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Shaft Alignment
GUI Design: Efficiency
December 2010
4 weeks
Problem
FixturLaser is a Swedish company that develops and manufactures laser based alignment and measuring devices for heavy industrial machines. The product consists of two laser sensors and one main touch screen controller.

A machine malfunction due to poor alignment drastically affects business. Shaft alignments are performed to improve machinery efficiency and save manufacturing companies long term production costs. FixturLaser wanted to improve the UI of their laser alignment device.

Objective
Re-design a section of the graphical user interface of the XA PRO, a laser shaft alignment device for ease of use and speed - for a more efficient experience.

Solution
Aligning shafts is an inevitable time consuming task, so it was important to improve areas of efficiencies within the user interface where possible. The transfer of machine data files onto a USB stick to share and communicate with the team was discovered to be a bottleneck in the work flow. Skilled technicians required the use of a manual during this moment to proceed.

The final solution improved the information architecture and simplified the file management section of the process by implementing recognizable icons. The screen dimension was maximized to include a two column display that provided visibility of files within the XA Pro device and the USB simultanously.

Creating and transferring single and multiple data files were carefully analyzed to provide the most intuitively efficient method to perform data management - without the need for an instruction manual.

Product Insights Simulation with a demo rig allowed for initial impression and stronger understanding of how the device worked.
User Observations and Expert Interviews
Observations were made with the School Workshop Technician to gain a sense of his first impressions: was the interface and hardware intuitive to use upon first handling?

A second observation was made with the local powerplant, Umeå Energi, to witness the context of use by experienced technicians first hand. It provided physical insights on the target user’s work environment, noise level, range of shafts, etc.

Extreme User Scenarios
Scenarios gave a visualization of the issues users faced when using the product in extreme working conditions, such as a wind turbine. In the Nacelle, the room that houses the shaft, gear box, generator, controller and where alignments are performed, conditions are crammed with low lighting and high heat from recently being shutoff.
Identifying User Needs
From the professional technician observations and interview, it was found that the area of biggest hurdle was the transferring of data onto a USB stick. One technician mentioned that he always had to review the manual to perform this task.

"Transferring to USB can be tricky after infrequent use...

Data accessibility is extremely important in communication and thus guided the proposal.
Visual Flow Chart Analysis
During the research phase, a complete flow chart outlined the overall picture of the laser alignment system. In particular, by sketching out a more magnified flow chart on 3 specific actions of the file management section, opportunities to improve speed and accessibility surfaced.

1. Transfering single files to USB stick
2. Transferring multiple files to the USB stick.
3. Saving files

For example, during the saving action, it was found and confirmed that there was 23 seconds of unnecessary lag time due to screens that were irrelevant to the task.

Improving Speed
An example of the existing File Management system. The information was overly convoluted with multiple icons requiring technicians to always refer to instruction manuals to understand them.

“The time it takes for users to make decisions is determined by the number of possible choices they have.” -William Edmund Hick. Reducing the number of possible menu actions was necessary to increase speed and ease of use.

Wire-frames and Paper Prototypes
Sketches and lo-fi test mockups were created with a cardboard skin to simulate the interface concept. Problems and areas of confusion with icons were identified and re-tested following revisions.
Final Interface
Allowing file location visibility for both the device and USB eliminates the confusion of what folder the technician is viewing. No more repetitive action of navigating back and forth between folders.

The new design provides increase in clarity of action through simplifying steps in the procedures through a clean, clear and consistent theme. Technicians can now operate without a manual at all points in the procedure.