Optimisation is one of those business buzz-words that is unlikely to fade away anytime soon. More and more companies are discovering the potent effect optimisation can have on productivity, generally achieved through the standardisation of key functions for faster, smoother business processes.
At 4ward-design, we take optimisation seriously, and standardising and simplifying processes forms a large part of every automation system we design. It’s not enough to just install top-quality hardware and control systems – automation should actively simplify day-to-day functionality, making your life faster, easier and – whenever possible – more economical as well.
To keep us on track, we’ve developed an automation design process that focusses on three, key factors:
- Ease of Use
- Low Cost of Ownership
These factors apply to every system we install, regardless of whether it’s a residential or commercial application. Of course, the more complex the system, the more important it is to ensure simplicity of operation, and our standardisation methodology comes into maximum play during large commercial automation projects.
Defining the complexity of an Automation System
The complexity of an automation system boils down to the following aspects:
- The number of input sources – computers, DVD players, DSTV, call-centre data feeds etc.
- The number of output devices – projectors, screens, call-centre video walls, audio systems etc.
The input sources and output devices dictate the type of signal flow and processing required, and getting this balance right helps smooth processes behind the scenes and ensure stable, reliable operation.
Streamlining automatic functionality
There’s a lot more than just hardware going on behind the scenes, however, and a well-designed back-end control system is paramount for a high-quality automation system. The back-end controls handle functionality such as:
- Which inputs should be sent to which output devices
- Which devices should be grouped together
- Which triggers will action certain events – manually or automatically
This functionality is then fed into the user interface system.
Front-end controls: optimising the user experience
The user interface, or manual control system, has the most obvious impact on the user experience, and at 4ward-design our goal is to ensure maximum functionality with minimum input.
Our controls are designed to be simple and intuitive, allowing effortless use of standard day-to-day functionality while still allowing manual overrides of pre-defined settings. Getting this right is an art, and requires careful planning and in-depth understanding of the application. This is where 4ward-design’s “3-click methodology” comes into play.
4ward-design’s 3-Click Methodology
We aim to keep all standard functionality accessible within three clicks. Generally, these clicks would follow a path like this:
- Select Area (e.g. boardroom)
- Select Controllable Device (e.g. video conferencing)
- Select Action (e.g. dial)
The point of this 3-click system is to keep the user side of things extremely clear and simple, while automatically actioning functionality behind the scenes to optimise the experience. In the above example, while the user only clicks 3 buttons, the following will happen:
- Lights will automatically dim to predefined levels optimised for video conferencing.
- The video conferencing unit will turn on.
- Both of the 60” LED screens will turn on and automatically switch to the video conferencing HDMI input.
- The touch panel will prompt the user to dial a number or select one from a preprogramed list.
This kind of setup could previously have taken anywhere from ten minutes to half an hour. By automating the functionality and simplifying the user input, it now takes a matter of moments. A clear example of how automation can optimise productivity for a more effective and successful business environment.
For more information on optimised business automation solutions, please contact us.