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We've developed a web-based database and reporting solution for a factory (let's assume they manufacture widgets). They capture data routinely every hour as and when their widgets are completed.

Management receives daily email reports with PDF graphs that summarise the previous day's output. They can also log in to the system at any time and generate custom reports on the fly.

Now management would like to display a couple of simple graphs on the factory floor using big LCD screens, so as to keep factory workers informed, motivated, etc.

The hurdle we're faced with is that there are two shifts working in parallel, each with 14 separate machines, resulting in a lot of data / detailed graphing requirements. Sticking all of this information on one big graph makes it illegible / difficult to interpret.

Thus our idea is to program a summary graph that supports drill-down functionality via minimal interaction. But then we're faced with the question of what is most practical way to allow factory floor workers to interact with these big LCD screens?

Please note that the best solution should also cater for the fact that these LCD screens - 3 of them in total, each 30 metres apart - will require internet connectivity (there is wireless internet within reach).

On a side note, we did consider touch screens, but the workers' fingers get very greasy during the course of their work. We also considered the option of programming the reports to automatically scroll through each graph, but 2 shifts with 14 graphs each... well you get the idea.

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Can you add some wireframes which show your thinking –  Mervin Johnsingh May 22 '13 at 9:14

2 Answers 2

My friend built a similar project for our sales' "Green Room", displaying sales statistics, exported from the CRM system we make. Maybe you can use it as inspiration. Here are some pictures from our old blog.

I could not get Google Translate to work here, but here's a short explanation:

The six screens show six different graphs. A Kinect sensor sits on the wall, allowing gesture interaction: Pointing on a diagram zooms in; Swipe moves left and right between diagrams; You can close an open diagram and zoom out to the overview by a form of pinching with both hands, looks kind of a big clap, or closing a book.

Pointing at one of the diagrams opens it

Pointing at one of the diagrams opens it

Closing gesture like closing a big book

Closing gesture like closing a big book

Graphs should be clear. If it's hard to put all the data you would like to convey in one big graph, and still keeping it clear, you should instead keep the multitude of graphs. These zooming and browsing features allows you to do that, and lets the user focus on one graph at a time.

One of the biggest difficulties was tuning the gesture recognition to adapt to people of different sizes.

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Woah. That's impressive. Thanks for the cool idea. Not the cheapest option, but definitely solves the problem. –  Kosta Kontos May 22 '13 at 9:50

Keep it simple and display one type of information (maybe two).

What is the most important thing to know for the workers? Productivity? Number of widgets a day? Widgets to manufacture before the end of the month? Days without an accident?

The idea is to use a figure that talks to every worker. They are a team, they work together with the same goal. They know what they have to do, detailed data is for white collars.

Pick the more relevant data and use what you have efficiently:

  • 1 screen for shift 1

  • 1 screen for shift 2

  • 1 screen for shift 1 + shift 2 combined

No interaction, no ambiguity, no useless overthinking.


Furthermore, think about the interaction dynamically. Who owns the "joystick"? Let say a binome wants to know a piece of information about their machine at the same time as another. Who is first?

Either you have too much users, too much data or not enough screens.

Solutions:

  • Too much users: make the screens available to one binome at a time. Give them a button with the green LED when actionable that they can push with their elbow to make the screens focus on their specific interest. Divide the screens and pair the sub-screens with the machines.

mockup

download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

  • Too much data: we discussed that in the comments. My choice.
  • Not enough screens: buy 24 more screens. Too expensive I guess.
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Gildas thanks for the answer. I completely agree with this mindset. The problem isn't keeping the data simple, however. The issue is that there are 14 different machines whose output we want to keep track of. That's 14 for each shift. Perhaps you can think of a clever solution? –  Kosta Kontos May 22 '13 at 9:24
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I am suggesting that maybe what is relevant for management is not for the makers. You say "as to keep factory workers informed, motivated, etc", do you think an overload of data is going to be of any help? Remember the big screen in the Social Network movie? That is what you want. Open the web application to the workers if you want transparency. –  Gildas Frémont May 22 '13 at 9:41
    
Ok so I guess it's my own fault for not explaining it in more detail. There are 2 parallel shifts, 14 machines each. Each machine is manned by 2 people. Each of these pairs of people wants to know how they're doing on their machine. There's no point combining all 14 machines into one simple graph. We need a graph for each machine. It's easy enough to program an overall graph that allows drill-down into any machine. The question is simply what is the best way to allow users to interfact with this on the factory floor, so as to specify their drill-down parameters. –  Kosta Kontos May 22 '13 at 9:49
    
We have a debate here: I think everybody has the same goal, making widgets. I also think each link of the chain know what they are doing and what they want to know is the big picture. I will edit my answer with more ideas though. –  Gildas Frémont May 22 '13 at 9:58
    
Thanks for your effort Gildas. I appreciate your challenging the validity of my question, and I look forward to your revised answer. –  Kosta Kontos May 22 '13 at 10:06

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