My current employer Dematic is the leading supply chain solutions provider in Australia. From warehouse storage and operative solutions to robotic arms, self-driving forklifts and more, Dematic provides vertically integrated supply chain solutions to our customers. Dematic has recently merged with Kion, and in doing so, has become one of the global leaders in this space.
One of the key objectives at Dematic was to provide greater visibility, control and efficiency to warehouse managers as well as regional managers with detailed and highly relevant reports and statistics. With all of these requirements, the idea of RTL iQ was born.
The real challenge here was to find the optimal balance between the cognitive overhead of operating an additional piece of software, and the efficiency derived from its use.
Streams of Data
Devices around the warehouse emanate an endless stream of data points across networks. Our team wanted to combine these pieces of data in meaningful ways. Our development team created several clever ways to capture data from devices which gave us an ocean of data points to begin with.
Visualising Logistics Automation
Dematic has a range of videos that explain how logistics around the warehouse are visualised, designed, implemented by Dematic. Definitely worth taking a look.
Discovering the Why
Our Project Manager gave me the business requirements and I set about researching the why behind the project.
After a range of interviews, surveys, meetings and studying data coming in from the system, I started to understand why RTL iQ was needed:
- Device Tracking around the warehouse is a major issue. Most devices are shared among workers, and passed on from one shift to the next. Because several devices lack a logging-in function, its hard to track hand-overs and device locations.
- Device signal strength from Access Points is a major hurdle in achieving efficient workflows.
- Batteries need to be charged, and if they don't retain enough capacity, chances are the worker would need to replace them before their shift is over. This is time consuming and counter-productive.
- Casual workers keep getting added or removed from the daily workforce.
- Site managers need to keep track of devices which haven't logged on in a while.
- Regional managers need comprehensive weekly reports covering performance, efficiency and a high degree of visibility.
Key Design Decisions
Following are the key insights I gleaned from my research and discovery phase:
- A universal search by device ID is necessary as an over-arching interface requirement.
- Device usage must be presented up close and centre in the interface.
- Battery charging and its related information should be given prime real estate on the screen.
- Exceptions are rare, but when they do occur, they tend to consume an in-ordinate amount of time. These must be presented in sequence, prominently in the interface.
- There must be a way to tie-in a users to a device.
- Searchable, filterable and sortable datatables for each type of device must be available for a quick browse.
- Weekly reports must be constructed in a way that they encompass all of the major occurrences during the week in a concise, readable format.
The interface I designed had an over-riding constraint; that of progressively enhancing information according to the person's privilege. My design followed this constraint.
The Interface, Constructed
Once the UI was constructed, it turned out to be a design that satisfied most of our initial criteria, along with positive feedback from site engineers and customers.
RTL iQ is an ongoing project, check back soon to see more details.