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Lesson at the Politecnico in Milan: Communication networks in railway applications

Lesson at the Politecnico in Milan: Communication networks in railway applications 2015 1512 Spii

The annual date with the students of the 𝐀𝐮𝐭𝐨𝐦𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐨𝐟 𝐄𝐥𝐞𝐜𝐭𝐫𝐢𝐜 𝐓𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐬𝐩𝐨𝐫𝐭 𝐒𝐲𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐦𝐬 course of the Politecnico di Milano always gives us great satisfaction!

Main theme of the lesson: communication networks, systems and controls in railway application.

Our goal is to create a strong synergy between theoretical content and real experiences, proactively involving students.

We thank our colleague and “teacher for a day” Alberto Colombo and Professor Michela Longo, for years the main actors of this initiative.

See you next time,
Simona Gianoli


Master Controller: “the Italian job”

Master Controller: “the Italian job” 1472 981 Spii

Control levers: the brake of a bike, a boat accelerator, the control of the afterburner of a jet, the traction lever of a train, what do they all have in common?

And here I can already imagine the audience dividing in two: the supporters of “they are the same thing, only the shape changes” and the supporters of “they are two completely different things”.

As always, the truth lies somewhere in between, and this statement, even if it may seem simply wise and not very “engineering”, is the result of what we have been discovering day by day, for years now.

The curiosity, passion and courage that makes us the center of competence of the Schaltbau group’s Human Machine Interfaces has pushed us to go further, to reach the “meta position” and begin to investigate the driving methods, whatever the type of machine is.

Figure 1 – SPII designer during the experience on an Airbus driving simulator

For sure, in all the cases mentioned above we are talking about one, if not the only, main control (well yes … the “Master Controller“), but although the problem of providing a critical human machine interface can be divided into ergonomic studies, shapes and efforts, the variable that upsets all plans is the extreme adaptability of man to conditions that are not exactly ergonomic and to unnatural movements.

The steering wheel, for example, is the most used driving interface, but are we sure it’s the best?

The traditional way of driving a car actually arose from outdated technological constraints, and then traditionally became normal for all of us, although it is not natural.

It is precisely because of these cognitive biases that to design railway master controllers we have decided to broaden our horizons by investigating the most varied driving solutions.


Therefore, we warn you when, faced with a driving / control problem, you ask us for a completely disruptive solution, because we put the person at the center and the only purpose is to find the best way to interact with the machine, whatever the boundary conditions are.

See you next time,
Giovanni Salati


#Inclusion: is it just another buzzword?

#Inclusion: is it just another buzzword? 1298 729 Spii

2. SPII’s Charter of Values – #Inclusion

People, women and men, can make the difference.

2020 is a year that draw a line.

It did so in many ways, for most of the people in the World, with a pandemic that changed our very way of living.

But it did so in a much different way for SPII.

In 2020, when the World started to move again at a normal speed and we had the time and energy to do it, we did some reflections.
We dug deep, deeper than ever, and down there we found our very core: the new Vision and Mission were born.

Do you choose your values, or your values choose you?

Until then we considered ourselves (and the rest of the World did) a rail-focused company. In 2020, we decided to raise our heads and look beyond what we did as a job, focusing instead on what our competence was.

Until then, within the 2015-2020 strategy, our goal was to become a competence center within Schaltbau. When in 2020 that cycle was over, we could concentrate on a new strategy.

Our website, our social media, our communication still represented the caterpillar we used to be, while we wanted to start talking about the butterfly we had long become without ever celebrating it.

We already told you of how “WhereverWeCan” was born, a powerful and effective synthesis of our path – the one we had walked until then, and the one we wanted to follow from there.

It became the first point of our Charter of Values, an effort to condense and write down all the principles and guidelines that in fact underlie our vision. They are the result of our dreams, our experiences and the many mistakes we have made and are making.

It was a difficult and introspective process the one that gave birth to the Chart. But we knew exactly what we wanted to be our second value

Inclusion: let the facts speak

Inclusion has become such a buzzword, just like “biologic” or “smart“.

Those kind of terms that are so overused and misused that people stop believing in them. They sound like just another cliché, something a company needs to say to be up to date and compliant with everyone’s expectation.

Well, let them. We don’t need to say anything…we can just let the facts speak.

Today half of our production managers are women: they are young, educated, committed to the company but also to their families (some of them are also mothers), and they run departments full of men that are often older than them.

All in all, we have a rate of 40% women among SPII’s white collar workers…and we didn’t even know it until we run the numbers!

Is this inclusive enough for you?

The truth is we don’t need “pink quotas” of any sort here, because we actually don’t see any colors!


What makes the real difference?

I told you how we came to choose our values, or better said how they chose us, because we want you to know they are not buzzwords: they are who we are.

And during our victories and our (many) mistakes, we found out loud and clear a very universal truth:

When it comes to success, it doesn’t really matter what software you use, how big is your lab, how much money you spend in R&D, how much technology you show around, nor the models you use.

Do you want to know what makes the real difference? People.

People, women and men, regardless of any orientation, creed or background, always make the difference.

Not just who they are, but how engaged they are, how committed to the cause, how they feel heard and seen, and what contribution they make.

We were led to believe in these many years that whether an entrepreneurial activity is successful or not depends mostly on this, in the end.

So we learned the importance of having no bias: winning ideas can come from any source. You just need to sit silent and listen to any voice may come.

The more inclusive you are, the more diverse, interesting, complementary, innovative and true those voices will be.

This is how we decided that our second Value had to be this one:


See you next time,
Ilaria Cazziol



SPII 2022: TOWARDS THE FUTURE 747 420 Spii

SPII, the competence center of the Schaltbau gmbh group, designs and manufactures human-machine interface systems, living engineering as a journey towards the change based on #technology, #ergonomy and #style.

Over the years, the natural process by which the future invades our lives has led us to evolve while always maintaining our spirit, made of #passion, #curiosity and #courage.

Always remembering the past and embracing the future, we continue our path in search of innovation, providing tailored technological solutions and developing agility focused to solve problems and find solutions.

We never stop #inspiration, we feed it!


See you next time,
Simona Gianoli


Innotrans 2022

Innotrans 2022 500 219 Spii

𝟭𝟵-𝟮𝟯 𝘀𝗲𝗽𝘁𝗲𝗺𝗯𝗲𝗿 𝟮𝟬𝟮𝟮. Save the dates!

We are preparing to welcome you to InnoTrans 2022 in Berlin, Germany.

SPII S.p.A. and Schaltbau GmbH are waiting you at 𝗛𝗮𝗹𝗹 𝟮.𝟮, 𝗦𝘁𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝟭𝟭𝟬.

Come and discover our all technology!

See you soon,
Simona Gianoli


#WhereverWeCan: when a philosophy turns into a value

#WhereverWeCan: when a philosophy turns into a value 1198 1464 Spii

1. SPII’s Charter of Values – #WhereverWeCan

Our future, most of the time, depends on us;
when it doesn’t,
we can still decide how to deal with it.

If you ask anyone in SPII why we are going public today with our Charter of Values, they will tell you it’s not something that happened overnight.

It was a process that brought us here, a “journey called change that we overtook some years ago – or maybe it was the way we were following all along.

Be as it may, this journey brought us to different lands: places where the company culture “depended on us“, where we needed to live through an EVOLUTION to become who we were supposed to be.

It’s in these times of change and uncertainty that we started to ask ourselves uncomfortable questions.
Universal queries such as:

“who are why? Why are we here? Where are we going?”.

We knew those answers, because they were part of who we were since the beginning. But more and more we felt the need to write them down, make them our compass.

This is how our philosophy, #WhereverWeCan, was officially born.

As we started looking inward, in a difficult process of self-actualization and contemplation, we saw curiosity, courage and passion.
We saw people who believed in engineering as a process to making change happen, to innovate, to go beyond limits.

A company which was able to turn from a rail-focused approach to a competence-focused one, in order to achieve greater and wider things.

SPII was willing to go wherever inspiration led it, wherever curiosity stroke, wherever passion burnt. Wherever

We saw that we would go wherever we can

When something works well, you know it immediately. You can feel it, it’s like goosebump on your skin.

And WhereverWeCan” worked for us.
It represented our philosophy, who we wanted to be, how we wanted to be perceived.

It was a trail, actually even better, a track

It became our philosophy, our motto. We had gone wherever we could during our long history, starting off from a small industrial design studio for electrical appliances, growing into an international company with Schaltbau Group

And we would go wherever we could from there.

When Covid changed our world, we changed our habits, our working schedule, our whole culture towards flexibility to keep going.
When we needed to innovate, to do something really new, really out of the way, we created Intelliarm.
When we wanted to change our industry, we tried to do so with V-Desk. When it depends on us, we go for it.

And when something is out of our reach, when it doesn’t depend on us, we adapt.
We can’t fight Covid, we can’t change a war, we have no power over recession, political turmoil or the prices of gas rising.

But we can choose how to respond.

We can decide to concentrate our efforts, reduce our wastes, try new approaches. And we do.

This is what “wherever we can” means for us. It means we know what that “can” stands for.

We are the makers of our own future – we always have a choice to do so.

This is why we knew immediately what would go in the first place of our Charter of Values.

We knew it would be our mantra:


See you next time,
Ilaria Cazziol


Product design and development of an ergonomic handle

Product design and development of an ergonomic handle 899 782 Spii

In this article we will talk about a specific ergonomic problem that we found involved different drivers. The issue emerged from several requests made by professional train drivers that felt pain and discomfort when using the master controller for many hours a day to activate the traction and the brake of the train.

Our approach was to investigate as much as possible the root causes of this issue and then to design and develop a measure to mitigate the problem.

To do this, we have moved in this way:

  1. Replicate as faithfully as possible the working conditions of the drivers with same constraints and the same possibility to regulate the components in the cabin.
  2. Investigate the possible solutions to solve the problems with the minimum impact on the system.
  3. Co-design the solutions with the final user.
  4. Prototype and test the solutions in real operating conditions.
  5. Validate and implement the solutions for the series production.

Replication of a real system

To have the possibility to study the movements and the constraints of the system, we replied the whole model in the 3D world. Since the cabin and the seat were manufactured 30 years ago, we have not the possibility to have the 3D geometry available. In order to avoid any kind of errors we decided to make a 3D scan of the cabin with all the different range of the possible adjustments regarding the height, the depth and the inclinations. This method allowed us to identify in a precise way the real possibility to adjust the position of the driver respectively to other interactive components in the cabin.

Figure 1 – 3D scan of the cabin

When we had the 3D scan ready, we put some standardized mannequins from the 5° percentile woman to a 95° percentile man and we evaluated the maximum and minimum range possible without causing pain and discomfort to the driver according to the Ergonomic ISO Normative. This analysis was mandatory to know before producing any kind of physical prototype, which could be the impact of the shape and the position of the handle on the driver’s body.

Following are represented some images that explain some examples of the ergonomic analysis:

Figure 2 – 5° Woman Mannequin with the reachability bubbles
Figure 3 – 95° Man Mannequin with the reachability bubbles

Design and prototype solutions

The second step, was to think what we could do to solve the problems with the minimum impact in the cabin. To do this, we designed handles with a completely different shape from the original one and an armrest to support the elbow of the driver and consequently reduce the strain on the joints. The shape came out from various prototypes made firstly with digital sketching and subsequently with the 3D printer. This was a fast way to be aware of the comfort and to have the possibility to share the design and validate the solution with the final user.

Figure 4 – 3D printed prototypes

Validate and implement the solutions for the series production

Figure 5 – Series production Master Controller front (capacitive sensitive zone on the handle)
Figure 6  – Series production Master Controller front (horn push button)

The shape of the handle gave the right support to the hand of the driver respecting as much as possible what emerged from the ergonomic analysis conducted with the customers.

The handle has one button on the top to activate the horn and two capacitive sensitive zones on the bottom to activate the Deadman Device.  

The challenge was also to create a system in which the zones for the activation of the dead man system were without physical buttons but with a capacitive detection system. Implementing different kinds of features without compromising the ergonomic aspects was one of the main goals.  In order to maintain a good compromise between ergonomics, aesthetics and functionality we decided to investigate if the 3D printing system could also be used for production parts. The difficulty was to find a material that had a good ratio stiffness to resistance, was compliant with the fire&smoke normative EN 45545 and had a good aesthetic aspect. After various tests made on different kinds of material and 3D printing techniques, we have chosen a thermoplastic material that met all the mechanical and normative requirements.

Figure – 7 3D printed handle for the series

This material was born with a similar gold intrinsic colour and with a visible layers on the z axis (detectable by eyes and by human skins). This meant that we had to validate a surface finishing and painting post process in order to reduce the gap as much as possible comparing with the traditional manufacturing techniques.


The process was not easy to implement especially due to the poor availability of initial information both on the driver’s cab and on the various possible adjustments of the driver. Thanks to our ergonomic and technological knowledge we have consolidated a process that has allowed us to reach our target in an efficient, effective and repeatable way.

Using 3D printing not only for prototype purposes but also for the production series has completely changed the design paradigm.

This ergonomic process developed with new technologies marked an important milestone in the railways landscape, unlocking new creative horizons in which the sharing of physical prototypes and subsequent mass production will follow new flows and methods that will halve the time to market.

See you next time,
Lorenzo Olivetto

summer room

SPII NEW ENTRY: Summer Meeting Room

SPII NEW ENTRY: Summer Meeting Room 2560 2408 Spii

At SPII, hospitality is at home!

We are pleased to present you our Summer Room!

Here is our new outdoor meeting room – set up on our terrace – which allows you to work, meet customers and organize meetings and events in the name of maximum brightness, ventilation, calm and environmental sustainability, guaranteed by energy savings.

The Summer Room can be used by all our collaborators even during the lunch break, as an extension of our current Sala Evo.

In addition to attention to the environment, our Summer Meeting Room goes far beyond the prescribed safety standards, lowering any risk of contagion to the limit given the healthiness and absence of closed places.

The idea of ​​creating this new professional environment comes from our vision: the human at the center.

We believe that this work area can represent a center of creativity and collaboration, an expression of the growing need to create workspaces where our collaborators and our guests feel at ease, while at the same time having all the tools they need to to be able to operate in total harmony.

In addition, with the summer, there is nothing more remarkable and unusual than working immersed in nature, with the birds singing, wrapped in a pleasant and productive setting to alternate moments of work with pleasant breaks.

See you next time,
Simona Gianoli


V-Desk – The Virtual Desk Reality

V-Desk – The Virtual Desk Reality 2000 1334 Spii

V-Desk is a device that offers an innovative cab design method based on Virtual Reality technologies at the highest level available today; this method fully incorporates technology, ergonomics and style into the decision-making process. Since a design is based on the embodiment itself, the process is to incorporate the operators within it, and engage in an immersive experience to manipulate and interact with imagined physical structures via the Virtual Technology. These technologies are already being used and have been successfully proven in the design of car interiors.

The UCD approach

The underlying philosophy of this method is: USER in the CENTER of the DESIGN process.

UCD is a framework of processes in which specific usability goals are thoroughly attended to at each stage of the design process, ranging from user’s attributes and habits, to the environment, to the tasks and workflow of a product, to the required service or processes. The essential difference from other product design philosophies is that UCD tries to optimize the object around how users can, want, or need to use it. In this way, the operators are not forced to change their behaviour and expectations to accommodate the product.


V-Desk is born from the collaboration between SPII & ITALDESIGN.

The view that both companies have in common is to place human beings at the centre of an increasingly automated world, emphasizing the abilities of every individual. The meeting of the two companies, each with different histories and its own list of success stories, has been an incredible opportunity to intensely intertwine experiences to develop the V-Desk. What was planned to be an excellence is now a reality: V-Desk.

V-Desk – born to be an excellence

V-Desk is IMMEDIATE: Setting up the experience takes significantly less time than building a physical mock-up. VR, being flexible, smart and versatile, allows us to drastically cut through times: 12-16 weeks vs V-Desk 4-5 weeks;

V-Desk is REALISTIC: Don’t give up on the feeling of real situations. The “virtual” perception is completely equivalent to that of a physical mock-up (traditional solution) offering numerous advantages in terms of customization;

V-Desk is EFFICIENT: More efficient than redesigning a physical mock-up as a response to any requests for changes in style and ergonomics by the customer. Go from one solution to another in the time of a simple click;

V-Desk is SCALABLE: Different people in different parts of the world can see the same unique experience at the same time by entering the same “Virtual Room”. Scalability is here to help us;

V-Desk is CONFIGURABLE: The features of greatest interest or major criticality (Master Controller, Panels, Display, Pushbuttons…) can be positioned, evaluated and moved in real time, within a limit of choices and default range.

V-Desk offers a full validation package.

Leave plenty of room for your freedom and imagination. Unlock or dismantle every single option in terms of customization and number of configurable parameters. Make the most of the complete offer capable of bringing uncountable advantages from technical officer to the final user viewpoints.

V-Desk, the virtual desk reality!

Learn more on

See you next time!
Francesco Colombo

Open innovation and SPII: evolving innovation

Open innovation and SPII: evolving innovation 1024 683 Spii

The open innovation concept is a trending topic nowadays, when talking about business evolution. The concept of “innovation” has always been the main focus for B2B and B2C companies, with the aim of seeking a competitive advantage that is now increasingly difficult to create and maintain.

Furthermore, our era, in terms of innovation and business development, is marked by a key transformation: globalization, in which the aspects of limited competitive intensity and precise physical boundaries have started to disappear.  

In the years, the traditional model of industrial organization founded on the concept of economies of scale has left the place to new organizational models that rest the theoretical bases on the concepts of integration, cooperation and competition between the enterprises. Here is where the open innovation occurs: to develop new products and new processes through other ideas, other markets and needs, out of ordinary markets and technologies where the company is used to move, use and live.
Here’s a good example of what’s the value generated by a good open innovation process is bringing: SPII V-Desk.

V-Desk is a very interesting project that sees the collaboration between SPII and Italdesign. We can talk about V-Desk (virtual desk) as a process innovation, which brings value not only to the two companies from which the concept and the project originates but also and above all for their clients and the end users, which in this case are the train drivers.

It can therefore be defined as a demonstrator through which you can show the client, through artificial intelligence and virtual reality, all the potential that can have during the design phase. Moreover, V-desk should be able to decrease a lot the time to market, saving time and money. It’s a tool that allows to make real decisions, especially in terms of ergonomics and style, in an effective and efficient way (i.e., the use of physical mock-ups in design against virtual mock-ups).

The theme of efficiency is linked to the shortening of time and the reduction of costs that this tool can bring. To build and to modify a physical mock-up in comparison to make it virtually is completely different and much more expensive. Another aspect of the increased efficiency is to reduce distances, since with physical mock-ups people must be physically present.

With v-desk they can’t: they can be in different places and still work on the same project. The co-creation in this case is not only between two companies that actively participate to the realization of the project but also between their clients and the clients’ clients, getting to involve those who are the users of the desk, that are the drivers.

Open innovation is a win-win strategy where all the actors gain knowledge, technology and markets. Moreover, new partnerships can rise between big and small brands, even from very distant markets and businesses realities.
That’s how the open innovation can create value and lead businesses and companies to new boundaries and evolutions, as SPII pushes with all the passion and curiosity needed.

See you next time,
Davide Rossi