Toolsquare helps get a good grip on how machines are used. Our cocreation process with VIB has lead to a new feature that further streamlines the use of lab equipment: checklists. When this feature is activated, the user is asked to answer a few questions to check if the right the preparations were made. These can be on the subject of safety (“do you have your safety goggles on?”) or regarding the handling of the machine (“is the exhaust activated?”).
VIB’s equipment is often used by researchers with very different levels of expertise. This presents them with a number of challenges especially in the subject of machine failures. This is a challenge Toolsquare was glad to accept.
By spending time in the VIB labs, observing how they work, asking questions and testing solutions, we came to the new feature. We also saw that the people that are initially the most sceptic about what we do, give us the most valuable input. And in the end, they are the most enthusiastic!
Our design brief had a couple of specific requirements:
- don’t bother people who already know how to work with the machine
- make it surprising so it does not turn into a routine
- make people more confident to start working with a machine
So let’s start with the first one: We know how long it has been since someone worked with a specific type of equipment. We don’t want a frequent user to have to go through a checklist 15 times a day. In this case we can be confident that they know what they’re doing. But if it has been a couple of months since the last use, you won’t mind a couple of reminders to start up a sensitive and expensive piece of lab equipment.
The second goal was to avoid becoming another paper on the wall. Instructions are everywhere and people don’t even notice them anymore. The book Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman gives you a really good explanation of why a paper quickly loses it function. Our brain needs to be surprised once in a while to trigger our system into a bit more attention (you’ll have to read the book to know more, I assure you it’s a fascinating read). Since our checklists only pop up if you haven’t used the equipment for a while we already solve a part of it. But if each question would become a YES/NO question it’ll become like any windows installer. So in our design we made if flexible to come up with any kind of answer or flow. For a question like this one:
Did you make sure the samples are balanced?
Possible answers could be: Sure! – Hmmm – Why?
The last answer could take you to a little tutorial:
”Even a difference of 1g could damage the centrifuge extensively.”
The Hmmm response will get you here:
”Please make sure the difference is within 1g and come back. “
With all this we’ll help users to avoid the most obvious mistakes and operate it with more confidence. This will lead to an overall better uptime and less maintenance costs for the whole department.