The human touch – enhancing workspaces with UX design

During my time as a student, I worked as a picking operator in a warehouse. While there, I experienced first-hand the importance of workplace design, and its role in enabling the right conditions for people to enjoy a pleasurable and productive environment.

“We design our products so that interacting with them becomes easier and more sustainable.”
Linda van der Meijden
Human Factors Designer

I’m quite tall and saw my shorter colleagues struggling with the packing setup. As a result, I spent more time packing and less on order picking. Eventually, I hurt my arm through repeatedly taping up carton boxes. If the others hadn’t had problems packing, that injury might not have happened.

That experience helps to shape my work as a human movement specialist here in our user experience (UX) design team. To make workspaces both efficient and pleasant, the team brings together experts from different disciplines, such as industrial design, human movement sciences, cognitive processes and ergonomics.

We design our products so that interacting with them becomes easier and more sustainable, regardless of the wide range of user profiles you may have in your facilities. Besides leading to a higher performance for the complete solution, we believe that making life better for operators will help you both recruit and retain employees.

Accessible design

For us, embedding UX into the development of a product incorporates four complementary fields of focus. The first of these is accessible and inclusive design, through which we aim to ensure that everyone can interact with a solution in a positive way, regardless of whether they are short or tall, colourblind or have different language skills.

Ergonomics solutions

Secondly, we aim to deliver ergonomic solutions that are both kind to people and maximise efficiency. The first step is to automate as much as possible, especially for those processes that are challenging for humans. However, sometimes manual work is the only option, and in those instances we use established norms and guidelines to ensure that our systems and equipment respect people’s physical limits.

To help us make the correct design decisions, we have access to databases of people of all dimensions – covering measurements like reach and height. After validating our designs on paper, we then carry out extensive tests with users.

Providing a usable design

Thirdly, we pay attention to developing intuitive and usable processes. The goal is to make a person’s interaction with a piece of equipment as fluent as possible, while their movements remain in those optimal – generally comfortable – zones.

We also take steps to simplify any instructions that a person may require to do their job. This may include devising on-screen commands that avoid the use of text, and instead use pictures or symbols. Minimising the use of the written word also helps workspaces become more inclusive, because there may well be people working in warehouses that are not fluent in the local language

Ensuring a satisfied experience

Our fourth objective is to create an “employee workspace” that is pleasant and welcoming. To achieve this, we take several factors into account. The workspace needs to be an area where users can not only carry out their tasks efficiently, but also socialise with colleagues and feel comfortable in terms of noise, temperature and the availability of light.

In addition, a workstation is different to other parts of the solution, and this gives us the scope to use natural materials – such as wood instead of steel. These provide a more tactile and aesthetically pleasing environment in which to complete a shift.

Creating a human-centred workstation

We have used these four focus areas to develop our human-centred goods-to-person (GtP) workstation. With inclusiveness very much in mind, we have included a height-adjustable platform, which enables everyone to work at a height that is best for them.
This feature, combined with our one-level horizontal picking process, ensures that 90% of a user’s movements are in optimal zones.

In addition, anti-stress rubber mats are available for people to stand on for increased comfort. Moreover, work surfaces are covered in bamboo, which – compared to other materials – feels warmer in a cold environment and cooler when it is hotter. It’s also scientifically proven that the aesthetic appeal of natural materials contributes to people’s wellbeing.

When practical, we provide on-screen instructions by using photographs of products to tell the operator what items to pick and the number required. The picking process can also be simplified by using lights that guide the operator to the correct compartment from which to pick.

This is particularly useful when picking has to be carried out from multiple compartments. These simple instructional processes mean that a new member of staff can be trained to operate our GtP workstation in around ten minutes.

Ideally, any tasks introducing more complexity should be dealt with by an exception handling station.

As a team, we continue to develop our tools and processes based on new data, findings from our tests and any customer feedback. Some of the informal feedback is encouraging and motivates us to keep innovating.

For example, I spoke to an operator who said that a previous job left him physically and mentally tired. However, after moving to a warehouse equipped with our workstations, he found work less demanding, leaving him more energised to play with their four-year-old son.

Experience our GtP workstation in action

We believe the best solutions are created together – that’s why we invite you to our Innovation Centre in Veghel, The Netherlands. Our UX team will be happy to demonstrate the value of user experience design, so you can see for yourself how these features not only create a pleasant working environment, but also have a positive impact on productivity.

Like to know more?

For more information and to schedule a visit, please contact us. We’re looking forward to seeing you soon!