operation facilities have a need for solutions to address system-wide issues, for example:

  • A hardware-independent software solution to interface to more than one vendor’s equipment
  • Common naming to remove physical location/computer naming conventions and establish a common global namespace
  • A common platform for different types of applications such as HMI, Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA), Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES), Quality Management, Operation Management, Performance Management and Enterprise integration
  • The flexibility to change software configuration as often as required.

What is really needed is an application platform built upon industry standards, which provides common industrial application services and which can reside on top of virtually any existing system. A common integration architecture, where interfaces are configured once and made available to any application in the system, can reduce IT integration costs, drive standardization across the company and easily handle changes. Such an architecture allows continuous operations improvement rather than a “big-bang” approach, which is more costly and takes a great deal longer to implement.

Wonderware recently announced that the InTouch 10.0 HMI and System Platform 3.0 software products meet the needs for system-wide visualization, common integration architecture and a platform that delivers the information requirements of operations, IT and engineering. To improve engineering team effectiveness, the InTouch 10.0 HMI feature set allows engineers to build intuitive, reliable and maintainable HMI, SCADA and MES applications using a single, high-productivity software platform that helps to reduce time, costs and errors. To enhance IT effectiveness, the new products make it much easier, less time-consuming and less costly to integrate and manage secure, integrated operations applications on an ongoing basis. To improve operations effectiveness, the new solutions empower operations personnel with intuitive views of the right enterprise-wide information in order to increase operational efficiency, reduce training costs and minimize unplanned application downtime.

While most of the HMI software available in the market today provides animated graphics rendering with Input/Output (I/O) connection, the InTouch 10.0 HMI raises the bar significantly with many new features:
• Vibrant graphic capabilities
•Multi-user development and editing environment
• Self-contained graphical symbols for re-use and standardization
• Comprehensive scripting and graphical animation capabilities
• Centralized management and remote deployment
• Scalability from simple single-node HMI to enterprise-wide supervisory solutions
• Library of pre-built graphical symbols and faceplates
• Extensibility using .Net controls and support of common data types
• Change propagation.

All of these features enhance engineering efficiency significantly. Users can create a standalone symbol and then use it in many places with different I/O binding without scripting. Users can change binding at runtime to different object instances or different tags using a function call. Users can also use drop-down list controls to browse all the instances of an object and then select a particular object from the list. Now, when a user makes any changes to the original graphics, all of the usages will get notified and the changes propagated automatically, saving a lot of time. Scripting and support for .Net controls provide an easy integration capability to Structured Query Language (SQL) databases, eXtensible Mark-up Language (XML) documents, workflow applications and many enterprise applications.

These new HMIs provide the next generation of graphics editing tools, including standard graphics primitives, arcs, curves, pie, windows controls, calendar control, multi-line text controls and many others. They also provide many advanced graphics manipulation tools such as color gradient selection, resolution neutral vector based, smoothing, transparencies, fills, gradients, patterns, textures, group editing, rotation anchors, advanced animations, path builder, scripting, custom property pane and alignment toolbox.

Presently, most HMI applications are stored in individual file directories or file servers and managed individually by users. This process is prone to errors and requires maintenance on a regular basis with good discipline. To address the manageability of HMI applications, advanced HMIs—such as InTouch 10.0 and System Platform 3.0 software—provide the ability of centrally managing HMI applications. This capability enables applications to be stored centrally in a repository and to be managed from one development tool.  

A powerful additional capability is that users can create an HMI application template and manage it as an object throughout its lifecycle. Users can also create, edit, change, delete and deploy HMI applications from a centralized location. Change propagation and auditing capabilities are provided to keep track of notes.  

Users can configure the applications from a common Development Studio and store them in a common repository. Applications can be designed and deployed to an engineering station, operator station, terminal server thin client, MES application station, touch panel personal computers (PCs), industrial PCs or Windows CE-based compact operator interface nodes.  

Wonderware InTouch 10.0 HMI and System Platform 3.0 software use a common “plant model,” which is the logical representation of the physical processes being controlled and supervised with the software application. The plant model provides a single consistent definition of the physical equipment—how data is acquired, how alarms are defined and who has access to them—in meaningful terms and organized as reusable templates.  

Through a hierarchical model of industrial operations, the plant model presents a convenient abstraction of the physical equipment and systems into a more powerful and productive application development environment, including equipment, areas, work processes, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), calculations, interfaces, computers, controllers, databases and any other parameters that can be modeled in the form of templates.  

As next generation HMIs, InTouch 10.0 and System Platform 3.0 software can extend to fit any production or performance management need. These extensions help users optimize equipment
operations and performance, improve manufacturing quality, enforce manufacturing and batch execution and integrate plant applications with the enterprise systems.  

The powerful modular approach allows users to avoid the tremendous risk of “big-bang” implementations imposed by less flexible architectures. This modular approach also allows manufacturers to focus efforts on their most critical equipment and extend the system to get more out of the constraints found in any operation by:
• Improving equipment performance
• Increasing operational discipline
• Reducing process and material variances.  

InTouch 10.0 HMI can connect to virtually any industrial automation control device using the hundreds of available I/O and OPC servers that are designed to work with Wonderware products. It can access plant data via the System Platform 3.0 software components, or even directly from data servers. To achieve U.S. Food and Drug Administration FDA 21 CFR Part 11 functionality, InTouch 10.0 HMI offers a selection of integrated security models and options including access-level password security, integrated Microsoft Windows authentication and data-level security using Wonderware System Platform 3.0 software.  

Manufacturers should expect more from their modern HMI platforms. Wonderware InTouch 10.0 HMI with the System Platform 3.0 software addresses key requirements across user domains—engineering, operations and IT. With ArchestrA technology, ArchestrA graphics, integration with objects and centralized application management, these powerful new solutions provide significantly more than pretty pictures. 

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