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Building a better interface and taking it mobile

ADCO, a leading builder of end-of-line packaging systems, went to Pack Expo Las Vegas with a brand new HMI and a mobile app that wowed show attendees.
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FILED IN:  Controls  > HMI
     

When the folks at ADCO Manufacturing saw an opportunity to upgrade their machinery’s HMI technology in terms of both visualization and information, they developed what they call InterACT™ SE HMI. A unique runtime application, it delivers two big benefits. One is a major improvement in visualization. The other is better ability to provide on-machine documentation—training materials, troubleshooting manuals, instructional videos—whether standard or customized. The idea is to improve productivity, reduce downtime, and enhance machine operation overall. Rather than making plant personnel get information out of a machine by drilling down for look-up menus, sub-routines, and so on, InterACT™ makes such things more readily available on screen. Offered as an upgraded PC-based HMI package, InterACT™ made its official debut at Pack Expo Las Vegas.

“Using Rockwell FactoryTalk® ViewSE software, we developed our own ADCO runtime application,” says Scott Reed, VP Sales, Marketing & Customer Service at ADCO. “The machines themselves are PLC-controlled, but InterACT™ is PC-based, which makes it very flexible and powerful. You can change from English to Spanish at the push of a button, for example.

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“Having developed this really nice intuitive interface, we then asked ourselves how might we give machine operators, plant maintenance personnel, management, and line supervisors the ability to see this information on a mobile device and actually be able to control the machinery and have full HMI authority on that remote device. There are a variety of mobile devices out there. We gravitated toward the Motorola ET1 partly because Motorola is a Rockwell Encompass partner, and Rockwell recommended this particular device as a good tie-in to their PC-based touchscreen interfaces. It’s a ruggedized enterprise mobile tablet that gives the user the same access to the machine as they would have at the HMI. Access comes either through a VNC (Virtual Network Computing) connection or by setting up a thin client.”

The mobile device has two integral cameras configured in a way that makes it easy for the user to deploy them. The device’s camera capability also makes it possible for ADCO personnel to visually see from their offices in California what maintenance people or an operator at a customer plant is seeing. “They can pinpoint, zoom in, and get right to the area of concern,” says John Riley, ADCO Manager of Electrical Controls Development. “We then see it over Ethernet IP. And with InterACT™ on the ET1 mobile device, they don’t have to go back to the HMI panel to access a manual or a troubleshooting video. They pull up whatever they need right there on the mobile unit. This is a big plus for us as well as our customers because everyone is on the same page in the process of solving a problem. It untethers the plant floor people from any fixed point and gives them on-site access to the information they need.”

According to Reed, the InterACT™ upgrade is available for pretty much every machine made by ADCO, and it can also be retrofitted on machines already out in the field.

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