Removing the borders between a tugboat master and his vessel

Caterpillar Propulsion, a global producer of propulsion systems based at Hönö on the west coast of Sweden, wanted to adapt their world-famous system to be used on tug vessels. To meet the extreme demands and very intensive use on the tugboat bridge a complete redesign of the control lever interface was needed.

With the aim to design an ergonomic lever for high-intensive usage, great focus was put on studying the actual usage and requirements in the field. From the very start prototypes were produced, which allowed us to verify concepts rapidly and enabling a short time to market. Several iterations of prototypes with gradual refinement were produced and evaluated by the users, facilitated by rapid prototyping.

The final concept was designed to be comfortable during long shifts by allowing users a multiple ways of interacting with the lever. We integrated a range of elements to give the tug master constant visual and haptic feedback on direction and power and enable him a 100%, uninterrupted, focus on his task - to safely maneuver the ship.

To tackle the task we tailored a team of multiple competences. A service designer to explore and extract the true user needs. A design engineer to ensure technical feasibility. And an industrial designer to ensure a good user ergonomics and brand consistency. All worked in close cooperation in focused and efficient development sprints.



“I was seldom part of such
a successful project!"

- Adnan Kadribasic
Product manager Control systems, Caterpillar Propulsion Production AB