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Taking Visibility from the Top Floor to the Shop Floor

Mobile HMI systems help manufacturers gain better visibility, while optimizing maintenance, efficiency and quality. By Zebra Technologies

Human-machine interface (HMI) systems have been helping managers and line supervisors optimize plant floor operations for years.

In fact, many consider the first HMI system in manufacturing to be the “e-stop” button, which workers used to stop production – and often set off a flashing light – when a machine went down.

Fortunately, HMI systems have come a long way since the days of emergency stop buttons and flashing lights…

HMI systems allow plant floor managers to access a wide range of data, from production statistics and scrap rates to equipment availability and visualization.

But with traditional HMI systems, access to this data has been limited to those sitting in the control room. And that meant that oftentimes these systems could only be used to fix problems after they happened – instead of preventing problems before they even occurred.

With mobile HMI, manufacturers now extend operational visibility from the top floor to the shop floor and beyond. A good mobile HMI system makes the captured data from the plant floor available in real time to anyone – from line supervisors and operations managers to the maintenance crew.

Increasing investments in cloud computing, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and emerging technologies such as augmented reality and wearables have extended the benefits of mobile HMI ever further. Now, workers can access data not only using browsers on their mobile devices but also by employing voice commands and hands-free technology such as wearable glasses. And thanks to cloud computing and IIoT technology, a supervisor located in Florida can manage plants in Kentucky, India and China from one mobile device.

But a good mobile HMI system not only provides “anyone, anywhere” visibility into data about a plant’s assets and operations, it also translates that data into actionable analytics that can be used to fix operational issues quickly – or even prevent them from happening in the first place. The result? Mobile HMI allows manufacturers to optimize their operations – and thereby reduce production downtime, enhance efficiency, boost compliance, improve quality and decrease costs.

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