»Software Ergonomics«: the Perfect Matching is Important!

»Software Ergonomics«? or »Ergonomic Software«? Anyone who hears these two terms in direct connection with each other for the first time will rightly ask themselves: what is this exactly? And above all, what is it that makes software ergonomics so special?

In the middle of the age of Industry 4.0, the topic of man-machine communication requires a high degree of attention. In this context it is not only important to design the workplace ergonomically, but also the general conditions around the topic software. In short: People, tasks, technology and organisational framework must be optimally coordinated.

But at this point, let us simply start with the actual meaning of the word »software ergonomics«. This term is basically defined as „[...] the property of a software product to be ergonomically [...] designed“ and has as its goal „[...] to design software products according to the needs of the people working with them“. This definition sounds plausible, but in practice, especially in logistics, it is, in our opinion, a definition that is too short. Because contrary to what you might think at first glance, a WMS is not only a software that is used to administer and manage data, but also serves, among other things, to organise the employees in the warehouse and to support the physical process efficiently.

But even with this description you are still far from reaching the end. This general definition is further concretised by DIN EN ISO 9241, which specifies the following test criteria regarding software ergonomics:

  1. adequacy of tasks
  2. self-descriptiveness
  3. conformity with expectations
  4. learning facilitation
  5. controllability
  6. fault tolerance
  7. customizability

In addition to the supposedly obvious issues such as good readability or meaningfully arranged information in the dialogues, ergonomics in the area of warehouse management software is also about the employee understanding this interaction with the system as a helpful support and not perceiving it as an additional burden. So far, so good - these would be the theoretical guidelines and ideas of software ergonomics.

 

Due to the motto: „A maximum of quality for our customers“, we implement the specified criteria with regard to the structure and handling of our warehouse management system SuPCIS-L8 in the way that common sense would actually do. That sounds simple at first. In practice, however, this leads to a large number of variants - there can hardly be any talk of a „standard picking dialogue“, for example - which a software manufacturer must first understand how to handle. This is where our experience is needed, but also the feedback of the users, which has been incorporated into the further development of the software.

 

Our warehouse management software SuPCIS-L8 supports the user in completing his work task so efficiently and yet in the simplest possible way. The standard values for the input fields are sensibly preassigned and the SuPCIS-L8 application is self-descriptive. Questions such as „Which dialogue am I currently in?“, „Which actions can I carry out here?“ or „How do I get from here to another dialogue?“ are easy to answer for the user at any time, thanks to the easily understandable dialogs. In other words: the user is always informed about the properties of the dialogues. This point already builds a bridge to the next ergonomic feature of SuPCIS-L8. Because what would a warehouse management software be without a comprehensible controllability? According to the Bauhaus principle „less is more”, too much information in the dialogues should, above all, be avoided. Does an order picker need an article description in the display in addition to the storage location and the quantity to be picked? Or what should be scanned to check plausibility? The storage location, the loading equipment, the article, an EAN, a serial number or not at all? This is where configurability is required. Does a key have to be pressed again after a scan or is the data accepted directly?

 

Further advantages of our software solution for the user result from the adapted font size and a uniform use of function keys in all dialogue fields. In addition, there are important error and information messages on which the user can rely at any time. To illustrate this with an example: we use signal colours to indicate different job statuses. Red indicates an error situation to the operator. At the same time, by context-sensitive setting of function keys or icons (which are operated by mouse or touch), only those dialogue steps are available that are currently permitted. For troubleshooting, the appropriate function does not have to be selected elaborately via a menu but can simply be selected directly on a dashboard icon displayed in the dialogue or the respective function key. Important key values are passed on from dialogue to dialogue and post-its next to the keyboard are a thing of the past. But even here, several variants are required in view of the different devices. In SuPCIS-L8 this means, the application must react flexibly to the characteristics of the end device used, especially MDEs, wearables and tablet computers - similar to what we know from websites.

 

We will continue to look over our users' shoulders and learn from their operation. We are encouraged by the positive feedback we receive time and again. Can there be a better „Unique Selling Point“ for a software manufacturer than satisfied users who enjoy working with a system?

 

Would you like to know more details about us or our software? Don’t hesitate to contact us!

No video selected

Select a video type in the sidebar.

Author
Horst Reichert

Managing Director