Core Benefits

How User Interface Design Affects Manufacturing Productivity

Published May 16th, 2023

Having a software interface that’s easy to scan reduces errors, helps schedulers work faster, and makes it easier to identify what’s going on.

In the manufacturing world, there’s a long-held and natural preference for function over form. In other words, it’s more important that something works than that it looks nice. Shop tools are utilitarian, built for durability, and if sometimes you need to knock together a jig to get just the right cut, that’s just part of the job.

But when it comes to software, appearances matter. Even a small user interface upgrade can improve how managers, schedulers, and operators interact with the software, and can have a transformative effect on your shop floor. This is because a visually intuitive design makes the software easier to use, which has cascading benefits for workers at all levels.

Elements that make a visually intuitive design include:

  • Color coding. Identify which projects are separate and which are linked. See what machines are running at capacity, or what projects are running behind schedule.
  • Data visualization. Graphs and charts relay information in forms that are easier to process.
  • Information hierarchy. Urgent or important information is larger, brightly colored, or higher up on the screen.

Many manufacturers are still running their production facilities off spreadsheets. In doing so, they’re accepting a solution that works at the most basic level, but overlooking the hidden costs of a system that buries the lede in a pile of numbers. Here are five ways that an attractive interface can also improve shop floor operations.

1. Reduce the time it takes to make decisions.

To be an effective decision maker, you need to have easy access to the right information. The longer that you have to spend searching for answers to basic questions, such as the production status on a work order or the capacity of different tooling machines, the harder it will be to keep track of what’s happening in your shop.

A good piece of scheduling software keeps the most relevant information at your fingertips so that you can see what needs to be done at a glance.

2. Prevent user fatigue and fatigue-based mistakes.

People are prone to error, especially when tired. Scrolling through spreadsheets or navigating software with hard to read or difficult to find data contributes to user fatigue and makes mistakes more likely. For instance, if finding a key piece of information requires clicking through a dozen windows, users may forget to look it up, or may make decisions based on their memory of what that information was last time they checked.

On the other hand, interfaces which use color coding or visual hierarchy to highlight important data remove a source of strain for the user.

3. Reduce errors from misread or overlooked data.

If you’ve ever mixed up a row or column on a spreadsheet, you know how easy it is to mistake one number for another. Spreadsheets can also fail to represent data meaningfully, especially when it comes to live machine monitoring.

For instance, a spreadsheet might show that a project on a lathe is scheduled to finish in three days, but that spreadsheet may not show that you’re about to run out of a critical inventory item necessary to complete that job. A good interface brings those kinds of issues to the surface to prevent mistakes from happening.

4. Identify opportunities earlier and faster.

How easy is it for you to find an open space in your production schedule for planned maintenance? Or let’s say a client comes to you with a rush order. Does your shop have the capacity to complete that order within their desired timeframe? Finally, what if accepting a job puts your team on track for a bottleneck two weeks from now. With advance notice, would you be able to come up with a solution in time?

Effective scheduling software doesn’t just prevent errors—it shines a light on places of improvement as well.

5. Work from real-time data.

Many schedulers are used to working with programs that reflect the plan they created on paper. They display a record of how a project was supposed to go, back when everything was running perfectly to plan. But because they only show what a scheduler expects, they make it harder for a scheduler to recognize flaws in their plan or respond to the unexpected.

At JobPack®, we’ve developed visually intuitive production scheduling software for manufacturers that shows the real-time status of jobs, gives an accurate forecast of capacity, and helps manufacturers spot potential choke points while they still have time to create a solution. Our program also integrates with ERP systems in order to generate reports, such as downtime statistics or planned vs. actual production time.

Spreadsheets aren’t just a missed opportunity—they’re actively setting you back.

We’re all familiar with the phrase, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Unfortunately, this guidance can lead you astray if the broken component of your system is working as it always has. Industries change, and sometimes those innovations take over behind the scenes. In situations like this, clinging to the way you’ve always worked can lead to stagnation as other businesses reap the benefits while you stay harnessed to old technology.

Upgrading your software will improve your operational efficiency in many ways. But simply having a program that looks nice can be a significant production upgrade in itself.

If you would like to see the benefits our software first-hand, schedule a demo with us today.

We talk a good game, but does our software back it up? Come find out.

Request a Live Demo