News about WERMA

18 Nov 2010

The WERMA design forge

An interview with Christian Höhler, Head of Development at WERMA Signaltechnik

The WERMA design forge

How do you place the importance of design in machine construction?
The importance of design in machine engineering has continually increased in the past years. Today, customers not only expect machines and technical devices to function perfectly but also expect them to look good as well. But it's not a matter of just being nice to look at. The design has to increase the innate value of machines and underline their functionality, and in best cases even support this. Functionality and design complement each other and can't be seen on their own.

Manufacturers in the machine construction sector significantly implement design today in terms of corporate design, meaning as many machines and devices as possible are subject to a specific, easily recognisable style. From the point of view of customers, high quality and functionality are connected with a specific design, which in turn promotes product loyalty.

Is there any friction between designers and engineers?
Engineers are mainly interested in the functionality, and requirements from designers are often seen as being inhibiting. But it's right here that we find an immense chance. At WERMA we've made the experience that when we consider the demands of design this can lead to unique features and even to completely new products in some cases.

In machine engineering it's all about efficiency, so how is design able to support this?
The design should promote the ergonomics of a machine. Clear lines for example don't distract operators, they know where they have to reach to and can work efficiently.

The WERMA signal towers on machines significantly support efficiency. They're discreetly designed with high transparency, but in alarm situations are highly dominant with a high level of brightness, ensuring rapid action.

What role does design play in terms of user friendliness?
In machine engineering design always has to support user friendliness, otherwise the level of acceptance with operators is low, it causes annoyance and might even be a safety risk. It's really the art of implementing design so that user friendliness is increased. With machines this creates clear, distinct forms without a lot of flourishes in most cases. This can be seen really well at the moment with machine manufacturers.

What do you tell people who say "it just has to function and doesn't have to look nice"?
I recognise high quality and efficiently functioning machines and devices externally nearly always by the fact that somebody's made a few thoughts about design. If that's not the case then the functionality is mostly not optimal.

How rewarding is design when drives or sensors disappear into the inner of the machines anyway and in ideal cases aren't seen at all in the next few years?
Well, the purchasing and installation phases for the products would be underestimated there. It's in such cases that buyers take a good look at machines and have them in their hands. And that's where the decision is taken to integrate the product or not.

But for us it's not such an important factor, because WERMA signal towers are always mounted at exposed positions on facilities. This of course underlines the importance of the design.

The approach of 'Form follows function' is often heard together with user-friendly, practical design. Is that the ideal design attitude for industry?
It's certainly correct that good design almost always follows good functionality. But as said, the major chance of creating unique features and new customer benefits is often found by fulfilling design tasks. And that's what determines the success of a manufacturer in the end if it's capable of fulfilling the design-specific requirements of its customers so that these can expand on their value in the market.

Press contact

Udo Skarke
General Manager • WERMA USA

Tel. +1 (470) 361 / 0600