The importance of the right human machine interface. FACE is able to satisfy all the needs of both the market and the company, both in terms of customers and direct recipients. (video: Salvagnini)
FACE wins the German design award for 2020. After the Red Dot Award 2019, the human-machine interface developed by the Salvagnini Group in partnership with NiEW wins the German Design Award 2020 too.
World of industrial automation: small and great revolution
In recent years, the world of industrial automation has seen a small yet great revolution: small, because today it is not yet evident in the products, solutions and services on the market; great, because it is in fact profound, and is therefore able to have a significant impact at all levels of the sector.
This revolution may come with different names and in different ways, but its meaning and its ultimate purpose are always the same: to place humans at the center of technological development.
It was with precisely this purpose that a number of design and development methods and practices typical of other sectors have also been introduced into the industrial field.
Innovation processes to generate added value between people and products
The aim is to facilitate and guide innovation processes which see technology as a tool for generating added value in the relationship between people – be they consumers or professional users – and the products and services they use every day.
Within this context, they increasingly refer to User-centered design or Human-centered design, or to User experience design and Design thinking, which today are increasingly arousing interest and spreading due precisely to the human-centric revolution of which they represent the practical application “par excellence”.
Mapping the users’ interaction with the products
Contrary to many other innovation processes, these methods place recipients and their needs at the center of the design, and in some way develop their paths in reverse order: by mapping the users’ interaction with the products, they identify any weaknesses to be eliminated as well as all possible strengths to be conserved.
This is why the most innovative machine tool manufacturers have begun to tackle renewal projects, the methodological foundations of which lie in Design Thinking.
Salvagnini, leader in the design and production of sheet metal processing machinery and systems, has been renewing the software accompanying its products for a few years now.
And it has done this in partnership with NiEW, the strategic consulting firm with significant experience in the industrial sector, able to blend Design Thinking methods with strong financial know-how and in-depth understanding of the digital world.
Identifying value and non value in the interaction between user and product
In early 2017, Salvagnini and NiEW began to revise the machine tool control system, which affected customers, the end users of the machinery, first-hand. Doing the gemba walk allowed them to precisely identify value and non-value exactly where they are found, in the interaction between user and product.
With a lean, cooperative and measurable approach, they were able to build a new human-machine interface able to satisfy all the needs of both the market and the company, both in terms of customers and direct recipients, from the machine operator to the tester involved in its installation, and in terms of stakeholders and indirect recipients, i.e. the company’s business and top management.
Face intuitive and flexible human machine interface wins the German design award
The result of this journey was christened FACE, an evocative name for a new, intuitive and flexible human-machine interface, adopted by the whole range of the Salvagnini Group’s products from September 2019.
FACE, which stands out for its simple use and advanced functional characteristics, was welcomed by the market with great interest, and has received significant recognition, confirmed also by winning prestigious design awards including the Red Dot Award 2019 and the German Design Award 2020.
Precisely because of its ability to enhance the characteristic elements of a production technology, in the contemporary industrial world the human-machine interface plays a significant role in the commercial success of a machine tool.
But it is also one of the main points of contact between the user and the manufacturer of a technology, and it is able to consolidate the perceived value of the product. And the increasingly evolved digital approach of operators has contributed to changing their expectations: in today’s industrial world, the user experience of automatic production systems must respond to criteria of usability and accessibility, equal to those offered by even the simplest consumer products.
How the human machine interface influenced the user dynamics
To understand how FACE has influenced the user dynamics of the Salvagnini solutions, we visited the company Tecno 3FP in Cerea (Verona, Italy) to hear the testimonial of Roberto Anselmi, Head of the press brake department.
“Today, Salvagnini solutions have developed hugely compared to the past. And I can say this with good reason, having worked with bending presses for over twenty years: once we had only a ruler, a marker, our creativity and our enthusiasm to work with. Today, on the other hand, we can count on modern machinery and tools, specific dies and punches for the part to be made. But I’m sure that technology can grow even further.”
Over twenty years’experience to give a simple and intuitive use
Over twenty years’ experience: a timeline that corresponds to an era, to a completely different production context to what we see today.
“Over the years I have used many different brands, models and versions of bending presses and their related software: believe me when I say that, in terms of software and interface, simple and intuitive use is a great help. You see, FACE has a huge advantage: it makes everything immediately clear and immediately available. Other interfaces are completely different, you have to stop what you’re doing and go and find what you need to complete the bending in different places, sub-menu after sub-menu. With FACE you don’t have to do this, FACE simply asks you to read: everything is available on the monitor, in just a few clicks. I think that this is a really important step forward. Plus the fact that I have got rid of both mouse and keyboard, and now I work with a touchscreen. I don’t have to manage the program with two hands, just one: with one hand I manage the drawings, and with the other I work on the console. It may seem quite banal, but when you work with a mouse and keyboard you have to use both hands to manage the machine, even though you have to consult the drawing: you perform two activities at the same time, not one, and this increases the risk of error considerably.”
Implementation and learning times: decisive factors to adopt an human machine interface
The implementation and learning times are also another decisive factor in the steps to adopt a new human-machine interface.
“I think it’s quite easy to teach an expert operator like me: it doesn’t take much time to understand the FACE operating principle. An operator with less experience may need more in-depth training, but one day is more than enough – because you need to be quite sure that they can work correctly with the machine. Clearly it’s not possible to eliminate all risk of error, above all in an activity like bending which has significant human involvement: but FACE is so functional and intuitive that we can consider it practically error-proof.”
And concluding a working project that lasted more than two years and which involved him first hand, we asked Stefano Carobin, Salvagnini Robotica Test Engineer, for a comment.
“Roberto’s words are a great satisfaction, that was exactly what we had in mind when we began to develop FACE: to make the press brake simple to use. We can say that this objective has definitely been achieved. And if FACE is packed with new functions, this is precisely because it was developed following a systematic analysis of our customers’ usage.”