As more and more features, functions, and application-in-applications were being designed, developed, and put into production it became quite apparent we now had to nicely wrap this all up into a cohesive unit. As a marketing team (stakeholders, sales, marketing, design) we wrestled with ways to present this. Is it an app with various modules? Or checkbox features? Do we push manufacturers into a SaaS mindset and practice? In the end, it was pretty much agreed upon this was more than an app with a lot of features.
What we were putting together was actually a platform. It was apps. It was features and functions. It was tools. It was accessibility anywhere on anything—station monitor, tablet, smartphone, even a smartwatch if you want it. And it was designed for the user’s preferences. Not just user-friendly, user-centric, this was a platform to allow the user to use these tools, these functions, these apps and create workflows that suit them—not us forcing various manufacturing users to work our way.
In addition, what this platform achieved was in removing some very costly layers of the current manufacturing process—Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES), supervisory control and data acquisition systems (SCADA), very expensive programmable logic controller computers (PLC), and restrictive, legacy human-computer interfaces (HMI).
With this platform now defined, I performed a current heuristic evaluation to target all current pain points and needed fixes. My office walls were already filled with sticky note flows defining an app restructure, so I hijacked the training room walls, made printouts of all the current application pages and aligned them on a wall as the current architecture presently sat. Then I redline, marked up all the fixes needed on each screen. There was A LOT of red markups.
So, it was at this point with the transition to MIP that I felt it a huge waste of time, energy, and expense to keep fixing and adding things in the old design. We had transitioned some things to the new design first set with JEM. JEL followed that design. Andon, OEE, WIE and other new screens were designed in the new look. Modals were transferred to side-panels. A new tab pattern was implemented everywhere. All my mockups were being done in the new design. It was time for a final push!
For a couple years, it was a juggling act of maintaining the old—for quick fixes or additions—while trying to establish a new design and segue into it. But we were at the point where it was actually futile to keep fixing and adding to the old. Yeah, it really was time to break from the old.
But just saying these things is one thing and I might get agreement, but if I showed the issue and a solution it just might sail a bit quicker. The marked up prints took up a whole wall and onto its the perpendicular wall. I then took the sticky note flows from my office wall and set it up after my marked up prints. Then I designed. The sticky note flows constituted a consolidation of loose screens or functions and configurations that were there when they should be here. Configurations spread out among several different screens and modals. A longtime eFlex employee and I had for a couple years discussed these changes, of what should be where—thus the sticky note flows in my office. It was there for months as a point of reference. Goal posts. I had even at one point did a card sorting exercise among several of the employees—engineers, developers, project managers—to get some insight from these different perspectives and help decide the final UX user flows and architecture.
Back in the training room where my application markups and sticky notes dominated a wall and a half, I used another wall and a half to display the newly designed and architected application. A roadmap forward.
I then presented the designs and new architecture structure to the stakeholders during a Product Review. I explained the rationales behind some of the decisions. And explained this is really only a matter of some navigation restructuring in the navigation panel, a change in the header, a change in the footer and some UI tweaks would give the application much needed cohesiveness, and a nice, new look. With just some minor issues the stakeholders were sold. I wrote stories for each component, and they currently sit at the top of the Developer’s To-Do bucket. And then COVID-19.