Logipics: Pictures explain logistical processes

A picture is worth a thousand words? Images or representations often explain complicated issues better than extensive text and instructions.
Researchers at the University of Augsburg have taken advantage of this fact. With a project funded by the German government, they have developed icons that can help logisticians to train new employees.

For a long time there has been a lack of manpower in logistics. Especially the storage areas of small and medium-sized companies are poorly staffed. “This gap could be closed by migrants or low-skilled workers,” said Michael Krupp, Professor of the research group for optimized value added at the University of Augsburg.

Intralogistics: Warehouse work is fun - if the framework conditions are right

How to measure warehouse performance? How to maintain and increase the motivation of warehouse staff? These and other challenges have been addressed by a recently completed research project by the Fraunhofer SCS together with two universities. A final report summarizes the findings.


Lack of language skills can jeopardize the quality of logistical processes

However, the training of new employees is often time-consuming due to language barriers. Not everyone has the necessary language skills. Migrants from the EU and other parts of the world find it difficult to speak German. There is still a high number of functional illiterates in Germany who can cope with everyday life but can read only to a limited extent.

“Lack of language skills and lack of written understanding can jeopardize the quality of logistical processes,” says Krupp. “Visualization provides an excellent way to understand complex processes.” Within two years, an interdisciplinary team of scientists at the University of Augsburg had been developing a universal visual language with pictograms. “That’s why we first identified the essential labor processes in the warehouse work that people with lower qualifications can do,” explains researcher Marjan Isakovic.

Modular compilation

The visual realization was carried out by Michael Stoll, Professor of Information Design, and Alexandra Kornacher of Augsburg University of Applied Sciences. Subsequently, the imagery was tested in practice. Partner here was the Fraunhofer Institute SCS in Nuremberg, which, for this purpose, worked together with companies and training institutions.

Potentially critical matters were subject of discussion. The pictograms, for instance, are very simplified: The logistics manager wears smocks and a clipboard under his arm, the workers are all male. “We discussed the gender question in detail and tested different pictograms: In the end, however, the image of the simple male was best understood,” says Krupp.

“Clever Image Ideas: Researchers at #HS_Augsburg are developing # Logipics training pictograms for #logistics“

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Now the first research results and parts of the imagery are available for free use. The visualizations of the processes can be put together modularly in order to display even complex processes in a simple way. The next step is digitization. In the future, the images will also be usable on tablets and smart phones. Still, it will take some time before the manager in the pictogram will exchange his clipboard for a tablet.