UI/UX Case Study: Automation of Parking Lots at Airports

Kovalsky Stanislav

We at Glow focus on developing products for the transport industry. Unfortunately, in Ukraine, the parking sector is developing very slowly, with a time lag of several years, while in Europe and the USA people try to automate all routine work processes. We help them solve these tasks.

This case study describes the process of transformation of a tiresome workflow of a parking lot operator into a simple and comfortable process. Our goal is to preserve the health of the personnel, boost the team’s productivity, and cut off operational expenses.

Just a Few Facts (Through the Example of the USA)

Until recent times, parking lots and innovations used to be considered incompatible things. Street parking lots produce up to 1/3 of the total revenue from the car parking sector in the Federal budget. They are usually controlled by the municipal authorities. Owners of these parking lots have little desire to implement any innovations. Why should they do it?

For example, during a basketball match at the Cowboy Stadium, the cost of a parking slot booking can reach $100.

Most off-street car parking lots, which generate up to 2/3 of the total revenue from the car parking business in the USA, are privately-owned. Does it mean that they are open to innovations? Not at all. Here are some reasons why their owners are not eager to break the conventional system.

  • An off-street car parking is a complicated system and a territory with a lot of players.
  • Most people seek a parking spot not until they have got to the place.
  • The majority of parking lot owners rely on live operators, not automatic equipment.

But we decided to get things moving.

What is the problem from the point of view of a car driver?

Take you, for instance, or an everyman on a self-quarantine. Like most people, you are likely to stay at home and think of what to do. But as long as a week ago, you used to get into your Tesla Cybertruck every morning, chauffeur your children to school, and hurry to the office. What did it look like?

You got to the office, and now you are seeking a spot where you can park your car without the fear of being fined or getting to a car impound. But there’s no room for your Cybertruck, which, unfortunately, can’t fly. After five circles around the block, you, finally, find a place and go work, ‘blessing’ the whole system. On the next day, everything repeats.

It is estimated that car drivers all over the world, on average, lose 20 minutes searching for a parking spot.

What about vacations? Let’s assume you’ve bought flight tickets, loaded your family into a car, and now you are rushing to the airport. Before the departure, you are likely to give the car keys to a parking lot manager and leave for a vacation. But you have no idea of what happens to your car while you are away…

In our article, we’ll have a closer look at the life of parking lot operators and add efficiency to their routine workflow.

These are John and Jim

John is a parking lot manager. He accepts, controls, and releases the cars. Every morning, just like you, he wakes up and goes to work by his Hyundai Accent. He wants to work less and get more money for it.

His typical working day includes a huge volume of work. To accept your car he has to meet you, walk to the office with you, fill out paperwork, suggest you extra services (car washing, recharging, interior cleaning, etc.). John must take the keys, inspect the car, and deliver it to a parking spot. It means he has to drive around the whole parking lot (see yourself?) find a place for your car, write down the level, section, and the parking spot number. And we don’t mention the procedure of realizing the car!

At the same time, Jim pounds a beat. He walks around three levels, ten sections, and over a thousand parking spots. He walks with a sheet of paper and a pencil over his ear, as he needs to report on an overall occupancy of the parking lot, problems and challenges.

Let’s try to make the life of John and Jim a little bit simpler?

When we know what load these guys (parking operators) have every day, we want to find a solution as soon as possible.

We at Glow have designed an admin panel for parking management. It is adapted for iPad, as a tablet will let John and Jim stay mobile. The product includes all the features that employees can need — from the monitoring of reservations and services to checking a parking slot status and its device.

What should we start from?

To automate the workflow of these operators we need to start from the main object — the parking lot itself.

Each parking lot is a unique object, which can contain several levels, dozens of sections, and thousands of parking slots.

How can we transfer the parking lot into a digital format? Keep in mind it must be simple enough for John and Jim to navigate it without a hassle and understand what (and how) to do.

How to transfer 5 floors of parking to a tablet screen?

Just one hour of a team brainstorm resulted in making an awesome solution. We decided to draw an authentic parking lot plan with a proper number of levels, sectors, and parking slots. Several lengthy iterations — and we’ve got the very plan that our operators know from A to Z.

To make the navigation around section more convenient we added small areas from both sides. These are so-called shortcuts for switching between the sections. After 15 minutes of debating, we added the location of the company’s office.

As the employees have to switch between the sections quite frequently, we added the option of a fast view of a parking slot details. As they say, right off the bat. It allows checking a park slot details without the need of switching between the pages and open new tabs.

Let’s return to the fact that all the employees will need to control the load, the condition of an entire parking lot and individual slots.

Following traditions, we created the main page — Dashboard where you can check all the basic indicators of the parking lot in a couple of minutes:

  • the number of spare slots;
  • the number of booked slots;
  • the number of forthcoming tasks (we’ll discuss the details some later);
  • a chart with the latest bookings;
  • the number of new bookings per day.
  • the flight schedule, which helps to prepare the car by the client arrival time;
  • a chart for tracking future services.

The Features That Improved John’s and Jim’s Lives

Needless to say, it’s impossible to track all bookings on the Dashboard page. For this task, we created a separate screen with a possibility to sort by status, type, and date. All new bookings are automatically added to the chart, once a client has booked a slot on the public version of the website. Also, an operator can add new booking manually.

To make the reading of booking details more comfortable we used colored tags, which help check the status quickly. Also, we added information about the car (a model and a number).

After a quick search of the needed booking, an employee can open the details and find information about the transaction. For example, one can check whether the client entered his payment details, whether he ordered extra services for his car, at what stage the booking currently is, and so on.

One of the most important features on this page is the parking slot assignment. Long before the client gets to the place, employees find a spare slot on a car parking lot and make a reservation.

The Time of Innovations

Once the car is parked, a parking sensor appears on the scene.

This unique technical development lets save quite a lot of person-hours. The sensor looks like a small device that is attached to the floor on every parking slot. Once a car gets to its place, the system automatically “understands” that this slot is taken. After that, the booking is automatically transferred to the stage “Car is Parked”. By doing so, the sensor significantly simplifies the process of car accepting and releasing. Besides, Jim won’t have to walk around the parking lot all the time and check the load.

In the case of a sensor failure or low battery, the system automatically sends a notification and displays it on the screen.

The Schedule of Services

The system has a built-in calendar, which lets employees track all the future services scheduled for the current day/week/month. Managers see the service ordered by a client and chose potential executors from a smart list: it can show the executors with the best price, reviews, and speed of working. The calendar helps not to miss the deadlines.

Health is in the Focus

I told you that we focus on employees’ health. These are not just words: as I have already mentioned, most employees use iPads in order to keep mobile. Another important aspect here is the fact that the parking lot works 24/7, so, people who have to work at night will get a little happier: a dark theme will protect their eyes at night time.

Do you think we succeeded in preserving the nerves and eyes of the personnel?

Right now, we are working out another project in this sphere. We are ready to share our experience and results with you — please, add some claps to this article while we are writing the next one.

We at Glow focus on projects in the transport industry. Find more information here.

If you have a project, we are ready to discuss it and think of how we can improve your inner business processes.

Just e-mail us: [email protected].

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