Reducing downtime – the importance of an easy to use and simple User Interface

We all appreciate the need to squeeze every last ounce of worth out of existing equipment, but when faced with the challenge of reducing operating expenses, it may be helpful (if counter-intuitive) to look at buying new equipment. 

The latest developments in technology could have surprisingly far-reaching benefits and achieve the savings you’re looking for.  For example, there is the obvious energy savings of using newer technology, then add the accompanying reduction in downtime, and it’s a double whammy!

As we discussed in a recent blog, downtime has many causes

VansonBourne conducted a study for ServiceMax, and found that:

“23 percent of all unplanned downtime in manufacturing is the result of human error”.

It is vital to understand why these errors are occurring, and it makes sense to keep coding errors to an absolute minimum.  If an error is made at the start of the process, and not detected until the end, there is the additional cost of rework and rescheduling to take into account.

We all make mistakes … and below are some of the main reasons coding errors occur so frequently.

  • High staff turnover on manufacturing production lines – means ensuring effective staff communication and training is a challenge.
  • User interfaces that are not easy to use and coherent: where users can inadvertently cause an error through misunderstanding of the system structure. British or American date systems, etc.
  • With the added complexity of diversity in the workforce, companies may find there are many languages spoken on their production lines – this too has an impact on effective communication and training.
  • The wide variety of equipment on any production line:

“It’s perhaps not surprising that the manufacturing sector has higher levels of human error given the breadth of machinery and equipment that requires maintenance and intervention by service engineers and technicians,” said Mark Homer, VP of global customer transformation for ServiceMax, as quoted in the VansonBourne study.

It is, of course, good practice to audit coding errors and analyse their causes.  This can lead to pinpointing clear actions for improvement – such as individual or group training requirements, or identifying which equipment needs updating or replacing if it has become unreliable.

HR has a role to play in ensuring staff training is effective, but one thing production engineers can do when it is time to upgrade equipment, is to undertake comprehensive research and select kit with an easy to use, logical, and intuitive user interface.

So, where do you start … and what do you look for in a user interface?

You will never achieve 100% success in eliminating coding errors as you have the human factor to take into consideration.  With the wide choice of user interfaces on the market, it makes sense to incorporate as many ‘beneficial’ features as possible which suit your particular requirements and workforce.  By taking this approach, you will be going someway to reducing your operator errors and keeping your downtime to an absolute minimum. 

How to spot a great user interface

  • Multiple operator languages (user selectable) with on-screen keyboards and a secondary keyboard for multi-language printing
  • Password-protected functions, with customisable user profiles
  • Simple message creation and editing with drag-and-drop field positioning, zoom function and insert mode for long messages
  • Easy buttons – for fool-proof selection in a busy production environment
  • Intuitive process – with clear menu setup and easy editing
  • Customisable top screen and on-screen message prompts for faster, accurate code setup

Here’s a customer quote for a User Interface that would set your mind at rest:

“The large colour touchscreen is like a smartphone, in that it is intuitive to use, and the printer is completely reliable, running perfectly after a shutdown.”

  Peter Jenkins – Powerhaul International

Remember, no one piece of equipment is going to solve your coding errors, you need good staff training, teamwork and processes.  Add to that a good user interface, that guides employees through initial set up and ensures errors are kept to a minimum, will go a long way to keeping costs low, reducing downtime and most importantly, keeping your customers happy with deliveries they can rely on.   

Watch our video to find out how you can eliminate coding errors with an easy to use product interface

Further reading: