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Real-time Video Adds Fourth Dimension to HMI Software

It is important for the process and discrete manufacturing industries and automation suppliers alike to focus on tools that improve the interaction between systems and operators.

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Maximizing operator effectiveness is essential to minimize the risks of accidents, eliminate unscheduled downtime and maximize production quality, all of which will increase overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). The global process industry loses $20 billion, or 5 percent of annual production, due to unscheduled downtime and poor quality. ARC estimates that almost 80 percent of these losses are preventable, with 40 percent largely due to operator error.

Because it's well accepted that "seeing is believing," integrating real-time live video into human-machine interface (HMI) tools provides an excellent opportunity to maximize operator effectiveness. Live video adds a "fourth dimension" to today's intelligent visualization and control solutions for both fixed and mobile applications. Integrated, recorded video can also improve operator training and provide cause-and-effect insight for process improvements.

Visualization systems should focus on operator tasks and responsibilities, not on the technology itself. To enable correct decisions quickly, while reducing training requirements, operators require synchronized and appropriately contextualized information. This is only possible when the applications have been well integrated into the HMI, enabling all information—including live video, documentation and operator instructions, and maintenance and production data—to be presented on any screen at any time, whether in a control room or on a mobile device.

HMI software solutions with integrated, real-time live video can be deployed in applications such as overall process monitoring, operator replacement, visualizing difficult process areas and connecting process data to digital video recorded (DVR) video. For example, many process areas cannot be seen from the plant floor. Using these solutions, operators can remain at their respective locations while viewing critical, yet hard-to-reach process elements or areas.

Real-world applications

Technology users across a number of different industries have integrated, or are in the process of integrating real-time live video as part of HMI software solutions for a variety of different applications. Typically, this provides quick return on investment (ROI) and enhances return on assets (ROA) by helping to eliminate unscheduled downtime, minimize accident risks, and maximize production quality and overall equipment effectiveness (OEE).

For example, in the metals industry, a company that processes exotic metals used by aerospace suppliers uses video as a "virtual operator" to monitor its specialized forge press used to shape the metal crystals prior to machining. This process can take about a week. If the operator does not mount the mold correctly, the forge will be damaged. This can result in several months of exceedingly costly downtime. These integrated real-time video solutions collect the video and stream it live to the operator's display, providing an integrated view of both forge parameters and video of the ingot being loaded.

Another example is a power company that experiences sporadic leaks at its pumps that transfer #6 fuel oil from the tank farm to the boilers. In the past, due to problems with the sensors, the company lost a significant amount of oil before the leak sensors triggered an alarm. In addition to the cost of the oil, this resulted in expensive fines and costly clean-up, and required time-consuming paperwork for environmental agencies. By integrating real-time live video within the operators' HMI, operators can visually monitor the pumping area to be able to immediately see and respond to any leaks.

Clearly, real-time, synchronized live video, integrated into HMI and other plant operations management applications and properly contextualized, can play an important role in improving a company's performance, while also enhancing safety, security and regulatory compliance.

Craig Resnick, cresnick@arcweb.com, is Research Director at ARC Advisory Group Inc., in Dedham, Mass.

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