Choosing technology for streamlined engineering

Plant decision-makers have discovered that leveraging flexible, industry-standard technologies in manufacturing can be crucial for the future of the business.

By Kyle Harrison June 11, 2024
Courtesy: Siemens


Learning Objectives

  • Understand the advantages of using industry-standard technologies over proprietary systems in manufacturing.
  • Learn how unified systems can enhance consistency and scalability across multiple plants.
  • Analyze the benefits of leveraging web-standard technologies for building user interfaces and visualizations


Unified systems Insights

  • Industry-standard technologies in manufacturing reduce risks associated with proprietary systems and improve scalability and efficiency.
  • Unified systems offer consistency and standardization across multiple plants, enhancing operational efficiency and reporting accuracy.
  • Leveraging web-standard technologies for user interfaces and visualizations facilitates easier customization and access to a broader labor pool.

Over the last few years, plant decision-makers have discovered that leveraging flexible, industry-standard technologies in manufacturing can be crucial for the future of the business. As plants quickly upgrade and expand lines to stay competitive, proprietary systems have shown themselves to be significant risks for manufacturers when technical expertise, vendor consolidations or long-term costs are considered. Having a scalable system that uses standard technologies like HTML5 and SVG images and avoids proprietary networks or technologies is essential for more increasing efficiency.

Industry standard technologies reduce the risk of lines being hamstrung due to changes in the business environment that are outside of the plants control. Manufacturers can recruit from a larger labor pool for technical roles, and systems are easily scalable, transferable and replicable across multiple plants. Understanding and planning for future maintenance and growth in engineering and machine software is a critical step to maximize uptime and minimize cost.

Unified systems deliver consistency

Manufacturers have many requirements and growth demands. Suppose they need to implement new SCADA and process control systems, and there is internal demand for HMI and visualizations for monitoring machines, plants and groups of plants at all levels. In that case, plants need technologies built to support both. Emerging requirements to deploy mobile apps and websites for monitoring and operating devices and the dynamic customization of visualizations may not be compatible with the software and technologies chosen to implement the initial requirements. If they are compatible, there may be extensive cost and time requirements to implement the customizations to deliver the necessary functionality.

Courtesy: Siemens

Courtesy: Siemens

The future-proof solution to supporting currently required functionalities, as well as dynamic and emergent needs, is a unified engineering system across varied platforms and stages, with broad compatibility and easy customization through industry-standard technologies and languages. A unified engineering system ensures manufacturers have the agility required to maintain competitive advantage in today’s business environment. This unified system ensures that every stakeholder works “in the same realm,” from machine design to operators on the plant floor to executive reporting. Working in a unified system at all levels also means there is standardization and transferability of solutions and KPI visualizations to various levels within a plant or across plants. This also eliminates the risk of anything being “lost in translation” when moving between disparate systems for design, operations and reporting.

Unified systems should leverage a toolset for the easy configuration of HMIs and interfaces that use technologies that are industry standards. What does that mean? For example, web-based architecture employs technologies and software benefiting from the technology and improvements gleaned from the widespread use across a proven ecosystem.

HTML5/JavaScript knowledge is widely available in the labor force, as opposed to proprietary technologies that require specialized consultation or employees from a small subset of manufacturers. Web-standard technology for building user interface and visualizations enables universal device compatibility and object-oriented engineering with hierarchical asset structures. It also ensures compliance with industry-standard cybersecurity measures, acting as part of the bridge between IT and OT. This broad compatibility means visualizations run on various devices, including cloud environments and mobile devices, with augmented reality capabilities for future-ready applications.

Visualization delivers more than just KPI’s

To increase efficiency, especially considering the workforce challenges many manufacturers have experienced, machine designers must deliver the correct data at the right time to the right person so that they can work in harmony with shifting production needs. When improving processes, updating or expanding lines or switching raw materials or finished product specifications based on shifting demands, updating the critical data tracked and the visualizations that make that data easily consumable are requirements. A unified system streamlines the customization of data visualizations, HMI systems’ scalability and data sharing across interconnected systems.

HMI and visualization solutions empower users to efficiently monitor and control complex processes and operations. Visualization solutions must meet high requirements: they should have fast response times, ideally be usable on any end device, and be user-friendly and intuitive. Legacy visualization systems were often proprietary, limiting their compatibility for integration and scalability. These proprietary systems required expensive specialist knowledge to customize to the application and, in some cases, were only easily customizable by the machine builder. This drives up the cost and downtime associated with any change. Simple drag-and-drop systems for creation, customization and configuration are one tool to lower the cost of implementing new requirements. Combined with a browser-based platform, an intuitive toolset makes customization affordable while expanding usability and features.

Courtesy: Siemens

Courtesy: Siemens

Simulation is an integral part of increasing plant efficiency. Simulation has become standard across many industries for plants, lines or individual machines as part of the design and operations process. Simulation ensures that designs will operate as intended across mechanical, electrical and automation functions, saving time and money during startup and when adjusting. A unified system supports simulation as needed within the same ecosystem as operations and design. This streamlines any need for simulation and collaboration without the need for data exports to disparate systems.

A unified system across machine operation, machine design, reporting and simulation, with standardized user interfaces and integrated cybersecurity, can deliver vast improvements in process efficiency and flexibility for any manufacturer. With new customer requirements, demands for scaling up operations or integrating new technologies, manufacturers need every advantage possible to stay competitive. Implementing a unified software solution to deliver consistency, transferability and reliability to operations that can deliver direct improvements at all levels.

Kyle Harrison is an HMI product manager at Siemens. Edited by Tyler Wall, associate editor, Control Engineering, WTWH Media,

Author Bio: Kyle Harrison is an HMI product manager at Siemens.