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UX in factories – the collaboration of people and machines requires a polished user experience

Is the operator using gloves? Is the device located in a noisy environment? Digital applications have become part of daily life in factories. A good user experience (UX) keeps the wheels rolling. UX design should, therefore, not be left to guesswork.

”Expectations towards tools and services used at work are based on apps that everyone’s using in their personal lives: People want user-friendliness, intuitiveness and personified user experiences – the chance to do everything efficiently and pleasantly. Demands continue to grow all the time.”

So says Hanna Remula, who has worked on customer-oriented design at Etteplan with clients from various industries. In recent years she has been involved in projects that develop human-machine interfaces (HMI) in industrial environments.

When it comes to working, the use context is highly important: Who is the solution aimed for? What do the users need to be able to do? Where are they doing it? Where is the control panel located? Or is it mobile? Does the operator use gloves? Is the environment noisy? What else must the operator do before, during and after use?

“Instead of polishing just the layout, we also focus on what’s important for the user: what they need to be able to do and what sort of data they need to make decisions. It’s crucial that we concentrate on the essential data and functions because there’s always a limit to what you can show.”

UX design also has a significant impact on the employee experience. Digital systems that are easy to use and built for an actual need can lower learning barriers and reduce mistakes, thus facilitating the recruitment of new employees.

“Charting the user path throughout the entire process is pivotal: we need to know what the user must do to reach a particular target and the challenges on the way. Solutions based on business targets and a real understanding of the user experience make it easier to improve efficiency, productivity and the employee experience.

Solutions to real problems

Challenges faced by users in production facilities and factories are typically complex and demand extra attention to work safety. Finding the right solutions to core problems is thus even more crucial.

“User-driven design is based on having a genuine understanding of the user experience and what produces the most value to the client. For example, we can collect and present different kinds of data to support decision-making. To present the essential data, however, we need to know the problem we’re solving.”

Seamless liaison between the client and the end user is highly important, according to Hanna Remula.

“We usually start with the definition of common goals. The next step is to merge the client’s business expertise, the end user experience and the technical possibilities. We can raise the level of automation, for example, by using machine learning. What’s required for each solution usually emerges and crystallizes during workshops, and that’s what eventually drives the UX design, as well.”

Standardization of user interfaces at production facilities also significantly helps learning on location. This, in turn, streamlines work and increases the speed of production.

“The main benefit of a standardized user experience is time saving. We can save time by lowering the learning curve, decreasing the time spent on problem solving and minimizing production stoppages. Optimizing processes at production facilities also results in more sustainable solutions. Another advantage of the standardized user experience is that it builds the brand image, which makes a good selling point,” Remula adds.