Design as a differentiatorWith its new interface, Flottweg SE has developed a visualization that can be immediately understood by virtually anyone, that can be used for any of a company’s machines and plants, and that is uncluttered in appearance but nevertheless provides more information content. Flottweg collaborated with design experts to integrate user feedback.
Design expertise and user feedback enable real added value.
The award-winning new interface was developed in collaboration with the N+P Industrial Design GmbH design office from Munich, which advised Flottweg intensively on the makeover and jointly developed a style guide for the implementation of the user interface. “The starting point was a visualization that was developed by users for users, as it were – correct and functionally complete but not sufficiently clear and intuitive. We wanted to offer our customers more, so we decided to work with N+P,” explains Bernhard Niedermeier, development engineer in automation technology at Flottweg SE.
Not afraid to venture off the beaten path
Working with a design office to develop a new visualization is certainly a rather unconventional approach for a medium-sized plant engineering company such as Flottweg SE. Flottweg has no fear of new concepts and technologies and always thinks outside the box, as Gerhard Hager, a development engineer in automation technology at Flottweg, confirms. Gerhard Hager, who implemented the new visualization solution together with Bernhard Niedermeier, says: “Our company motto is ‘Engineered for your success,’ and this includes giving our customers not just a machine but a solution for their task. Because our products are part of a process, they need to integrate and work together with other systems – and this is also reflected in the visualization solution.”
Engineered for your successUnconventional ideas fit well into the Flottweg SE tradition, as the company has broken new ground many times. For more than 60 years, the company has been developing and producing separators, belt presses, and other machines that have a reputation for performance and reliability. But it all started quite differently.
Flying machines, bicycles, and Flottweg decanters
Flottweg was established in 1911 as Gustav Otto Flugmaschinen-Werke in Munich and in the course of time also produced bicycles with auxiliary motors and components for aircraft engines. After the move to Vilsbiburg in 1943 and the end of the Second World War, Flottweg initially produced precision parts for the printing industry before developing the first centrifuges in the 1950s. This “second pillar” was the beginning of a line of business with which Flottweg has achieved global success. In many industrial sectors, Flottweg systems perform key functions in treating liquids and separating liquid mixtures as well as concentrating and dewatering. The company is so successful that the premises in Vilsbiburg have become too small for the production of the machines and plants used in these tasks. Flottweg is currently building a second site in Vilsbiburg that will almost double the company’s production capacity.
Success with a systematic approach and good ideasThe new visualization, which Flottweg implemented in SIMATIC WinCC Professional, impresses with its high-contrast, clearly structured design and easy interaction. Flottweg also benefits from a well-structured, standardized solution for the automation and visualization of the machines that is easy for users to operate and easy for Flottweg to configure and maintain.
Success is the result of good teamwork.
Bernhard Niedermeier and Gerhard Hager implemented the design for the automation solution as blocks in TIA Portal with a SIMATIC Industrial PC and SIMATIC WinCC Professional. “Of course, we had one or two challenges to resolve,” recalls Gerhard Hager. “Among other things, we had to create the pop-up windows without the usual framework, and we wanted to anchor all attributes to the blocks. We benefited greatly from the fact that Siemens supported us with expert knowledge. This collaboration was an important element in the success of the design.” At Flottweg, the integrated look extends through all levels of automation. Both the Industrial Panel PCs and the controller covers are procured from Siemens as customized versions in the Flottweg design. In addition, Flottweg has implemented the visualization on the SIMATIC HMI Basic Panels with the same design and reduced functionality.
A solution destined to win awards
The design is based on an adapted process flow diagram in which the current status can be quickly identified by means of the underlying symbols and the clear color scheme. Using standardized symbols, the user can display different information levels in the overview that can be easily shown and hidden. In addition, a pop-up can be opened for every unit with a click and can be moved on the screen. Using this approach, Flottweg SE also convinced the jury of the German Design Award 2018: in the “Interactive User Experience” human-machine interface category, the innovative user interface, the revolutionary color design and the intuitive operating structure impressed the jury.
A real eye-catcherFlottweg has its finger on the pulse of today’s market with this new interface, as was demonstrated during the premiere at the Drinktec 2017 trade fair, where there the company received about 20% more inquiries than usual. This increase in interest can be attributed not least to the fact that the design was a real crowd-puller, but the interface provides compelling advantages in everyday use as well.
The new interface consistently receives positive feedback.
The new design has been in use in customer projects since early 2018 – and the feedback is consistently positive, not only from customers but also from the configuration engineers at Flottweg in Vilsbiburg. The global rollout of the visualization is in the pipeline, and the tailwind provided by the German Design Award will be a significant help, says Michael Hacker, head of automation technology at Flottweg. “The award and the new design were a real eye-catcher when presented at Drinktec,” he confirms. While the new visualization is currently implemented as a machine-based solution on the SIMATIC Panel PC, Flottweg is considering using the new concept also at the SCADA level. The solution’s possibilities are therefore far from exhausted. Standardization may also allow Flottweg to automatically generate parts of the configuration in the future. “We are currently looking at that,” says Gerhard Hager.