By Evan Coulter
Our customers often bring us cutting-edge challenges—and we love it! Recently, one of our vendor partners, CPI, came to us with a project we couldn’t resist. CPI’s customer wanted to revamp the HMI (Human-Machine Interface) screens that are installed in each of their electrical control panels at a large beverage canning facility. (Side note: UCEC is fortunate to work with many partners. Meet more of our vendor partners here, here and here.)
As you may know, the HMI communicates with the PLCs (programmable logic controllers) by way of a graphical representation on the touch screen. HMI screens are expensive and stationary. The control panel might not be very close to the line it is controlling. They can be hard to work with because every time a parameter has to be changed, the technician must go to each screen, enter information and then move around to the back of the panel to see how those adjustments impacted the line. This takes a lot of time.
CPI came up with the solution to use a Virtual HMI, a widget about the size of a 5 amp power supply that fits tidily inside the panel. The Virtual HMI is then linked to a wireless access point. Boom! The HMI is now represented on a tablet or phone. The technician controls all the HMI access points for the factory in one place without having to be tied to the door of a control cabinet.
We’re in the testing phase with this virtual HMI and it’s going well. CPI is happy with our work and the customer is thrilled to realize a better way to do things combined with hefty cost savings.
This project showcases what I think UCEC does really well: listening to the customer. We don’t get stuck in “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” We want to find new and better ways of helping our customers with safety and security firmly in hand. Technology is changing this “old school” business...and we’re right in the middle of it.
Evan is the VP of Business Operations for UCEC.