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Everything You Need to Know about HMI / SCADA

“This story was originally published by Bernard Cubizolles GE Digital
and has been republished here with permission.”

In today’s rapidly changing industrial landscape, manufacturers and utilities must embrace modern HMI/SCADA and digital transformation to keep up with the pace of change, meet growing operations challenges, and remain competitive. HMI/SCADA software runs industrial plants around the world, helping operators to make critical decisions to run machinery.

Operators using new, high performance HMI/SCADA software can spend less time navigating, find critical data faster, and increase productivity.

Technological innovations are reshaping the industrial landscape. These innovations include cheap sensors, a high-speed telecom infrastructure that can move huge amounts of data, unprecedented computation power, mobile and touch interfaces, and a standards-based open ecosystem for interoperability. This ecosystem includes web-based technologies, APIs for connectivity, machine learning, and Industrial AI.

Industrial organizations are also dealing with high rates of retirement of aging workers who have deep knowledge and expertise. These individuals are being replaced by younger workers who lack the same knowledge but are digital natives with skills and experience with mobile devices and web-based technologies.

Technology suppliers in the automation ecosystem have the challenge and opportunity to help industrial companies cope with these changes while achieving their desired outcomes. The starting point for many companies is the implementation of a modern HMI/SCADA software solution.


What is a HMI / SCADA?

A HMI/SCADA is a category of software-based control system architecture that uses networked data to provide operators with a graphical user interface that allows them to monitor the performance of many pieces of equipment and issue process commands and settings. This can be accomplished from a dedicated screen, mobile device, or any PC connected to the control network through a web browser.

HMI/SCADA allows operators to improve situational awareness, the mobility of visualization anytime and anywhere, and important equipment control, which provides form a centralized view of operations.

How it Works

How does HMI / SCADA work?

HMI/SCADA collects data from RTUs (Remote Terminal Units), PLCs (Programmable Logic Controllers), and other control devices such as flow meters and temperature controllers. This data is presented to an operator using a Human Machine Interface (HMI). The HMI allows the operator to see what is going on in the plant in real time, including custom mimic displays, alarms, trends, etc., to make decisions to adjust any machine controls or settings.

HMI/SCADA can also be connected to other technologies, such as a data historian to allow for historical trending and other analysis. In fact, the foundation starts with capturing industrial data, combining it with other meaningful data sources for context and managing a historic record. It is data, turned into information, that provides the basis for meaningful outcomes.

Modern HMI/SCADA, including data historian and centralized visualization technologies, empower users to unlock the value of their data. The outcome is a high-productivity development and visualization environment that enables optimized plant operations, supported by faster development, a democratization of tools and capabilities throughout a plant, improved operational performance, lower costs, a changed mindset among employees, and a culture of continuous improvement.

The Industrial Landscape

The modern HMI/SCADA lets you guide newer operators through the right steps to take. And you can enable mobility and remote monitoring for greater efficiency. Welcome to the modern HMI/SCADA system—where machines, data, insights, and people are connected.

The advent of connectedness has brought about incredible opportunities for industry. Today, industrial machines and equipment are connected seamlessly to create and share a wealth of data.

Operators in manufacturing environments often have oversight over many pieces of equipment. HMI and SCADA solutions allow them to precisely monitor, control, and visualize every aspect of their operations in a centralized manner. With a quick glance, operators know what’s important and the right actions to drive increased efficiency and reduced costs.

HMI/SCADA provides faster response for operators and faster development for engineers.

  • 40% faster development
  • 35% improvement in alarm resolution
  • 80% less time navigating
  • 40% faster identify critical data
Use Cases

HMI / SCADA in action

With the increased visibility that HMI/SCADA affords, there are many applications for its use. Industrial processes such as those in manufacturing or power generation, infrastructure processes like water treatment or oil and gas pipelines, and facility processes like those that control heating and ventilation are all good uses for HMI/SCADA.

Subaru is the America’s fastest-growing auto manufacturer. They leverage their HMI/SCADA solution to give them visibility into real-time data across the plant, which has led to significant improvements around uptime and efficiency. By broadening their use across the supply chain, Subaru is continuing to multiply the impact from their HMI/SCADA use.

The City of Haverhill Water Division provides drinking water to 58,000 residents and businesses and produces and average of two billion gallons of water each year. The water plant is manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week to ensure the highest quality water is delivered. What began as manually documented processes have been transformed into a much more efficient software-based mobile operation powered by HMI/SCADA. This has given the plant much more flexibility as the team is able to see everything that’s happening at the plant from a remote location and be alerted to changes in the water operations without a strain on human capital. In addition, they’ve seen great efficiency gains and an immense performance improvement over their documented processes.

Copersucar, the largest Brazilian exporter of sugar and ethanol, is redesigning their processes, reformulating their operation, and facilitating decision making to keep their operations modern and efficient. For the company’s products to reach customers in multiple countries, it is necessary to have a complex logistics infrastructure, integrated by their own and contracted shipment terminals and storage, in addition to an extensive outsources road, train, and sea transport network. With automation technology and the collection of historical data and the integration of the systems made the teams use their time in a more efficient way. The terminal operators could focus on the guarantee of operational efficiency, instead of spending their time collecting and the analyzing manual data as previously required. Operators now work in much more organized and logical physical and operational environment. This increases productivity and operational safety.

In today’s connected industry, HMI/SCADA is just one of many industrial technologies adding value to and enhancing industrial capabilities. With HMI/SCADA, industrial companies can precisely monitor, control, and visualize every aspect of their operations for intelligent control. I invite you to learn more about the high-performance HMI/SCADA technology in iFIX and CIMPLICITY HMI/SCADA, part of the Proficy portfolio. With a quick glance, operators know what’s important and the right actions to drive increased efficiency and reduced costs.

/ Bernard Cubizolles
Global Product Marketing Manager, HMI and SCADA

Bernard Cubizolles is the global product marketing manager for the GE Digital. He has been with General Electric for over 10 years and holds a PhD in applied physics.

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