Schwank
Product design meets interface design

Enhancing usability for designed solutions

Medium-sized enterprises form the backbone of the German economy. They are known for their ability to engineer the highest-quality solutions and many are hidden champions in a wide range of industries. We have helped Schwank, one of Germany’s industryleading companies to create the next generation of user friendly products.

Gunther Schwank, the founder of the eponymous company, invented the world’s first gas infrared plaque heater over 80 years ago. Since then, Schwank has grown to become a medium-sized enterprise and the worldwide market leader in infrared gas heaters for industrial buildings, outdoor applications and sports arenas. But what does the future hold for them?

In industrial buildings, there is an increased need for more efficient heating systems. Looking forward, Schwank has developed a new generation of extremely energy- efficient gas-fired radiant tube heater. Efficiency is the main consideration when choosing a heating system and design plays a large part in creating a competitive advantage and added value. User-friendly interfaces reduce frustration and time spent on installation, repairs and maintenance, while providing a more enjoyable user experience. This increases customer loyalty and is a large selling point when comparing to competitors.

TAILORING USER-CENTERED PRODUCT SOLUTIONS

We have designed two products for Schwank, tailored to their needs and those of their users. The first is the interaction area of a radiant tube heater. This is generally hung close to the ceiling in industrial buildings, at a height of around six meters. Some parts of the interaction area can become extremely hot and there are peripheral pipes connected to the heater, reducing available working space. It was extremely important for us to gain a thorough understanding of the environment and working conditions faced by the users while designing this product.

The main demand on the design of the interaction area was in allowing users to easily access all the areas needed while also protecting the parts which aren’t often accessed. Easy access to the electronics from the side is provided by a hatch which can be swung open without the use of any tools. The location of the hatch on the side of the machine allows contractors to work on it in an ergonomic position. The adjusting screws, located on top of the unit can be reached from the side by sliding out another hatch, even when the interface is located just centimetres from the ceiling. The bottom shell can also easily be removed for access to the inside parts.

Product design meets interface design

DESIGNING FOR INTUITIVE USE

The technical aspects of the interaction area design also represented a challenge. Although the internal package was larger than that of the previous generation, we were challenged with designing a device with a smaller perceived volume and less complexity. The new generation should also be produced in-house, narrowing our options as to which materials and production methods could be used.

The second product we designed for Schwank was the interface for an industrial thermostat system. Because this system is located in industrial buildings which are often loud and dangerous, our main goal in designing the interface was in making it as intuitive and quick to use as possible, reducing cognitive load for the users. Rather than using a button-based interface, we moved to a full-touch solution, reducing the steps needed to successfully finish a task. This interface is based around a static main menu and two navigation areas at the left and right of the screen.  The simple, geometric icon set is designed for maximal comprehensibility with highly contrasting elements and line thickness. This supports the user in navigating, even in in difficult conditions.

DESIGNED SOLUTIONS, RATHER THAN ENGINEERED SOLUTIONS

Our solutions for Schwank have had a number of positive effects. The reduced, dynamic form of the radiant tube heater control interface has improved visibility of the Schwank brand in industrial buildings. The simple, easily understandable and readable interfaces have improved the usability of the Schwank products. This in turn has made it much easier for people to effectively use and work with the products, improving the installation and maintenance processes and making Schwank more competitive. In addition to this, the “deltaSchwank” won the “Best-Of Industriespreis 2017” following its release.

FURTHER READINGS:

Read more about the DeltaSchwank.