Operator interface in redesigned machine uses icons

A major machine redesign and automation upgrade included an icon-based human-machine interface that eased training and simplified machine operation, according to CMD Corp., an original equipment manufacturer of bag pouch and film converting equipment.


Machine builder CMD Corp. extended ease-of-use by designing an icon-based operator interface on its latest machine. Results include 40% fewer words to translate to other languages, easier training, and, after setting parameters, transition from stop to full production by pressing just four buttons.

In a Rockwell Automation RSTechED presentation in June called, “Strategies for Emerging Market Opportunities,” Dave Kuchenbecker, PE, project engineer, CMD Corp., said his company sought to expand by offering lower-end machines. Cross-functional groups were formed with people from engineering, sales, purchasing, manufacturing, and accounting, explained Kuchenbecker, lead electrical engineer in the converting R&D group at CMD for 8 years. CMD is an original equipment manufacturer of bag pouch and film converting equipment.

Diverse discussions in the cross-functional group brought interesting insights, he said, with discussions of financing structures abroad, a smaller box for easier shipping, and a simpler design. Some ideas didn’t fly, Kuchenbecker noted, such as wood frames, hand-cranked operation, and no machine guarding.

Many discussions covered how much technology to include, he said, since the company is well-known for high-end machines.

Technologies used in the new CMD 864, “an affordable, continuous-motion bag-making machine,” include a CompactLogix L3y controller, Kinetix 6500 drives with CIP motion, and PanelView Plus 700 HMI from Rockwell Automation with EtherNet/IP communications. (Common Industrial Protocol, CIP, and EtherNet/IP, an industrial Ethernet protocol, are ODVA technologies.) Technology selection and simplification reduced controls cost by 4%, Kuchenbecker said.

New design advantages include automating numerous steps in making a good bag. After the machine is threaded, pressing just four buttons brings the machine into full production, Kuchenbecker said, with excellent tension control through the line and flexibility to add more drives.

A simpler operator interface (OI) design is easier to operate, learn, and use in other languages.

Because of advanced features on CMD machines, new customers often require a lot of training, which is a challenge when people with less experience or formal skills are running machines. That was even more apparent after visiting a new customer facility, Kuchenbecker said.

 Simplifying the screen became a project goal. “Translations are expensive and seldom fit in the allotted screen space. Many industry terms do not translate well,” Kuchenbecker said.

Few international standard icons in the ISO 7000 specification fit machine functions. To streamline design and operation, icons were developed representing major machine functions, Kuchenbecker said, based on the parts of the machine involved. Photos show the similarity of the icons to the parts of the machine they represent.

Now 27 icons relating to items on the machine represent most tasks operators need to do daily. Other functions that used to be on main screens are hidden.

“All operator screens were converted to graphics. We ruthlessly separated operator tasks from other functions. Less common tasks were put on password-protected screens,” mostly used by service technicians and engineers. These still use words, but fewer, and they are largely unavailable to operators, he added.

Company engineers and technicians (29 total) scored an average of 33% after the first attempt at icon-based OI design. After reworking a number of icons, the average correct score was 75%.

Also, alarm management was simplified. Now, for an alarm, an on-screen yellow or red dot appears on the area of the cabinet with the fault. Text is displayed with multiple alarms.

Final costs were under budget. CMD introduced the design at a spring trade show. The first machine was sold in the U.S. to a customer who had liked CMD equipment but typically purchased used machines. Training was completed in less than a day, and the graphic-based touchscreens were well received, especially by the second shift, with few English-speaking employees, Kuchenbecker said.

Advanced controls, simpler designs, and icon-based operator interfaces are expected to go into more advanced machines as well, Kuchenbecker added.

- Mark T. Hoske, content manager CFE Media, Control Engineering and Plant Engineering, mhoske@cfemedia.com.



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