New operating Scenarios for Industry
Franziska Schätzlein works as a usability/UX consultant at Cadera Design, which develops user interfaces for customers such as Siemens, Bosch and Audi. The human-machine interface is gaining in importance, thanks to the emergence of new technologies. This poses a challenge to industry.10 Nov 2019
In general, mobile apps are well-designed and follow established interaction principles. This has created the expectation that all of today’s products can be operated just as easily as mobile devices. "This also applies to industry. Here as well, we are experiencing a new generation of digital natives working on the machines,” explains Franziska Schätzlein.
But what is behind the terms Usability and UX (User Experience)? "Usability refers to the ease of operation of an interactive product. Usability can also function without a good visual design. However, bad design compromises the emotional experience of a product or software. User experience and product design are thus closely linked. This is why we attach great importance to this issue,” says Schätzlein. "To sum up, good visual design plus good usability equals a very good UX.”
Employees are demanding new operating scenarios. At the same time workplaces require new forms of interaction. "Today’s employees carry out a wide range of assignments. They have to operate a large number of different machines. Familiarization with each user interface needs to be quick and intuitive.”
Can smartphones serve as a useful model? "Industry is striving to create appropriate solutions. However, this is technically and economically much more difficult than, for example, in the telecommunications sector. In industry we have to contend with much smaller quantities and tougher technical requirements. Machines need to operate continuously over long periods of time. Technology designed for an industrial environment is often considerably more expensive than the mass-produced technology installed in a smartphone. As a rule, industry relies heavily on standard electronic components. Compared with the current state of the art in the consumer sector, such components are bulkier, slower and less technically advanced.”
Do good user interfaces have an impact on process reliability? For Franziska Schätzlein the answer is simple: "If operators feel comfortable and safe, they make fewer mistakes.” The error rate has a direct influence on the production outcome. "This underlines how strongly emotional aspects affect safety and economic efficiency.” Users are thus dependent on having a cost-effective, reproducible and quality-oriented control system for each step in the production process. "The clear definition of production processes is a prerequisite for delivering the quality required by the customer – on time, sustainably and with an optimum input of materials. Powerful human-machine interfaces must ensure that these processes are defined, stored and made available to each user role simply and intuitively.” As a rule, production processes are complex. Operation, however, must be simple and straightforward. According to Franziska Schätzlein usability plays a decisive role.
Franziska Schätzlein adds: "The deployment of new industrial technology does not automatically create a good user experience. In order to exploit the potential of digitization, manufacturers must ask themselves the following questions: Who actually operates the machines? How can we make their daily work easier? And what information do they need at what stage in the process in order to ensure good product quality? Only those who fully understand users and their working environment can ensure that the new operating scenarios fulfil actual requirements.”
Where is the human-machine interface heading in the future? "Artificial intelligence will have a great influence, of course. But we still see great potential in the modularization of HMIs. AR and VR applications are on the agenda. A real breakthrough has yet to be achieved. What matters here is the execution of the associated hardware.”
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