Art and life

How to appreciate the small things in life: Lessons from cartoonist Ramya Sriram’s stick figures

Her minimalist characters also deal with weighty subjects such as women’s empowerment, depression and environmental conservation.

Cartoonist Ramya Sriram’s stick figure characters that populate her illustrated blog, The Tap, teach viewers to take a moment to appreciate the small things in life – sunshine, a cool breeze, the taste of coffee. TheTap is a calm space in a world of hyperactivity. While some of her figures are busy dancing like no one is watching, others are leaping into the unknown. Just like Sriram herself eight years ago, when the Hyderabad-based artist found a world full of meaning in dots, dashes and simple strokes.

Sriram trained as an engineer in biotechnology, then studied business administration and started worked in publishing. “While working in publishing, I started drawing stick figure cartoons and caricatures for my friends and uploaded these on Facebook for fun,” the 30-year-old said. “In 2010, a friend, who worked with Helter Skelter web magazine, asked me if I could start doing a cartoon series for the magazine. I thought why not? So, The Tap was all about slice of life things, like weekends and boring Mondays, music and travel.” She later started a dedicated blog with the same title.

Over the years, Sriram’s art has evolved, not only in how she tells stories but also in how emotive her stick figures can be. Yet, Sriram says she still cannot really draw. “TheTap is more about telling a story rather than drawing something pretty,” she said. “I can literally just do stick figures. If you ask me to draw a dog, it will probably look like a cow.”

No matter how her art has evolved, though, Sriram has never felt the need to move beyond her minimalist style of using stick figures. For her, simplicity is key.

“When I was in school, my mother got me this book on how to draw people and postures and I tried to break it down and started drawing,” she said. “Stick figures just seemed simple to draw and it was easy to communicate with them. It was later that I realised how much detail can be conveyed through these. I started paying attention to every little line, every little dot, curve, stroke. I take it as a personal challenge to be as expressive and yet as simple as possible so that when I draw something, people are able to immediately able to get what I’m talking about. I try not deviate from stick figures.”

Sriram learnt how to make shapes and pattern to not just portray activity, but emotions. Instead of just happy, sad, angry, her drawings can convey a sense of calm by drawing two plain dashes for eyes. Tilt each dash up a bit and these, coupled with a smile, become the eyes of someone enjoying a quiet, happy moment. Sometimes the face has no features at all. For Sriram, a figure looking sadly at a tree stump is more powerful than data about deforestation and the joy of travelling on trains is perfectly captured in an image of a character’s hair blowing in the wind as they stand at the door of a moving train.

In 2017, Sriram was invited to give a TEDx talk on the “power of simplicity”. She spoke about how shapes communicate. “What I have learnt over the years is that simplicity doesn’t mean dumbing down things, but using minimalism to make your story stronger,” she said in her speech. “Minimalism is about purposeful subtraction, not accidental omission. It’s not about forgetting to notice things, it’s about noticing everything and then consciously choosing what to leave out. The reason I think this works so well is because in this world where there is so much informational clutter…perhaps all of us are looking for this white space, that relief.”

In the last few years, Sriram has created works for “positive impact”, such as for promoting women empowerment, body positivity, dealing with loneliness and depression, and conservation of the environment.

Popular stick figure comic books such as Cyanide and Happiness and, closer home, The Vigil Idiot movie reviews, are about humour. But Sriram’s tone is more uplifting. “I started TheTap with pretty generic topics and these positive comics came later when I started questioning what I was doing and whether I was going in the right direction,” she said. “I would draw these to comfort myself as well. A lot of my comics are driven by an internal force instead of what people like to read.”

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The next Industrial Revolution is here – driven by the digitalization of manufacturing processes

Technologies such as Industry 4.0, IoT, robotics and Big Data analytics are transforming the manufacturing industry in a big way.

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Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, artificial intelligence and Big Data analytics are some of the key technologies powering Industry 4.0. According to a report, Industry 4.0 will prompt manufacturers globally to invest $267 billion in technologies like IoT by 2020. Investments in digitalization can lead to excellent returns. Companies that have implemented digitalization solutions have almost halved their manufacturing cycle time through more efficient use of their production lines. With a single line now able to produce more than double the number of product variants as three lines in the conventional model, end to end digitalization has led to an almost 20% jump in productivity.

Digitalization and the Indian manufacturing industry

The Make in India program aims to increase the contribution of the manufacturing industry to the country’s GDP from 16% to 25% by 2022. India’s manufacturing sector could also potentially touch $1 trillion by 2025. However, to achieve these goals and for the industry to reach its potential, it must overcome the several internal and external obstacles that impede its growth. These include competition from other Asian countries, infrastructural deficiencies and lack of skilled manpower.

There is a common sentiment across big manufacturers that India lacks the eco-system for making sophisticated components. According to FICCI’s report on the readiness of Indian manufacturing to adopt advanced manufacturing trends, only 10% of companies have adopted new technologies for manufacturing, while 80% plan to adopt the same by 2020. This indicates a significant gap between the potential and the reality of India’s manufacturing industry.

The ‘Make in India’ vision of positioning India as a global manufacturing hub requires the industry to adopt innovative technologies. Digitalization can give the Indian industry an impetus to deliver products and services that match global standards, thereby getting access to global markets.

The policy, thus far, has received a favourable response as global tech giants have either set up or are in the process of setting up hi-tech manufacturing plants in India. Siemens, for instance, is helping companies in India gain a competitive advantage by integrating industry-specific software applications that optimise performance across the entire value chain.

The Digital Enterprise is Siemens’ solution portfolio for the digitalization of industries. It comprises of powerful software and future-proof automation solutions for industries and companies of all sizes. For the discrete industries, the Digital Enterprise Suite offers software and hardware solutions to seamlessly integrate and digitalize their entire value chain – including suppliers – from product design to service, all based on one data model. The result of this is a perfect digital copy of the value chain: the digital twin. This enables companies to perform simulation, testing, and optimization in a completely virtual environment.

The process industries benefit from Integrated Engineering to Integrated Operations by utilizing a continuous data model of the entire lifecycle of a plant that helps to increase flexibility and efficiency. Both offerings can be easily customized to meet the individual requirements of each sector and company, like specific simulation software for machines or entire plants.

Siemens has identified projects across industries and plans to upgrade these industries by connecting hardware, software and data. This seamless integration of state-of-the-art digital technologies to provide sustainable growth that benefits everyone is what Siemens calls ‘Ingenuity for Life’.

Case studies for technology-led changes

An example of the implementation of digitalization solutions from Siemens can be seen in the case of pharma major Cipla Ltd’s Kurkumbh factory.

Cipla needed a robust and flexible distributed control system to dispense and manage solvents for the manufacture of its APIs (active pharmaceutical ingredients used in many medicines). As part of the project, Siemens partnered with Cipla to install the DCS-SIMATIC PCS 7 control system and migrate from batch manufacturing to continuous manufacturing. By establishing the first ever flow Chemistry based API production system in India, Siemens has helped Cipla in significantly lowering floor space, time, wastage, energy and utility costs. This has also improved safety and product quality.

In yet another example, technology provided by Siemens helped a cement plant maximise its production capacity. Wonder Cement, a greenfield project set up by RK Marbles in Rajasthan, needed an automated system to improve productivity. Siemens’ solution called CEMAT used actual plant data to make precise predictions for quality parameters which were previously manually entered by operators. As a result, production efficiency was increased and operators were also freed up to work on other critical tasks. Additionally, emissions and energy consumption were lowered – a significant achievement for a typically energy intensive cement plant.

In the case of automobile major, Mahindra & Mahindra, Siemens’ involvement involved digitalizing the whole product development system. Siemens has partnered with the manufacturer to provide a holistic solution across the entire value chain, from design and planning to engineering and execution. This includes design and software solutions for Product Lifecycle Management, Siemens Technology for Powertrain (STP) and Integrated Automation. For Powertrain, the solutions include SINUMERIK, SINAMICS, SIMOTICS and SIMATIC controls and drives, besides CNC and PLC-controlled machines linked via the Profinet interface.

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Siemens is using its global expertise to guide Indian industries through their digital transformation. With the right technologies in place, India can see a significant improvement in design and engineering, cutting product development time by as much as 30%. Besides, digital technologies driven by ‘Ingenuity for Life’ can help Indian manufacturers achieve energy efficiency and ensure variety and flexibility in their product offerings while maintaining quality.

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The above examples of successful implementation of digitalization are just some of the examples of ‘Ingenuity for Life’ in action. To learn more about Siemens’ push to digitalize India’s manufacturing sector, see here.

This article was produced on behalf of Siemens by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.