Technology advancements enabling higher functionality and manufacturing flexibility drive European human machine interface markets

Assembly Automation

ISSN: 0144-5154

Article publication date: 1 December 2004

Keywords

Citation

Kochan, A. (2004), "Technology advancements enabling higher functionality and manufacturing flexibility drive European human machine interface markets", Assembly Automation, Vol. 24 No. 4. https://doi.org/10.1108/aa.2004.03324dab.002

Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited


Technology advancements enabling higher functionality and manufacturing flexibility drive European human machine interface markets

Technology advancements enabling higher functionality and manufacturing flexibility drive European human machine interface markets

Keywords: Manufacturing, Flexible manufacturing systems

The uptake of human machine interface (HMI) solutions has rapidly increased with a parallel growth in HMI technology and the demand for efficient operation and monitoring of essential production equipment in European industrial plants, reveals a new study by international growth consultants Frost & Sullivan's (www.industrialautomation.frost.com).

“The number of operators per machine has reduced sharply over the last decade and HMI facilitates easy monitoring of complex manufacturing systems,” says Frost & Sullivan's Research Analyst Gabriela Martinho. “Easy to install, operate and maintain, these devices allow companies to focus on more value-added operations such as speed-to-market, reliability and the capability to develop new products.”

Besides added functionality, the incorporation of some of the more traditional supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) features in new HMI solutions increases the flexibility of manufacturing systems. This adaptability is a key trend in discrete manufacturing and process industries, where easy and quick reconfiguration is becoming essential for meeting the demands of a globalised market.

Discrete manufacturing industries continue to be the largest application sector for HMIs, though process industries are fast catching up. The large size of process industries such as chemicals and petrochemicals and oil and gas implies a requirement for steady investment in monitoring and operating devices to comply with environmental regulations, gain better control over operations and increase production rates.

In the utilities segment, more efficient operating and monitoring interfaces are in demand to tackle the increasing power, water and wastewater sector requirements across Europe. HMIs will also be needed in food and beverage applications as production facilities expand to meet the diverse, processed and packaged food demands of a growing population.

Requirements for close monitoring of equipment and processes to comply with strict regulations is stimulating HMI investment in the pharmaceuticals industry. Similarly, the pulp and paper and automotive segments are turning to HMIs to achieve production efficiency to offset the impact of economic lows.

In the packaging industry, the development of technologically advanced machinery, which increasingly incorporates robots and programmable logic controllers (PLCs), is creating the need for more innovative operator interfaces.

Expanding acceptance of PC-based open platforms is boosting end-user demand for software-based HMIs. As rapid developments in chip technology offer better performance and improve the scalability of software HMIs, focussing on HMI software can help manufacturers offset the impact of declining prices.

Graphic operator interfaces are currently the largest segment in the HMI market and had a revenue share of 42.6 percent in 2003. These devices cater to the need for broader functionality and easy connection into communication networks. Their relative flexibility compared to text-based interfaces and end-user familiarity with this type of interface, from the use of consumer PCs, is expected to further boost revenues.

The second largest HMI product segment is touch screen operator interfaces. Touch technology simplifies the interface for large or complex equipment by eliminating keyboard, mouse and other peripheral devices. These HMIs are usually industrial grade – resistant to dirt, grease, shock, vibration and electro-magnetic interference.

“Directing resources toward informing customers about advances in the technology and key benefits of established HMI products can enable suppliers of hardware interfaces to penetrate areas served by competing solutions such as electromechanical systems,” notes Martinho.

Further, companies have to act on the customer preference for single suppliers and offer complete solutions – both software and hardware requiring minimum integration. Overall, HMI suppliers need to be proficient in specific applications or industries, have ample knowledge of the regulatory framework and operating conditions requirements and effectively translate these into value-added products that cater to end-users' needs.

For further information, please contact: Kristina Menzefricke, EMEA. Tel: +44 (0) 207 343 8376; E-mail: kristina.menzefricke@frost.com; Web site: www.frost.com