Five years ago Rocla and Konecranes among other Finnish metals and engineering companies embarked on an expedition towards user experience driven differentiation in the FIMECC UXUS program. Rocla and Konecranes cases offer a good example of how the user experience drives to market success.
Konecranes - Enhancing operator UX in remote operation of container cranes
One of the biggest trends renewing lifting industry is the remote operating system, which becomes common with automated container terminal solutions. In remote operation, a machine is operated from a distant location from which there is no direct human sensory contact to the machine. Konecranes started the systematic remote operating user research work in the beginning of UXUS -program, and it has been Konecranes research cornerstone throughout the program.
The aim was to develop a new remote operator station (ROS) user interface (UI) concept for the operation of semi-automated container cranes. ROSs are used to operate the cranes manually from a remote oﬃce environment during loading and unloading of external road trucks and other types of chassis in the landside loading zone. UX goal driven design process was utilized in the development process helping keeping UX as guiding star in the design. The aim was that the remote operation with ROS would feel as vivid and safe as it would be carried out on-site. As a result, a virtual reality-based prototype system of the ROS was built in the project. The prototype was used both in the concept design phase and in an evaluation study. Later the collected information, analyses and experiences produced the remote operating knowledge, which guided Konecranes to successful new product launches. To further developed ROS system has become an integral part of Konecranes’ product portfolio.
Rocla - Designing experiences
As a result of the FIMECC UXUS program the first electric counterbalance truck was designed and manufactured by Rocla in Järvenpää. The truck was designed to offer great user experience and the new design take user experience to the next level offering great advantages to the customer. To achieve the desired user experience level the design phase involved cross-disciplinary team including engineers, designers, electricians and coders to observe and listen customers at the field. In addition observation, field studies, early co-creation with users and customers, benchmarking, and early prototyping was used as tools to achieve the great experience. “We go out to customer sites to observe and listen customers at field and ask them about their needs and wishes. We also brought customers to our site to test prototypes. To gain other useful perspectives, our own staff also test and comment on the trucks”, Design Manager Kero Uusitalo explains the information gathering process.
A great user experience was a starting point of the development project. However, the project also resulted a number of major innovations such as Responsive Drive System, which responds to the operator’s movements to ensure that operating is always smooth and safe. Moreover, UXUS program has changed the R&D strategy of Rocla. The internal collaboration between R&D and marketing and communications has been strengthened by integrating the two units. They work closely together and with the collaboration ensure that the marketing understands the technology behind product features and the R&D’s thinking is based on user-benefits, not only technical features. The close collaboration has proved to be an effective way of ensuring that UX and brand thinking are driving the product development processes from early concept ideas into finalized marketing and sales materials to the customers. Kero Uusitalo says: “User experience is our main strategic goal in R&D and we build it into every product we design. This requires that everyone connected to the design project are committed to deliver great user experience. We are not just designing forklifts – we are designing experiences.”
Sources of competitiveness are becoming scarce resources. During its lifetime a company can produce one or two outstanding innovations based on technology breakthroughs. Competitors will attempt to imitate those very likely rather quickly. UX can bring a twist that makes the difference. User experience is a strategic business decision in which the potential of users and customers as co-creators and innovators will be fully utilized. Thus, user experience and customer experience are keys to differentiation and lasting competitive advantage that is hard to copy. UX will bring added value to business, and eventually show in the bottom line and improve competitiveness.
Based on experiences from Rocla and Konecranes cases UX really results in better business. Konecranes has received important orders with the new remote operation station, which makes remote loading and unloading of trucks in an automated container stacks environment feel like hands-on operation.
At Rocla’s truck launch event 40 orders from attending dealers were received. Today more than 1000 new forklift orders have been received.“The effect of UXUS program’s on the success of the business is obvious”, says Kero Uusitalo, who reports that users perceive Rocla’s latest models as the best in the market. “The success also has a direct employment effect in Finland”, states Marketing and Communications Manager Terhi Räsänen. The excellent user experience resulted in Red Dot Design Award also.
Johannes Tarkiainen, Konecranes Oyj
Terhi Räsänen & Kero Uusitalo, Rocla Oy
Rocla, Konecranes, VTT, Aalto