HMI, Who's got the best package


Thread Starter

Steve Tallent

I have not purchased a PLC yet. This will be for a lights out facility. The software will need to be able to do SPC, bar-coding, batch control, charting, and job-qing and releasing. Any help will be appreciated. Thank you, Steve

Steve Schreiner

In my opinion, Visual Basic is your best choice. The free run-time is a plus, and there are a multitude of ActiveX controls that let you communicate with just about any type of PLC or PC-Based control package. Don't forget the OPC connectivity that the majority of automation suppliers offer nowadays... Regards, Steve Schreiner
Steve, Thay all can do what you're asking it to do. They will all look the same. You need to look at the other issues before picking one over the other. For example, who will be programming this package, who will be using it too. What kind of support will you need, will your tag database grow in the future. How about connectivity on the web or up to the big house....What PLC will you use? How fast will you need it to update? Have you looked at bundled solutions? I can keep going. These will set the benchmark to pick which is the best package for you. Kirk GE

Moti Levin - Galil engineering

All HMI's can do the work. You must check the amount of I/O's you have and if the HMI support the communication drivers you need for your hardware. If you have several hundreds of I/O you should work with Cimplicity. They have linked objects, SPC, trends , web browser and much more. I work with it for 5 years and it is a very good software.

Burda, Jason M.

Steve, I have used both RSView and cimplicity. My reccomendation would be to use the HMI that is compatible with all your other components as the main difficulty I see with either is their ability to interface to third part components. Cimplicity is relatively easy to set-up and works well with NT. JB


The “Best” HMI today is a tough choice and usually depends on a number of things. Do you need an HMI on the cutting edge of technology? If so, then look at Iconics, Intellution iFIX, Rockwell RSView, and Siemens WinCC. Do you need a client/server architecture? If yes, check out Citect, iFIX, GE Cimplicity, RSView and WinCC. How about server redundancy? Citect is the best, but iFIX, RSView, GE Cimplcity and WinCC all have some solution. How about extensibility? IFIX, Iconics and RSView all use VBA while Siemens uses C. Others may have something, but their capabilities are limited. Is ease of use (learning curve and productivity) important? Winners here are Wonderware, RSView and Lookout. Support? Rockwell’s is top notch, while most others are average to below average. Is there a clear cut “Best”? Not really. All HMIs have advantages and disadvantages. From my experience and from an overall perspective, my top 3 choices are, in no particular order, RSView, iFIX, and WinCC. Subrahmanyan

Ranjan Acharya

It sounds more like you are asking who has the best SCADA package rather than just plain HMI -- the dividing line is blurred, but plain old HMIs such as a ParkerCTC or Cutler Hammer PanelMate or AB PanelView or similar offerings from other vendors would serve you fine on a machine (as a push-button replacement with animated screens). Unless you have a company standard, then normally the HMI from the PLC vendor will suffice -- less headaches with communications and so on. As far as SCADA goes, there are too many to list. We have used quite a few here for various customers, and they all have their share of problems. Whichever one you pick will fall short in some areas and excel in others. Your posting is going to elicit a lot of claims from various users regarding their pet package -- even badly-written packages have supporters(!). Alternatively, some will claim that a bespoke package in Delphi, Visual Basic or C/C++ is what you need. Is this an in-house job or do you have an integrator? I would ask a trusted integrator which package they prefer, taking into account the fact that they might be AB preferred (for example) and so on -- i.e., a little biased. I would seriously consider the package that your in-house people or your favourite integrator can support. Do not fall for the salesman's rubbish -- all the leading SCADA packages seem to be converging around the same feature set -- and they all have limits (we just overloaded a scalable package). One thing to consider is single-sourcing to one (leading) vendor i.e., all A-B or all Siemens. This precludes just-as-excellent packages such as CiTect and Wonderware but it may help with pricing / support. At the same time, find out about their support in your geographic area -- is it 24x7 (if required) or alternatively is your integrator going to be there instead -- also does 24x7 mean telephone or a live person within a reasonable amount of time. Sometimes the vendor support may be overseas and not entirely useful with the time zone lag / lead -- their local support may not be fully proficient in / with the package(s). Also, is all the documentation available in compiled HTML (or suitable alternative) and in clear / concise English. I would dump anything right away if the documentation is useless -- a portend of a terrible experience trying to implement the package. Some site visits may also help. Ask the front-line people who actually use the package what they think (not the ivory tower people who only [choose to?] hear the good news). Just opinions. RJ

Rick L. Hudson EMCO Inc.

In my book the best HMI package lies in a combination of Visual BASIC and an OPC server. This opinion comes from having done HMI work in several different packages as well as VB. Rick Hudson

Engelberth Rodriguez

Hi Steve, I've used Wonderware's Intouch, Ci Technologies's Citect, Icon's Genesis and other packages. The choice depends more on your specific needs. According to my needs and applications I can tell you that I like Citect for Windows a lot, it's easy to configure and=20 programing, includes several drivers for diferent brachns of PLC's free of charge, good with networking, and it's cheap in comparison with other packages like Wonderware or Fix. The only thing that I don't like is the poor screen color resolution (it only manage 256 colors). Obviusly, your better choice depends of the qtty of tags that you have to manipulate, the type of Plc's, the application, etc. Cheers, Engelbert Rodriguez REELVENSA Venezuela
Top-notch tech support from Rockwell???!!?? You must deal with a different Rockwell software than my colleagues and I do! We wait for answers to questions for months, and still do not get resolution. Or Subrahmanyan, do you work for one of the the Detroit automakers and that's why you get real customer support?

Nieder, Steve M

Steve All of the replies are valid. Please add the following for thought. If you are truly looking for an HMI package only ask the following Does the vendor offer Full VGA across all products offered? Are the object scalable? 256 colors or 16 colors across the products offered? Common software tools from small to large OI? Touchscreen or touch pad use same application? Multi vendor plc drivers? Tag Name Data base? Can you import CSV files from other applications? This would allow you to change the plc address without having to retype the tagname. STEVE CH
Paul... If you actually wait for a month for an answer and still get no resolution, then you're to blame as much as Rockwell. I can't even believe you'd tell people that you wait that long. The phone works both ways. Incidentally all my support issues are handled in a timely manner, typically within a few hours. And your thinking that I work for a Detroit automaker really shows you’re confused. I work for a small Systems Integrator who knows how to treat customers as well as vendors and gets the same in return. Perhaps you should try it sometime.

Kerry L. Schrank

Why not use a PC based control system that combines your control logic and HMI screen development from a common tag name database? All the functions you referenced can be handled by all of the PC based control companies in the market place today. Kerry L. Schrank Think&Do Software

Anthony Kerstens

Wonderware tech support is excellent, and free. As for Rockwell, don't you have to pay for it? Anthony Kerstens P.Eng. > From: Subrahmanyan <[email protected]> > ......Support? Rockwells is > top notch, while most others are average to below average.
Anthony, Wonderware's Tech support used to be excellent. It, along with Wonderware's product offerings, have fizzled instead of sizzled these past few years. Rockwell's Tech. Support used to be terrible, really terrible. They have made tremendous strides in the past 2-3 years. And no, Wonderware's Tech. Support is not free. You get it with a support contract, which has to be renewed every year (typically about 9% of the list price for the products you own). Rockwell uses the same approach. Subrahmanyan

Hunter Farris

Wonderware tech support is excellent at a cost of $1000 per year for the packages that I have used recently. Hunter Farris

Anthony Kerstens

No. The local WW sales office tech support is terrible. But you can always refuse them and ask to be forwarded to California. Done it. They're great. And California tech support has access to WW developers to ask questions. IMHO the local sales office support usually does nothing more than look through WW tech notes. As for paying for WW tech support, I thought it was just the optional comprehensive support package which includes upgrades that you paid for. (So the 9% is for upgrades?) I've always been able to just phone in. And if they have to research something, they get back to me. As for Rockwell, I've been refused because I didn't have a support package. You pay all that money for several programming packages, and they don't want to help you unless you pay yet again. Anthony Kerstens P.Eng.

Dennis Murphy

Dear Steve, Of all the responses I've seen here so far, not one of them has talked about Total Cost of Ownership. As a Wonderware Distributor employee, obviously I'm biased to our product. But putting that aside, I'd like to just plant some seeds about the reasons people mostly use all these Rapid Application Development packages. The Cost of maintaining a VB interface to a control system is very high. The engineering costs associated with upgrading and regular maintenance are higher when compared to a RAD package like InTouch/iFix/RSView32/Citect/WinCC etc... Also, you should consider the type of employee that is going to have the daily responsibility of maintaining the system. Very many Instrumentation Technicians attend our one week training and become pretty proficient in troubleshooting basic problems (or they become very dangerous). It's highly unlikely they would be able to do any basic debugging of a VB interface. I'm sure the other packages have reasonable training courses associated with them as well, and they can bring non-engineers up to speed pretty quickly with an interface. If there are things you need to do in VB that the standard package doesn't have, InTouch has a toolkit that allows you to make your own functions to run inside of InTouch with no other application running on the computer. Again, I'm biased, but I want people to understand that VB programs can be run inside of InTouch without using ActiveX. Of course, ActiveX is an alternative, but it is not necessary and it is not the only alternative. Regardless of which package you eventually choose, the operators and people doing the daily maintenance certainly reap the benefits from a RAD package over VB. And that is the reason they have a lower TCO than VB. That is my point. Good luck with your project. Dennis Murphy
Hi Steve, I agree that probably all the packages mentioned above will do a nice job for you. We are a small paper mill with two machines and selected Wonderware approximately 3 years ago as the HMI to sit above a GE Fanuc PLC architecture. Our experience to date has been great. With training and support from Qmation in Lowell, MA, we built our entire system with two very good electricians who had no previous HMI experience. The support from Qmation, through an annual service contract has been nothing less than excellent. Their staff is extremely knowledgeable in the Wonderware product line and can communicate very effectively with a dumb mechanical engineer such as myself. Since the initial installation was complete in 99, we have experienced 100% uptime. Not to say we didn't have start-up hick ups, we were never in a situation where either machine shut down. Most of our problems were corrected over the phone. I recommend both Wonderware and Qmation highly. Earl Weller