Making the Human Machine Interface (HMI) helpful

Flow prepared documentation for integration into the Human Machine Interface (HMI) of Picanol’s weaving machines. At a tap of a button, operators now have access to up-to-date documentation of the weaving machine, even in an offline environment.

In the past, Picanol noticed that their huge set of documentation was not always used by the operators because it was not easily available. Today, their weaving machines come with a Human Machine Interface (HMI), a dashboard that allows the operators to interact with the machine.


This HMI offers Picanol an excellent opportunity to integrate frequently updated documentation in the HMI. Thus, they can be sure that an operator is always using the latest version of the documentation, even in an offline environment. 

Challenge: Make the documentation easily available for operators

The documentation set for one weaving machine is huge, no less than 1800 pages, because it explains both the mechanical features as the software functionality of the machine in great detail. The result is a big heavy box of printed documentation gathering dust on a shelf because it is not efficient for operators to use while working. The machine’s software is updated on a regular basis, but the operator in the field did not always get the latest version of the documentation, which lead to confusion. Furthermore, these operators mostly work in an offline environment, which makes it impossible to supply them with an online knowledge base.

Solution: Context-sensitive help in a multilingual context

The main goal of the project was to make the critical parts of the documentation available at a tap of a button. When operators are stuck, they should be able to tap the Help button on the HMI and then be directed to the correct spot in the documentation to solve their issue without any hassle. Moreover, an operator should be able to find a piece of information quickly in the complete set of documentation in the language of their choice and always have up-to-date documentation in an offline environment. 

Result: Helpful HMIs with easily available, up-to-date documentation

The most significant results in a nutshell:

Context-sensitive help  

Picanol has successfully completed a digital transformation project for their technical documentation, so they now have their content structured in topics and in XML format. One of the advantages of this format is that you can add unique metadata to separate components of the documentation. In this case we wanted to have the documentation available to the operators at a tap of a button for the most critical screens. To achieve this, we collaborated with the IT team to map the metadata on the HMI to the info in the documentation. Today, operators simply tap the Help button on their screen and are guided immediately to the corresponding place in the documentation.  

Machine-specific metadata  

The version of the HMI used on a weaving machine differs per machine and while the Picanol engineers are doing an update on the machine, they also upload the correct set of documentation. By adding specific metadata to the documentation, the update mechanism checks the used version and automatically adds the correct set of documentation.  

Knowledge base  

We do not only add the documentation of the critical screens to the HMI, we make the complete set of documentation also available in a knowledge base. Using a powerful search, operators can find all relevant information at any moment. Furthermore, we split up the knowledge base in a software part and a mechanical part, but we kept the links between them to make it easy to toggle between both parts.  

Multilingual documentation  

An operator finds the documentation in the language that has been set as the default language on the HMI but he has the flexibility to toggle between different languages. This comes in handy when operators from different countries work on the same machine and want the documentation in their native language.