At last! The advent of better software application UX to manage critical manufacturing processes

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For too long, professionals in the manufacturing industry have had to cope with software applications that are designed more for function than usability despite the fact that it is people who are the ones using these solutions in their everyday work lives. From the shop floor and production, to packaging and distribution, the easier and more accessible the solution, the more likely business benefits will accrue. This is particularly relevant for manufacturing businesses in highly regulated industries where mistakes can result in huge fines and brand damage.

At last, the development of engaging user interfaces (UIs) commonplace in consumer applications is coming to manufacturing with the development of a new generation of intuitive UI-designed software applications, from shop floor through to packaging and labelling. Gurdip Singh, CEO at Kallik, argues that prioritising user experience (UX) and the use of intuitive software applications will be crucial in highly regulated manufacturing industries to ensure compliance with the ever growing rules and regulations, all the way through to the label.

Software companies have severely underestimated the needs of label and artwork professionals for sophisticated ways to use solutions, particularly in regulated industries where mistakes can mean fines and damaging recalls. We have all become accustomed to high quality UX in our everyday lives, with intuitive and engaging UI enabling consumers to perform tasks from booking a car service to high-level transactions such as autonomous online banking. This expectation has now reached the manufacturing industry, where label and artwork professionals need the same level of ease of use and convenience from their industrial software as their personal applications.

The label has the power to make or break a business

UX is no small matter. The IEEE reports three of the main reasons for software failure are directly related to UX. The usability of an industrial software application that manufacturing and labelling and artwork professionals have to use every day to do their jobs, has a deep impact that stretches across entire operations from design and production through to distribution and can even influence overall business performance.

First and foremost, poor UX has a significant impact on productivity. If software applications are too complex and are difficult to navigate, this will significantly slow down operations. The lack of intuitive design can even heighten the risk of errors, an issue that can be detrimental in highly regulated industries. With far greater legal, financial and safety implications than most other industries, even the smallest error could result in costly delays to market or damaging product recalls, which could lead to medical device manufacturers, for example, seeing a 10% drop in share price or food and beverage manufacturers seeing up to 55% of customers leave their brand, even if only temporarily.

With nearly 15% of pharmaceutical recalls between 2017-2019 a result of labelling issues, getting it right the first time and keeping it right in label and artwork management is vital but poor software usability can cause unnecessary roadblocks to get the product to market.

Poor UX impacts more than just operations

Not only are there financial ramifications for poor UX, but there are much deeper business issues too. A lack of software usability leads to lowered employee satisfaction where software applications make professionals’ jobs harder or wastes their valuable time on fixing problems. This impact can even go as far as raising levels of staff attrition.

Label and artwork professionals have to manage thousands of labels across multiple product ranges and languages. For example, one leading multinational consumer goods company alone has over 300,000 current pieces of artwork, which require up to 60,000 minor changes per year. Label and artwork professionals already have a time and labour-intensive job with a single artwork taking up to one hour to change manually. They need a software solution that will relieve cognitive overload to make mental space for higher level operations such as design optimisation and branding.

There are three essentials to high-quality UI and UX in label and artwork management software that allow professionals to flourish at their jobs without the burden of dealing with process changes and incurring possible errors.

1. Designed by manufacturing professionals for manufacturing professionals

Often those who design industrial software are doing so from a desk in an office, completely separate from the actual environment where the application will be used. This can immediately limit the usability of the software. The environments where industrial software is used, whether it is a plant floor, a print room, or a warehouse, can be challenging or even hazardous. So attention to the UI and cognitive load is paramount. A software UI that takes up a large amount of cognitive load is not practical to use in such high-intensity environments, therefore, in the case of label and artwork, a UI design that allows label and artwork professionals to seamlessly work within different industrial spaces is essential.

The UI for the Kallik label and artwork management (LAM) solution was developed through close collaboration with existing customers who are key industry players. It was then rigorously tested in real manufacturing scenarios to allow the creation of a label and artwork management solution that is perfectly adapted to the environments label and artwork professionals work in. This level of understanding of label and artwork management processes can only be achieved through the close collaboration and expertise of relevant industry players.

2. Intuitive use by design

An intuitive design helps industrial professionals do their job not just efficiently, but more accurately, reducing errors and decreasing unexpected costs and delays. Our software application, for example, leverages symbols and UI features common in personal applications to enhance the usability of the application. This creates the ultimate software application UX that reduces the need for extensive prior training as its systems for use reflect those of popular personal applications – allowing quick adoption of new software.

The software application interface also enables the mobility for plant operators to move between sites with ease while inspecting operations and allows designers and managers to access the software database on the move, from different work devices. Industry professionals need solutions that are designed with the end-user in mind and with the deep domain knowledge of manufacturing systems and operations to develop a UI that truly optimises critical manufacturing processes.

3. Streamlines complex functions into one manageable system

Industrial software solutions should make the lives of label and artwork professionals easier. That means they should be designed to simplify processes and streamline different functions into one, easy to navigate system. Quality UX design will collect all the tools and functionalities needed to complete tasks in one place for easy access and maximum efficiency. One UI, one view of all the processes involved.

The software design should also allow new integrations and capabilities to be added with ease over time to continuously improve UX and keep up with changes to the industrial environment. When we designed our label and artwork management software application, we made sure we would be able to seamlessly integrate more advanced user-facing features going forward, that can quickly become available to users. This could include the potential to build more mobile-enabled functionality into the software application in the future, such as graphical packages, 3D rendering technology or augmented reality views of labelling and artwork on the factory floor. Automatic updates allow for label and artwork professionals to receive consistently high standards of UX even as the industry changes.

The future of Label and Artwork Management software is UX optimised

UX optimised label and artwork management (LAM) software is the next step to optimising manufacturing processes. It is an investment worth making. For every dollar a company invests in improved UX, that dollar returns $100 in revenue. High-quality UX improves productivity for everyone involved in the labelling and artwork process, from designers and label creators to reviewers and auditors, and operations teams, all the way up to upper-level management.

Ensuring LAM software applications have a good UX benefits the entire value chain. The optimised operations boost speed to market and customer satisfaction, both crucial parts in an ever-changing industrial landscape that demands time critical, accurate, and value-added service and delivery.