Trucks load and weighing flow management tool
TruckFlow is a product that guides Truck Drivers and brings clarity to scale operators in Vale's port of Tubarão, Brazil. It solves the problem by an SMS messaging system that tells Truck Drivers what do and shows their state to the operator in a kanban-style dashboard.
Hundreds of trucks enter and leave the port of Tubarão in Vitória every day. Some bringing products, others taking them out. Whatever the Truck Driver's mission, trucks have to be weighed both at its entrance and at the exit.
The port is enormous. Its size and complexity is a huge source of challenges and headaches for the scale operators. It has five gates for trucks and three scales. The operators' jobs are not only to control trucks weight but also to overview their flow inside the port, making sure their loading/unloading in the right place.
The port of Tubarão. It's so big that it has exclusive bus lines.
This product is one of many solutions Vale's IT department is developing via Greenhouse workshops, a product design methodology that's helping company's team to find opportunities for innovation. It's the company's version of the design sprint designed by Filipe Baeta.
The framework has a checklist where the project has to fit in, but it can be flexible when needed.
It goes like this:
We started the day by interviewing stakeholders so we could understand people's roles in the process, company's pain-points and needs.
Time is precious in these workshops, so we had to have all of them in the room. It's noisy and full of post-its. Luisa, the UX designer, mediated the conversation. I'd noting everything interesting they said.
After a lot of talk, post-its, and lunch, we visited the first scale. The goal was to understand scale operators journey, they workstation, interaction with the Truck Drivers and pain-points in the current system.
Right away we noticed an issue: 3g was barely existent. Some scales were too far from any provider's antenna.
Also, the system they used was kind of archaic. It didn't give an eagle's eye view of the whole process, like where are the trucks, who was waiting, what they're bringing to or taking from the port. Communication with vehicles was manual, and sometimes the operator had to leave the workstation to talk to the Truck Driver in person.
Later that evening, back to the office, with each team member perspective — design, engineering and business — we brainstormed about the recent findings.
We identified stakeholders hypothesis and pain-points, identified roles in the system, and mapped scale operators journey and its current problems.
In the morning — also in the night — of the second day we went to another series of conversations, but that time we talked with Truck Drivers. We wanted to understand their journey, difficulties they have to face, how tech-savvy they were.
Later that day, we noticed that we could separate them in two groups: people that came from very far, some for the first time; and the ones that worked for nearby clients, that would come to the port more the 2 times a day.
After lunch, we went back to the office to prototype ideas. All the research we did presented us a handful of restrictions.
Designing an app, which is usually the type of solution Greenhouse's workshops generates, wasn't the best solution, it'd be actually the worse. For two reasons:
The solution was SMS messaging system. Once the trucks got registered, the system would create a “digital line”, coordinating the turn of each vehicle. Drivers would answer the SMS accordingly and move to the next step.
The scale operator wouldn't need to do almost anything unless it was indispensable. They'd have a dashboard, a kanban style one, where they'd have an overview of the whole thing. This last part we sketched in day 2 and mocked up on day 3.
In the last day, we started by testing the SMS flow by sending messages manually, following the flowchart we designed. The idea was to see if the SMS were evident to the Truck Drivers.
This is the dashboard we came up with. The idea was to have something operators could use in their desktop computer, but also mirror it on a TV, so everyone in the workstation how the load and weighing were going.
We wanted them to see the whole thing without the need to scroll horizontally, so operations had its own column. We used the flags “loading”, “loaded”, and “wrapping” to indicate what stage they were in that step.
Later that day we presented it to the scale operators and stakeholders. They were pleased about it =).
If we were inside the office during this project, we wouldn't understand the main issue: the lack of 3g connection. To understand users in their environment was the best thing we could've done.
Building an app could've been cool, I love designing mobile apps. Thing is it wouldn't solve the problem, it would create others.
The more you focus on the problem the clearer is to find opportunities for a solution. Loving the idea may make you try to justify things that are not relevant to the context.