New interface for controlling robot fleets
Designing intelligent automations and a simplified UX for logistics operators
The ecommerce boom has created unparalleled pressure on supply chains. Berkshire Grey’s BG Flex™ platform and next-gen human-machine interface enables operators to manage and interact with fleets of autonomous mobile robots that fulfill orders more efficiently through automation.
Smart Design teamed up with Berkshire Grey to design a new HMI that shifts the human role from controlling to monitoring by interpreting data into actionable information for operators, who are overseeing thousands of orchestrated mobile robots in high-stakes environments. With help from intelligent algorithms that remove the need for low-level control, operators can focus on the big picture and intervene where human action is needed.
Responding to a rapidly changing world
Changes in consumer buying behavior have substantially increased the complexities of supply chains, fulfillment processes, and logistics. Consumers are demanding greater product choice, shorter delivery times, and simpler return processes. This means more inventory must be processed faster and the systems used to enable such must be easier to operate. Previously, operators needed to interpret data on-the-fly to decide what actions to take when issues arose. To solve this, the BG Flex™ platform utilizes a next-gen HMI that eliminates many common friction points associated with the operation of large-scale robotic systems, through increased clarity and summarization of system operation, and explicit directions for operators.
Understanding the complexities of fulfillment systems
Our research consisted of in-depth interviews with current operators and maintenance personnel to understand their pain points, latent needs, and emotions across their journey with the system. We shadowed operators inside the warehouses to understand more about the context and activities in their daily lives. Halfway through the design process, we re-engaged with the same operators and maintenance personnel for feedback sessions. The stimuli included screen flows in wireframe format to test task completion and overall qualitative feedback on the value our design offers to users. Their feedback was subsequently used to further optimize the hierarchy of information shown.
Streamlining the human role in automation
Berkshire Grey’s BG Flex™ platform and HMI summarizes and interprets system data in an easy-to-use UI. The system will proactively draw attention to where human intervention is needed if problems occur. When intervention is needed, a strong color-coded system guides the user’s attention. The design system is set up in a modular way so that every operating environment can be realistically represented, which in turn lowers the overall cognitive load on operators so they can focus on the things that matter. To further optimize workflows, maintenance personnel have access to the same system as the operators for reporting, communication, and troubleshooting. Operators are kept up to date on other people’s actions through notifications. Safety status indicators are now viewable across the facility and remotely. The solution also improves labor efficiencies and automates repetitive tasks, reducing the distance human workers need to walk across large warehouses which are often dusty and may have poor climate control.
Efficiencies that are good for people and robots alike
According to Statista, there are almost 19,000 warehouse facilities in the United States, representing a critical link in the commerce supply chain. Today, most facilities utilize human labor to load, unload, transport, sort, and sequence goods, which creates challenges for businesses when labor is scarce or when labor requirements fluctuate during peak seasons. Warehouse automation and mobile robotics lower this risk and help stabilize the supply chain while future-proofing for global emergencies. Because the BG Flex™ HMI shifts the human role from controlling to monitoring, it reduces the educational requirements for operators, creating more job opportunities for a wider range of people at a lower cost. Berkshire Grey’s modular and customizable mobile robotic solutions can help companies reduce their operations expenses by up to 70% and bolster throughput by up to 25% to 50% with automation.