Design For Production Planning at Infarm

Improve current software to support users with frictionless production planning in a rapidly growing business.

Design For Production Planning | Year: 2022

Project Overview

Infarm is a global vertical farming company that focuses on transforming the way we grow, consume and think about food, using the latest indoor farming technology, to achieve resilient and sustainable food system. The production planning team is under the R&D software department and is responsible for designing software (Business Internal Tools) for capacity planners, whose job is to leverage farm capacity in order to achieve maximum production with minimum resources.

However, as our business is scaling rapidly in both customer base and farming units, which means increasing complexity of production planning, we realised we need to understand more on the entire production planning process and find opportunities to improve our current digital tool to support users with frictionless planning in a rapidly growing business.

Goal & Focus

The Team
1x UI/UX Designer (Me)
1x UI/UX Design Lead
1x Product Manager

Key Contribution
User Research
Journey Mapping
Insights Synthesis

User Story Mapping
Mockups Design

Design Process

Discover - Research & Empathy

For this project, I needed to get a better understanding of the targeted user and their needs and wants. In this way, we can provide the right digital tools for them.

So to get started, we conducted 3 In-depth User Interviews + 3 Stakeholder Interviews to form a better understanding of users’ current planning behaviour and process, as well as future projection.


User Interviews

User interviews were driven and facilitated by me. I gave the users realistic tasks to work on and asked them to think out loud during the process.
With user interviews, we were able to understand their planning process, including the tools they use, the people they regularly contact, and the things they care about in order to get their job done.


User Journey Map

I used user journey map to document the E2E production journey as well as the user pain points, needs and wishes uncovered at each step.
This holistic journey map helped me visualise the complex production planning process that I learned from the users and allowed me to reference it at any time.


Jobs To Be Done

Addition to user journey map, I also used JTBD as a framework to highlight what are the objectives our users want to achieve and the value it will bring to them once they’ve achieved it. JTBD framework really helped me to look beyond the current tools but focus more on the key tasks that users want to do. From here, I learned that capacity planners (users) need to:
1. Understand demand
2. Validate capacity
3. Allocate production across farm facilities
4. Create planting schedule to start production


Stakeholder Interviews

Besides user interviews, we also conducted 3 stakeholder interviews with hub manager, country director, and ERP specialist. The stakeholder interviews were driven from the product side and I was mainly helping on taking notes and synthesising insights.
Stakeholder interviews provided us a look into future to ensure what we plan to develop match their expectations and remain scalable as the business grows.

Define - Synthesise Insights & Determine Opportunities


Insight Cards & Affinity Diagram

We synthesized our findings from discovery into insight cards, which included observations and evidences for future reference. We then used affinity diagrams to group the similar insights together. The main takeaways we got were:

1. Our users used mainly third-party tool (spreadsheets) to collect demand and calculate high level capacity. Our software has gaps in supporting production planning.

2. Users wasted a lot of time entering and verifying production schedules on our digital tools due to the unfriendly input interface and untransparent system feedback.


Determine Opportunities

Looking from the insights we gathered, we already saw several opportunities to do to improve our digital tool, for example: speed up the scheduling process and enhance the validation experience…etc.
Instead of aiming to tackle everything within the production planning journey, we focused on a specific user journey which was: User wants to schedule production in our system after he calculated the demand in other third-party tool. The reason why we started from here is because this is the starting point where users interact with our digital tool, thus it’s something we can control and can drive the most impact on the outcome.


Problem Statements

After decided on the specific journey to focus, I was able to hone in on specific pain points to address.
1. Inputting planting schedules on our digital tool took time.
2. Creating planting schedules was not fail-safe because of bugs and potential schedule clashes.
3. Confirming that a schedule was applied correctly took time and was prone to human error.

I converted the pain points into more detailed problem statements, with a actionable structure of “How might we…”

Develop - Ideate & Evaluate



Using the HMW statements as the framework, we were ready to ideate solutions. Together with the PM, we used the timeboxing technique and gave ourselves 8 minutes for each HMW statement. We were able to push ourselves and ended up with 13 ideas.


User Story Mapping

After ideation, we then ran an user story mapping workshop with all the team members. The goal is to help us prioritize ideas that would ultimately form the MVP scope.

This workshop was driven from the product side and was helpful in scoping, prioritising and building consensus on needed features. We were able to define the MVP scope and the key features to implement.


Scope & Key Features

MVP Scope
Enhance the schedule input by adding copy/paste feature to support faster and easier data transfer from the third-party tool as well as showing capacity surplus/deficits during schedule input to prevent invalid input. Additionally, improve visibility of production plan by allowing users to filter with different parameters in order to save time on validation.
1. The “copy/paste” feature will allow the users to transfer their data from the third-party tool, so that they can be fast in inputting the schedules into the system.
2. The “showing capacity surplus/deficits during schedule input” feature will provide a preventive validation to the users before they submit the schedule.
3. The “filter output with different parameters” feature will help users to easier do post-validate and cross compare with their spreadsheet data.

Deliver - Prototype & Testing


Wireframing & Evaluation

Based on the user flow identified from the user story mapping workshop, I created some lo-fi design. Wireframing also allows me to visualise my thought and uncover some open questions that were not identified at the beginning.

With the help of the visual references, we were able to approach the corresponding stakeholders either via email or meeting to clarify those open quesitons and evaluate the priliminary design in an efficient way.


Design Exploration & Prototype

For some key screens and user interactions, such as input schedule table or copy/paste, I generally followed the guidelines of our design system, but also tried to explore some different possibilities or patterns.

After trying out different versions of the design, I used the time in refinement meetings or UI/UX weekly feedback meeting to collect others’ opinions to weigh in my design decision and create hi-fi design prototype.


Usability Testing

We did 2 usability testing sessions with our users to gather their feedback on the design prototype. From the testings, users provided suggestions such as adding keyboard support, more highlight on the schedule starting date and their preferred way of showing the plant output table.

Overall, the usability testings went well. The users approved that the direction we were heading was correct. There were just a few minor tweaks that I needed to make. So I adjusted my design based on their feedback and cleaned up the Figma file to be ready to hand over to the developers.


Developer Handoff

After design came to finalise, when handing off to the developers, I tried my best to consider all possible error cases or unhappy paths and provided relative designs.

I also have the habit of flagging design statuses to make sure that when developers come to Figma, they know where to look at.


Final Result


Success Assessment

Looking back on our journey, it was challenging yet rewarding. As designing for business internal tool which is only used by limited internal users, it’s hard to measure our success quantitatively.

However,when we rolled out the features, we got direct positive feedback from our users. These qualitative user reviews were sent straight to us and also have proven that the work we did actually help our users in fulfilling their daily job.

Conclusion - Retrospective & Key Learnings

Production planning was a new field for me. One of the key learnings I got was that research is king. I cannot imagine doing this process without proper research, because I wouldn’t know how users plan for production, what kind of things they care about. I learned so much from our users and was then able to design the right tool for them and helped them complete their job.

I know that there are still room for improvement, for example, we could have spend more time on ideating and trying out different concepts rather than settling on one concept so quickly. But with limited time, we needed to pick one and ship fast. So for our next step, I think we need to revisit the user story map and opportunity space to further define our future iterations.