How to create a corporate HMI that strengthens your brand

  • HMI
Be a little more like Apple— that’s what many brand-conscious companies aspire to. Whether hardware or software, Apple fans admire the sleek design and love the intuitive operation. Read now which 7 points you should consider as an industrial company if you want to generate real fans for your HMI. This is how you establish your product as a popular brand in the B2B sector:

1. UX design from head to toe

The corporate design embodies the essence of the company. It shows up not only in public appearances or marketing materials, it also characterizes the entire product design. And good products need a carefully thought-out user experience design (UX design).

UX designers analyze and optimize the user experience. They capture the entire user experience including users’ thoughts, emotions and needs while they operate the system. Because users associate all of these things with the brand, the corporate HMI and ultimately with the machine.

For this reason, you should leave nothing to chance when it comes to the look & feel, in particular in mechanical engineering. UX designers aim to improve the user experience. Complex systems should be represented in a simple manner. Users should be enabled to complete their tasks at the machine as quickly and conveniently as possible.

2. Form follows function

UX designers focus on more than functionality. They provide the machine and its operation with an unmistakable feel. This in turn underscores the most important function of the product. Unmistakable design elements and operation controls instantly reveal the association with a specific brand.

Your corporate HMI design answers questions such as: Do you use it to monitor, operate and analyze a single machine or an entire system? How ergonomic, robust and intuitive is the operation of the panel? Who will operate the machine? Which is more suitable, a stationary or a mobile panel? What safety features should it have?

Apply the ‘form follows function’ principle to your HMI, too—define your own corporate panel with your individual corporate user interface. It completes the design of your machine and rounds out the brand experience.

3. Consistent HMI design builds trust

All successful products have one thing in common: Their consistent and solid design and functionality set them apart from the competition in a very real way. The significant added value for different user groups builds trust, allowing you to generate loyal fans of your brand.

This is the very thing that is often overlooked in the corporate HMI devices on the market. Don’t trip up by attempting to improve your corporate HMI ‘just a little bit’. Time and again, many fail because they are not rigorous enough in the implementation of their design. Focus on the big picture right from the start.

Achieving success depends on uncompromising consistency: Your manual is great, but working the machine is complicated. Your design is appealing, but navigating the user interface involves long waiting periods. Or perhaps your sales brochures are in top shape, but the cumbersome configuration tool for placing an order is highly frustrating. Such contradictions cause irritation among users.

4. Thought-out corporate HMIs spark enthusiasm

Our society is shifting from a consumer culture towards an experience culture. Material desires move into the background—creating one’s own experiences moves into the foreground. In the workplace in particular, this is becoming increasingly important with regard to employee motivation. Design can play a supporting role here.

Enthusiasm is an important keyword which by now has come to the attention of many UX designers, too. Is the operation of the machine logical and intuitive? Does it foster the employees’ own initiative? For example, are operators themselves able to analyze when certain machine parts need to be replaced or where settings could be modified to improve productivity? Are they allowed to apply their own thinking skills? Does it make them enthusiastic about what they are doing?

HMIs today are no longer just about working the machine—users also keep the production process running and take an active role in shaping it: They install and interact with the machine, engage in production planning, analyze the overall system effectiveness, perform safety monitoring, etc.

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5. One solution for many use cases

On the shop floor, we frequently find different HMI types for different machine types. Do we really need different screen diagonals, multiple variations of the home screens, or a smaller display for smaller machines? Don't shy away from questioning the status quo of your own HMI. Put your operation philosophy under the microscope.

Create a design that can handle as many use cases as possible, and take future developments into account today. The ideal corporate design concept ensures that the user interface operation philosophy is transferable from device to device and across all systems and machines.

Regardless of whether someone is looking at a 10-inch display or at a tablet, the user interface must show instantly that this is your product. The user interface turns into a product that strengthens your brand. Users always find themselves in a recognizable, familiar environment—regardless of the HMI, they are using.

Seeing the big picture of HMI development also has an impact on costs. With time, hardware costs begin to move into the background because the hardware becomes heavily standardized. The expenses for the design and programming of a good user interface, on the other hand, skyrocket. Custom requirements are typically satisfied in the software, and people, in general, expect more and more of good UX design, thanks to trailblazers like Apple, Google, and others.

Be consistent and settle on one device size or type of hardware. Focus your energy on understanding the commonalities of different machine types and their users—not on the things that make them different.

6. HMIs should be independent of control systems

How can a single corporate HMI become attractive to multiple industries? One important issue is support for different makes of control systems. In other words, the HMI must be independent of the control system.

This can be achieved by using a middleware that contains an abstraction model of the machine. This can be cost-effective in particular with a view towards the standardization of machines for networking for I4.0 tasks. If the access, the HMI, the interface or the API—in other words, the machine architecture—is service-oriented, this compatibility pays off both for proprietary and third-party products that will be networked. A classic win-win situation.

7. Logical continuation of corporate design

Once you have mastered the last two items, this opens up the perspective of creating an ecosystem of software products that are independent of the hardware. From your own visualization that you can use on all of your own machines to web-based visualization for smartphones, simulation aids, analysis and optimization tools, M2M communication, MES integration, service portals and cloud integration. Done.


Less hardware diversity and a clearly structured, service-oriented architecture—including control system independence if needed—form the basis for creating your own corporate HMI. Ultimately, this will turn your customers into proud fans of your brand.

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