HMI (Human Machine Interface)

Human Machine Interface (HMI): The basis for human-machine interaction

The high level of technological innovation that has characterized the last three decades is changing everyone's daily lives. In the private sphere, this is primarily due to the advent of digital devices and constant networking - in the business sphere, it is due to intelligent machines and systems (Industry 4.0), artificial intelligence (AI) and continuous advances in materials and supplies. One component, however, remains: the human being as an acting actor in this mixed situation.

Our Logistics Lexicon provides you with insights into the basics of Human Machine Interfaces (HMI) as a user interface for virtually any machine, regardless of age.

Definition Human Machine Interface: What is behind the term?

Machines and plants are always only as efficient and integrative as the actor acting there (e.g. operator) is able to control the whole. All aspects that characterize the term "Human Machine Interface" concern the interface between the human and the machine.

An example from everyday life: A car can be used completely, at least as far as possible, without relevant muscle input from the driver. The essential control elements however, the gas pedal, the clutch, the brake as well as the steering wheel are essential to steer the vehicle. Each of these components in itself represents a Human Machine Interface (HMI).

In the context of logistics processes, these are naturally different aspects, but the principle remains the same. A classic Human Machine Interface in the industrial or commercial sector are industrial PCs. They enable plant control even under adverse conditions, are insensitive to cold, heat or vibration and are used for process visualization or in the field of production engineering.

Where are Human Machine Interfaces used? Typical applications

Even if the term suggests otherwise, Human Machine Interfaces (HMI) have been with us since the dawn of time, when the first machines or tools were developed. To stick with a simple example, the light switch is the link between the human (user) and the electrical control system to turn lights on and off.

We would like to show further examples of an HMI:

  • The steering wheel as HMI of vehicles such as cars, trucks, industrial trucks (lift trucks, forklifts etc.) and Co.
  • The switch as HMI for the operation of certain equipment (light control, roller shutter drive, etc.)
  • The computer as HMI to control programs
  • The industrial PC as HMI for function control of machines, plants and storage areas

Advantages of an HMI and other relevant aspects of a user interface

Despite all the technical possibilities, humans continue to take the lead in most segments. A Human Machine Interface represents the link between humans and machines, offers possibilities for influence and makes efficient warehouse management possible in the first place. Especially when it comes to making warehouse management as efficient as possible, it's all about using HMIs like the industrial PC. This computer, also called an IPC, is designed for use in the industrial sector and offers the necessary interfaces and construction types required for intuitive use.

Advantages of using a Human Machine Interface (HMI):

  • Simple as well as intuitive function control by means of buttons, levers and other components
  • Simple visualization of processes to optimize control
  • Influencing processes that are (partially) automated
  • Reduction of complexity in the handling of machines, plants and co.
  • Display of all relevant performance data on a central tool
  • Productivity increases and simplified adjustments through the use of a human machine interface (HMI)
  • Easy integration into existing systems (e.g. warehouse) due to communication protocols and interface compatibility

Important: Characteristic of a Human Machine Interface (HMI) is often a simplification that gives the user clear options to perform well-defined actions. An industrial PC, for example, has a touchscreen display, which simplifies use - icons make the most important functions controllable with a click. Nevertheless, a command line interface continues to exist in the background, allowing developers to customize the system. The Human Machine Interface should therefore reduce complexity, but at the same time provide the necessary security and enable effective control.


Logistik-Lexikon Human Machine Interface

Image: elenabsl / Shutterstock

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