Instron: Enhancing machine operator efficiency

How aligning the physical and digital touchpoints of a materials testing workflow increased machine operator efficiency with Instron’s Bluehill Universal Software.

Challenge: a complex control platform struggling to accommodate different skill levels and use cases
Instron sought to simplify the user experience of their next generation static materials testing platform. They needed to address key usability issues that posed risks to quality and customer satisfaction. The existing software was difficult to navigate, especially for novice operators and those who undertook repeated testing operations. A disjointed workflow required users to move around to different parts of the system, including a remote desktop, in order to accomplish a task. Instron asked Essential to help bring uniformity to the software experience, accommodate a wide range of skill levels and use cases, and establish the software as the key touchpoint of the Instron testing experience.

Approach: contextual research and collaborative workshops to understand use contexts and define workflow principles
To understand the broader use context and requirements of Instron’s most important stakeholders, Essential undertook a series of on-site interviews with users and purchase decision makers. The team aimed to identify contextual influences, clarify customer needs, opportunities, and preferences, and unveil opportunities for new features. Essential also worked closely with the Instron development team, driving collaborative work sessions to define key user interface objectives and to facilitate new approaches to understanding workflow. 

Solution: a touch-optimized interface with a simplified workflow, modular features, and adjacent display
Essential created a user interface that is modern, touch-friendly, and easy to navigate, while still leveraging core functional components of the original software. A cohesive brand language, clear navigation, and intuitive gestures all contribute to the simplified user experience. Modular features, including a customizable layout and flexible graphing tools, help the software accommodate a variety of operator levels. To further drive productivity, the software was moved from a remote desktop to a portrait-oriented display adjacent to the physical testing platform. This proximity allows the operator to closely align test setup and methodology to the equipment, and receive real-time data feedback. 

Impact: “Effortless Workflows… Increased Efficiency… Advanced Capability” – Instron
The Bluehill Universal software platform was successfully launched by Instron and is now being applied across their global materials testing portfolio. The redesigned system has optimized the testing performance of current operations by streamlining the testing workflow, minimizing the repetitive movements of operators, improving testing ergonomics, and making the software accessible to different users. New operator control over test set-ups has contributed to more optimal test results, and accessible functions and keypads have helped to reduce errors from manual data entry. For Instron, the new digital design language reinforces global brand equity through a set of consistent design principles and guidelines, equipping Instron with the structure to plan, design and implement future products.