In the spring of 2015, GROB commissioned us to carry out the UX design for the newly developed rotary pallet storage system. Close contact developed with our project manager Benedikt Weiß (senior UX designer, Expert Animation Design), and a joint success story unfolded. We are delighted to be able to present the results of the project today.
In the video, on the basis of the GROB rotary pallet storage system, we demonstrate how user-centric design and a positive user experience in the industrial environment can occur and what potential they have.
The Company GROB
The company GROB is an internationally operating company with headquarters in Mindelheim/Germany and three production sites in Sao Paulo/Brazil, Bluffton/USA and Dalian/China. Worldwide, the GROB group, with approximately 4,500 employees, generates a revenue of 950 million euro (2013). The product portfolio ranges from the universal machining center up to the highly complex production system with its own automation, from machining assembly units up to fully automated assembly lines. Competence, high innovative power, quality, inter alia in the form of a high production depth, and reliability are what the name GROB stands for.
Together with Ergosign, as part of the new development of the rotary pallet storage system, GROB has actively pursuing the idea of industry 4.0 - the “digitization” of production and automation processes with the focus on the networking of man-machine and machine-machine with the goal of autonomous decision-making and planning skills of the respective machine.
What is a Rotary Pallet Storage System?
A rotary pallet storage system (RPSS) assures the automated supply of a tool machine with blanks. The RPSS coordinates the prepared jobs, conveys the parts to the machine and finally stores the finished workpieces in the memory again. Even if a user intervention is possible at any time in principle, this enables automated operation over an extensive period of time (e.g. weekend), as the orders prepared by the operator can be processed autonomously by the RPSS. This guarantees the maximum utilization of the connected machine tools with simultaneous greater flexibility in work processes.
However, the flexibility that a rotary pallet storage system (RPSS) brings with it necessitates a change of attitude in the employees involved: Up to now, only one individual pallet was processed in the machine. This was prepared and then removed again manually. With an RPSS, however, the complexity is far higher, as a variety of different pallets are in circulation simultaneously. The master computer decides autonomously, based on the philosophy of industry 4.0, on the paths and sequences of the individual pallets in order to obtain the greatest possible efficiency. In order to continuously guarantee a possible intervention in the automation, the operator must not lose the overview.
Vision: Transparency and Guide for Workers
Ergosign has designed a user interface, which optimally supports the skilled and unskilled workers, for GROB. The system is deliberately not designed as a “black box”, but depicts the machine status and the current activities at any time in a transparent and comprehensible way. The system supports the operator actively through automatic mechanisms, such as the coordination and initiation of work sequences of the pre-planned orders.
By working together with Ergosign we have managed to create a fantastic user experience for the handling of our rotary pallet storage system. ”
We have insisted that the user retain control and can intervene manually. This ensures a high level of user acceptance in this extremely automated work environment. A design that is reduced to the essential elements and the use of targeted UI animations support this aspiration and enable efficient work and a positive experience for the operator.
A user-centric design and a positive user experience are occured in the industrial environment, whereby the user can handle its work without extensive trainings but with pleasure. We would like to thank you for the great cooperation with the GROB team and look forward to further joint steps in the direction of industry 4.0. Additionally we would like to reffer you to our blog of this project: Ergosign Case Study GROB
If you want to write a success story like this together with us or have questions about the project, I am always at your disposal.
On 2 June, on behalf of Ergosign, I visited the CeMAT in Hanover, the leading trade fair for intralogistics solutions. The trade fair showcased transport and packaging systems. Small boxes and large boxes. Wheels and rollers. And, a smart software solution with a sophisticated UX design, the praises of which were sung in a musical.
“Simply Smart” - under this motto, STILL, the intralogistics supplier (more than 8,000 employees, 1.7 billion Euro turnover) presented its new software solution called „neXXt fleet“ at the CeMAT, highlighting the significance of digital solutions in the logistics industry.
STILL neXXt fleet consists of 9 individual applications and sets new standards in terms of availability, ease of use and visualization. ”
Not only the apparent result is interesting, but also the path that lead there. An extensive and close cooperation with Ergosign preceded this first public presentation at the trade fair.
Based on the existing requirements and strategic framework conditions, together with STILL, we developed an easy to use UI concept. This concept is scalable, and thus can be transferred to future applications, guaranteeing the expandability of the software. In the subsequent visual design process, we ensured that the UI meets STILL’s corporate identity design and colors and at the same time highlights the pioneering character of the product. The result is an individual and responsive UI design, with outstanding user experience, which can be used on various target platforms (desktop, tablet, smartphone).
The UI was developed in our in-house development department. Thanks to the close cooperation of the internal departments and the well-established processes, it was possible to efficiently and quickly implement the software at a high quality level. We used technologies such as e.g. AngularJS, HTML/CSS, SASS and REST. Here again, the close interaction with STILL and its developers was important for defining clean technical interfaces and optimizing the end product according to the customer’s requirements.
The result is a modern, responsive user interface, which is currently implemented in nine different applications. In addition to the high demands on the UI design and the implementation, the medium-term time frame from ideation, specific design of the different applications to the final implementation, presented a challenge.
THE TRADE FAIR
The ultimate ending, was STILL’s presentation of „neXXt fleet“ at the CeMAT, on huge screens, iPads and touch tablets, and with an actual specially scripted and extremely effective musical - wow!
Maybe the next CeMAT in 2 years time will have another great reason to travel to Hanover. I would be happy.
Senior UX Designer
The 2016 Tour de France started on Saturday, July 2 with the 1st stage from Mont-Saint-Michel to Utah Beach Sainte-Marie-du-Mont. After 3,519 kilometers in total, distributed over 21 stages, it ends on the Champs-Élysées Avenue in Paris.
As a constant companion of the cycling race across France, Ergosign developed the Liveticker for the 2016 Tour de France on behalf of Saarländischer Rundfunk (SR). All the fans and those interested could therefore always stay engrossed and access route information such as altitude and the current position of the field at any time.
Ergosign undertook the complete development of the tour ticker, this means both front-end and back-end. In an analysis carried out at the beginning, the editors of SR were questioned in order to optimally adapt the new back-end as far as possible to the work processes and requirements. The resulting system is highly flexible: Thus not only can a number of editors work on the same ticker (e.g. field updates and ticker notifications), but a number of tickers can also be operated simultaneously, in case this is necessary. The different aspects of the ticker can be updated individually such that all information can always be kept as current as possible. Additionally, an XML interface was prepared by means of which the teletext is similarly always kept up-to-date.
The administrative area is fully decoupled from the front-end display. The front-end is lightweight, robustly updatable and is completely statically generated. It therefore offers very good performance with regard to the desired scalability by way of a caching server. State of the art technologies such as HTML5, CSS3 (SASS), Java Script and JSON were used.
Shortly before the tour Sportschau launched a new design. The Tour Ticker is adapted to it with its reduced design. All information can also be readily retrieved via mobile device. The responsive design is optimized using vector graphics and specially-designed SVG icons for mobile devices, tablets and desktop.
A particular challenge was the adaptation of the altitude profiles in SVG format, the content of which should adapt dynamically to the space available on the different end devices. Ergosign also overcame this through close cooperation with designers and the development team.
At the San Francisco developer conference on 6/13/2016 Apple introduced new features and improvements aplenty for its platforms tvOS, watchOS, iOS and macOS - formerly OS X. In addition to the countless more or less practical app modifications on show, take for example the now fully “featuritis”-ridden, totally-overloaded iMessage or the much-needed redesign of Apple Music, there are three topics of interest from a UX perspective that I would like to highlight.
AppleWatch - the wait is over
The second generation of Apple Watch may not have been pre-announced, but it has significantly improved the performance of the watch app. In future, all relevant information will be pre-loaded in the background, facilitating a (long-overdue) fluid interaction and putting an end to staring at a loading indicator. Apple has also done away with Glances in favor of a Docs app, thereby simultaneously creating two practical functions for the “side button”. In addition to doc opening (comparable to the Switch app in iOS), there is now the possibility of making an automatic emergency call in any country. Personal health information is transmitted simultaneously too.
This feature is of particular interest to the field of medicine. Various different types of information might for instance be conceivable depending on environment and user role. I.e. both patients as well as doctors or nursing staff could use this feature to varying extents.
Performance optimization and improved navigation between apps could now lead to a rise in corporate interest in the use of the Apple Watch in productive environments too. The tactile responsiveness and functioning of the new Scribble input feature - letters can be drawn on the display with your finger - remains to be seen.
iOS 10 - context is King
iOS 10 has become more intelligent and offers the user information in certain situations without the latter having to explicitly request it. Apple refers to this feature as “contextual prediction”. Examples of this include proactive suggestions of phone numbers if a name is used in conjunction with the word “phone” in a message, checking the calendar for free dates or route suggestions for recognized destinations. Apple has already taken the first steps in this direction with iOS 9 and is now - as demanded in my blog post from February 17th in 2016 - in the process of further developing this.
Apple wants to use improved, more interactive rich notifications on the lock screen, more content in the 3D Touch Preview and, more specifically, “contextual prediction” to reach its users on the level of their own personal environment. All the relevant information should be offered immediately without the need for much interaction. This is an approach which, in my view, is very promising, and an insight into exactly how interaction with digital systems will look in the mobile sector in future. Of great significance to productive environments is that our applications automatically detect what is important in which situation and alert the user to this accordingly. Data is processed in such a way that is easy to understand and respond to promptly.
Siri is everywhere
Now Siri has made its way onto the Mac too in the form of the desktop operating system macOS Sierra, recently renamed in the interests of consistency. What’s more, the voice assistant is now capable of communicating with third-party provider apps on the Appstore. That, and the fact that Siri understands a lot more commands based on context, could finally give the feature some real added value. Looking at the ECHO from Amazon, Apple has had some catching up to do here where multimodal interaction is concerned. There are actually two Apple use cases that exist in conjunction with HomeKit and CarKit that require an effective voice control function.
Out of all the innovations on display, and potential privacy concerns aside, it is the improved and now-omnipresent Siri which I feel offers the greatest potential. Multimodal interaction can be used in countless different forms across all sectors, it’s the future. Even where new technologies which do enable hands-free use are concerned (e.g. augmented reality), there is a need to move past the notion of classic mouse / touch interaction.
Conclusion - everything is merging into one
Apple has produced an impressive amount of new features, but not a single one of them is new or innovative. Some areas where the competition was performing better were optimized and significant markers were laid down for the future. A key issue for Apple is the interaction of all its platforms. This is demonstrated, for instance, by the fact that a Mac can be immediately unlocked with an Apple Watch or the fact that content on one device can be copied and pasted to another seamlessly.
Apple has come to the realization that the focus needs to be drawn away from individual devices and steered towards the optimization of the integrated workflow experience. In the future we will use several mobile devices depending on our current environment and the tasks at hand. Dealing with multi-device applications has become an important task for UX designers. Apple has taken a step in the right direction with its new updates.
A beta developer is now available for all platforms and the release has been scheduled - as ever, without any exact indication of the specific date - for Autumn.
A list of all the new features and the video of the developer conference can be viewed on the Apple site.
Sun, a beautiful city, interesting people and a lot of knowledge.
What can a city such as Lisbon, with its beautiful, colorful old houses, its warm climate, excellent food and very friendly and cordial people do even better?
For us: host a conference centered on the topic of UX. Both of us – Bento Haridas and Sascha Schäfer – we would be present on site at this conference for Ergosign at the UXLx 2016 in Lisbon for two days of presentations and workshops and to share new insights and knowledge for future projects from Portugal.
As UX professionals, our creativity is the basis and the engine of our industry. But it is not a talent that you can access and conjure up whenever you would like. Denise Jacobs shows in her workshop how to release blockages and how spontaneous creativity is hidden in all participants.
As a bonus for the scientists among us, she also explains which brain waves are needed for relaxed thinking. In order to put the brain into a creative mode, we need alpha waves. To trigger these waves while under external influences or stress is not always easy.
Fortunately, the techniques of Denise Jacobs are also possible to undertake in the workplace:
Close your eyes and relax, then press the tongue gently at the front of palate and at the same time roll the eyes slightly upwards. Now a breathe deep a couple of times. While breathing, the brain waves change from Beta to Alpha.
Watch cloud patterns, observe water in motion, or something similar. This exercise stimulates your brain and helps you gain creative thought patterns.
Engage in conscious daydreaming. The goal is to have enough awareness during a day dream so that you can interrupt yourself in order to hold on to creative thoughts. To recognize the moments in which you daydreams allows you to develop some knowledge and awareness. Productive daydreaming is a careful balancing act.
Take a Genius Nap
A “genius nap” shifts your brain to alpha status shortly before you fall to sleep. Position yourself into a sleeping position and at the same time remain awake as long as you can until you do not fall completely asleep. Start to relax yourself and transition into alpha mode. Allow ideas to surface. As soon as one appears, inspire yourself and catch it.
Get (Ideas) Moving
If your brainstorming makes you tired, frustrated, causes stress or in any other way makes you come to a grinding halt, you should stimulate your blood circulation.
Stand up, jump up and move your arms and legs, run around the park one time or try something else to get your blood flow circulating. Find out how you can integrate movement in your normal working day. The more active you are, the more active your brain works.
Integrate a relaxing stroll for thinking into your working day. Find a pleasant and quiet place - ideally in nature. This could be the place where you get your best ideas.
Sit or lie on the floor and imagine the world from this perspective. Sit in another corner of the room and take in the perspectives from there. Climb up on something and observe the surroundings as if you would be gliding from the ceiling. Take a sheet of paper, role it into a funnel and look at the world through the funnel. Alternatively, you can walk through a room with your eyes closed and discover how you perceive this room.
Write and draw what you have perceived. Use this change of perspective in order to gain a creative solution that you have missed.
Let’s get relaxed and creative!
Bento Orlando Haridas