Pearson’s User Centric Design targets U.S. manufacturing’s skill gap while driving efficiencies

Spokane, WA - Automation efforts by design seek to increase efficiencies. The extent of such efficiencies, however, often depends on the remaining human element. By adopting a User Centric Design approach, Pearson Packaging Systems systematically puts people at the center of its engineering process to develop intuitive and ergonomically friendly designs that increase workforce productivity, output quality and error tolerance while leveraging users’ pre-existing knowledge to minimize their learning curve.

Over the past years, Pearson Packaging Systems, secondary packaging manufacturer and integration specialist, has been observing a growing demographic challenge within the manufacturing industry of the U.S. Knowledgeable workers are retiring while the next generation of highly-qualified replacements is scarce. Large-scale offshoring efforts to reduce labor costs over the past decades and a wide-spread lack of perceived attractiveness and opportunities within the manufacturing field created the skill gap. By analyzing the day-to-day operations of high-volume manufacturers and repetitive tasks operators and service personnel face, Pearson saw an opportunity to ease the demographic problem by simply making machines more user-friendly.

Since the adoption of the User Centric Design approach, Product development has become a multi-stage problem solving process, in which engineers work closely with operators and maintenance personnel to analyze and model user behavior and test the validity of assumptions. "We strive to optimize our machines around user’s needs instead of forcing them to adopt unique behaviors that accommodate the machine’s design," states Leo Robertson, VP of Engineering.

Demonstrating its commitment to the User Centric Design philosophy, Pearson is launching a series of product improvements across its entire product portfolio including a new HMI based graphical user interface as well as mechanical changes that significantly improve training, changeovers and fault recovery.

"Our research clearly identified common challenges across the industry, in particular with regard to human machine interfaces (HMI)," explains Mr. Robertson. "Screens are too small, fault-recovery solutions too complex and navigations too difficult. Based on user input, we increased the screen size, standardized terminology across equipment lines, reduced navigational complexities and focused on the use of symbols and graphics to minimize language barriers and increase operator efficiencies. An interactive fault map indicates error locations with zooming capabilities that display fault recovery solutions to simplify troubleshooting. Remote access capabilities from any tablet or smartphone further increase flexibility and movement for operators with multi-line responsibilities."

Going forward, User Centric Design will continue to play an integral part in Pearson’s product development, driving product improvements that support efficient machine-user interactions as well as workforce productivity and satisfaction. While the majority of the secondary packaging industry almost exclusively focuses on feature and technology enhancement, Pearson’s goal is to ensure that usability aspects are at the heart of every new product introduction.