Industry 4.0 is now a global trend, encompassing a number of innovative technologies such as cyber-physical systems, the Internet of Things (IoT), big data and machine learning. As the manufacturing sector continues its digital transformation, it’s clear that IoT is driving the next era of industrial and intelligent connectivity, a time where a more elegant Human Machine Interface (HMI) is needed.
From robotics and augmented reality to wearables and cloud computing, the anticipated rise of data-driven devices is helping industry leaders to make more informed decisions. This accelerated growth is changing the way businesses develop, from a focus on numbers and productivity, to improvements in efficiency and quality. With new production methods, advances in research and development, and the integration of automated technology, the “Smart Factory” brings with it questions over the future of industrial HMIs.
Whether it’s driven by the need for enhanced efficiency, improved security compliance or greater flexibility and mobility, the need for HMI is still high. Industry 4.0 calls for smarter, more agile and more innovative production methods, with technologies that can, if needed, augment human involvement. Data drives the effectiveness of HMI with technologies in place to not just gather but analyse data before submitting it to other departments. With cloud computing, this data can be used to manage and refine operations on a site level, connect facilities with back office personnel in other countries and liaise with partners and suppliers throughout the supply chain, whether they be local, national or international.
There’s a unique dynamic between HMIs and Industry 4.0. The purpose of automated technology is to reduce the dependence on human interaction whilst Industry 4.0 is all about improvements in efficiency. If we take intelligent automation for example, there is now no requirement for a human to monitor production. However, when a machine predicts or encounters an anomaly that it cannot fix or repair itself, human interaction will be required to help resume normal operations.
In the management structure, human interaction is now typically placed above the manufacturing floor, sitting very much at the critical decision-making level where the analysis and presentation of data is vital to product and process refinement. This presentation can come in many forms, not just through devices, laptops or touchscreens. Industry 4.0 has also helped fuel advances in HMI technology, as the rise in connected devices now offers a variety of options. Smart watches, wearable technology, augmented reality headsets, virtual reality management – workers can now perform functions faster, more accurately and more efficiently, helping to cement their place in the future of Industry 4.0.
It’s becoming clear that HMI will always have a place in our industrial verticals. As these roles shift from machine-interaction to decision making, the focus on usable data remains paramount. Having the ability to make more informed decisions and issue more effective commands can lead to higher quality products, products that will embody what Industry 4.0 is all about – connections.