Industrial HMIs in safety relevant control room applications

Unlike the office environment, a harsh industrial environment demands a lot more from the screens used there. Top of the list of requirements is the robustness of the devices, high contrast capability and detail fidelity of the display. Quality is also an important criterion, because industrial monitors are to be trouble-free, reliable and do their job for as long as possible in a production environment or in critical industrial fields.


The market offers a wide range of models, from integrated monitors to large screens for indoor and outdoor use, wide screen or standard format. Industrial monitors run off the belt with a particularly robust housing and are highly protected against dirt and moisture. The Internet of Things (IoT) and the current developments in the area of Industry 4.0 are giving the market for industrial monitors a further boost. Whether in manufacturing, monitoring critical environments or logistics (to name just a few examples), robust monitors are used everywhere to visualize processes.


Flexible installation options extend the range of applications

Industrial monitors are suitable for stand-alone operation, but can also be installed in a control panel or in a monitoring wall. For example, the Austrian Railways (ÖBB), for its five operations management centres (BFZ) in Vienna, Linz, Salzburg, Innsbruck and Villach, uses a monitor wall for the technical and organizational servicing of the sections of the line in the Alpine Republic. The approximately 200 workstations of the dispatchers were equipped with the latest monitors and a touch panel PC from S&T, which Kontron markets under the product names' FlatClient' (Panel PC) and' FlatView' (Industrial Monitor).


The workplaces of the ÖBB are subject to the Austrian Federal Employment Protection Act, which is why the monitors must meet the strict legal requirements for computer workplaces. Safety Integrity Level (SIL) must also be maintained, to enable safe and reliable display of safety functions.


For example, monitors in applications with specific types of interlocking systems must meet the highest safety integrity level, SIL4, to ensure maximum reliability.


Man and machine work hand in hand

At the work tables of the ÖBB, which are equipped with a monitor wall, the employees ensure safe and punctual dispatching of train traffic as well as the operation of the interlockings. Train scheduling is also handled, partly with automation support, for entire sections of the line. At the dispositive workstations, employees always keep an eye on individual areas and, if necessary, must also act with foresight, to ensure that traffic flows without delay.


Ergonomics and ease of use are essential

Acting with multiple screens places high demands on the operators. For this reason, ÖBB attaches great importance to the ergonomic alignment of workplaces, to ensure that working conditions are as employee-friendly as possible. This includes the easy operability of the devices as well as the option to carry out individual settings easily and without great effort. This procedure must be possible in a timely manner and without any major operating effort, so that the operational sequence is not impaired.


For each table, a self-sufficient operating network with its own network protocol was implemented, which is not accessible from the outside. Rather, the monitors are controlled by a control unit, a Panel PC from S&T, that is permanently integrated in a drawer of the work table. This control unit allows adjustment of individual user parameters which can be set in or reset to their original values in just a few simple steps. The modern industrial monitors are used around the clock in ÖBB's operations management centers and meet all the requirements that are demanded in a complex environment with more than one monitor to be actively operated. The display of images is essential at the control desks in the control rooms, because the planners must be able to rely on the contents of a displayed image, to be able to react accordingly. The validity of the depiction is an important prerequisite for the security of the route network, which ÖBB must guarantee around the clock, 365 days a year.


All pictures: Austrian Railways (ÖBB)


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