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Contributing to Our Customers’ Prosperous Future through Product Design

Incorporating into product development “a new type of automation where people and technology create together”

Based on our Group philosophy of “human-centered automation,” we at Azbil focus on operations at the sites where people work in various markets, and we promote design that is oriented for the people who use the products at those sites. Our vision for automation is not only to provide convenience, comfort, safety, and security, but also to enrich people’s ways of working and living, and to pursue innovation. Using peopleoriented design, we provide new value for our customers.

Managing design across the company to express Azbil’s unique character

The azbil Group’s business development rests on three pillars: building automation (BA), advanced automation (AA) for industry, and life automation (LA), which more directly helps to enrich people’s lives by utilizing the measurement and control technology cultivated in the areas of buildings and industry. Applying the philosophy of “human-centered automation” at customers’ sites, we work together with customers to create new value and to solve problems. That philosophy is also embodied in our product design.

Azbil Corporation has made changes in order to promote user-oriented design across the entire company. Aiming for “a world of automation created by human ingenuity and technology” as a vision for the future, Azbil is establishing design guidelines common to the entire company. These guidelines are intended to inculcate human-centered design and encourage thinking about design during development.

The markets where Azbil does business are diverse, including buildings, factories, and plants. For these markets, in a unified way, Azbil designs and develops products ranging from monitoring systems to controllers, and also the sensors, valves, etc., connected to them, with a scope extending from the top to the bottom of the manufacturing process.

Design is useful not only to unify the outward appearance of these diverse products, but also to make complex functions more easily comprehensible, and thereby to help customers solve problems at their work sites. That’s why we are working on product design. For example, for hardware and graphical user interface (GUI) design, we are devising means so that developers in any business unit can design a product that has uniform characteristics as an Azbil product. In the design process, we consider not only how customers will use Azbil products, but also how we can help customers in the field to spend less time thinking about how to use the products so that they can spend more time creating new value.

Consistent design across business units contributes to user-friendliness and improved productivity

Azbil provides products and services to customers in a wide variety of markets and industries, usually working behind the scenes to support every kind of manufacturing industry, infrastructure, and office environment. Most of our products are rarely seen by the general public, but we believe it is just such products that call for user-oriented design. Accordingly, Azbil is focusing on user-centered design in order to ensure that customers can do the right work at the site, that they can enjoy excellent product usability and operability, and that products resist damage and deterioration. This is because we believe that products embodying these qualities will provide safety, reliability, and efficiency.

As an example of the importance of consistent design, because Azbil operates in many markets, there are cases where products for the industrial market are used for building management, or where products for the building market are used in factories. Even though the same type of electrical signals are involved, if the user interface, etc., uses different expressions than other equipment in the building or factory, users may feel that it is confusing or inconvenient. Despite differences in business units, careful and consistent design of the details of each product can help to provide products that customers can use with peace of mind.

In addition, Azbil’s human-centered design concept places importance on optimizing the user’s experience with the hardware and GUI. The optimizing process begins with a thorough survey of why and how each type of assumed user will use our products. For example, at a building management location, some employees work on maintaining equipment like air conditioners, and others monitor the operation of the equipment. By gaining a full understanding of the details and purpose of each type of task, Azbil gathers the information it needs to provide an optimal GUI for each user. In addition, to verify that the product can be used without errors, usability testing is incorporated into the design process. Customers and employees other those in the product’s development department also use the product on a trial basis so that problems can be identified and improvements can be made, as part of a process that is repeated many times before a design is finalized.

Winning high praise and design awards in Japan and abroad

As a result of these efforts, the design of Azbil products has been highly rated, and a number of products have won prominent awards in domestic and international design competitions.

For the BA business, the controllers and input/output modules for the savic-net G5 building automation system received the Red Dot Award 2020, iF Design Award 2019, and Good Design Award 2018. The ceiling-mounted temperature sensor (round type), with its minimalist design form that allows it to blend in with its surroundings, received the iF Gold Award 2020, which is the top iF Design Award, Red Dot Award 2020, and Good Design Award 2019.

For the AA business, the compact digital mass flow controller, which controls gas flow with high precision in factory production processes, received the Good Design Award. For the consumer market, Azbil’s residential central air-conditioning system VAV specification, which is sold in Japan, received the Good Design Award. The award judges appreciated the fact that a tablet is used as a remote control and provides a wide range of controls while featuring intuitive operation.

At Azbil, we consider the comfort of the people employed at every work site, and we seek to express the unique Azbil character by paying special attention to design, not merely for appearance, but also for usability. This way of thinking helps to shape the brand for the entire azbil Group. As an automation manufacturer, our mission is to provide the products and services that people need to live comfortably and abundantly, and to make sure that the products and services that we provide for society are easy to use and safe. Going forward, guided by our philosophy of “human-centered automation” and building upon the foundation of technology we have developed, we will continue to work on product design in order to provide everyone with a more abundant future.

Award-winning Azbil products

Award-winning Azbil products

savic-net is a trademark of Azbil Corporation.

This article was published on July 1, 2020.