The digital plant will never be successful without user research.
We’ve said it many times and we’ll continue to say it, implementing digital tools without user research is like walking blindly onto a street—it’s very risky. Minimize that risk and maximize your investment by being open to taking the time for user research. Why? Well, chances are that YOU are considering a couple of digital solutions/tools that YOU think will solve a problem that YOU think is a bottleneck or cause of inefficiency. See the problem here?
If you’re not on the plant or factory floor every day, you probably have made assumptions about the digital tools that are needed. User research cuts through the assumptions and gives you the data you need to deploy a solution that is used and delivers real ROI. It can also help measure the success of your digital plant initiatives.
Here are some insights that user research could unearth within the digital plant:
Investing in user research from the get-go helps you align business goals and objectives with user needs PRIOR to deploying a technology solution. It’s important that you don’t get attached to what YOU think might be the best solution for your users… You might be wrong.
Get qualified researchers on the plant floor to observe users in their environment, collect data and identify important considerations or even bottlenecks that your solution will need to consider.
1. When you created the user and business requirements for the solution, you had a goal in mind for how this will change behavior, either reducing errors or improving time-on-task. How does the new situation with the digital tool compare to the old one? How much data do you have to compare? Do you have plant-appropriate KPI’s?
We've seen many IT departments launch digital and mobile products to the industrial workforce, without any concrete data validating the problem you're solving is a real problem. It’s important that you iron out the measurement of success prior to deployment and even design, as it will determine the path and approach for your digital initiative. How do you expect to get where you’re going if you don’t even know where you’re going?
This is especially important if you are mandating that all employees use the tool. This does not guarantee that the tool will meet KPIs. Employees, like the rest of us, will find workarounds if the tool does not enable them to do their job in an efficient and timely manner.
Some examples of questions to ask before launch: Is it to make better, quicker decisions based on real-time information? Improve visibility across the manufacturing process? A more connected production line? Eliminate a bottleneck? Cut a certain amount of cost?
2. Are people using the solution?
This may seem like an obvious metric to most of you but you’d be surprise how many companies roll out an initiative and call it good. If you were brave enough to implement a technology without user research, don’t assume that everyone is going to love and use it. If you want to do things right, be prepared to continuously be investing in improvements and additional user research to make sure your solution is delivering the changes and improvements you want.
Your main takeaway here is that user research is worth your investment because it eliminates assumptions to find the data and insights you need for designing and deploying a successful digital initiative. Lastly, choose a partner that has qualified and experienced user researchers in house that know what they are doing and can synthesize data and findings into meaningful applications for your initiatives.
Discover more "lessons learned" from the digital plant by taking a look at our latest research report, The Digital Transformation Roadmap for the Manufacturing Industry.
Keep up with new insights from industry leaders on digital transformation, mobile app development, enterprise architecture, and tech innovation topics.