Text Eva Neuthinger ––– Photography
We are in the middle of optimising our processes from engineering through to production to gear them up for Industry 4.0.” explains Ludwig Finzel, Head of Project Support at Wieland Electric GmbH, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of safety controls and safety sensor technology. “We recently invested in new machines with the aim of expanding our global presence,” Finzel explains. The medium-sized family company headquartered in Bamberg, Germany, worked with Eplan to analyse its current working processes and identified areas where improvements could be made. Experts from both businesses attended workshops to lay the groundwork for efficiency improvements. It turned out that the company had not yet fully utilised the opportunities presented by the Eplan software it was already using. Another aspect that Eplan and Wieland mechanics and production staff identified was that the company develops its own switch boxes and enclosures using a 3D software package. In the past, the manufacturer had designed the circuit diagrams separately using Eplan software, but had never linked up the two software packages.
In the end, the participants in the joint workshops concluded that the production of switch boxes at Wieland should be more automated from design through to production. “We identified the data that production requires and what the processes should ultimately look like,” reports Marc Ackermann, Account Manager at Eplan in Munich. The aim was to significantly reduce the workload in production. The solution involves transferring the 3D enclosure drawings via an interface to Eplan so they can be processed further using Eplan Pro Panel.
This also includes the virtual wiring of the components, with the software supplying the digital prototypes in 3D, stipulating exactly how each wire should be laid and automatically gauging the necessary length of the wires. Previously, all that was done manually. Eplan Smart Wiring is also used in production, providing a solution that guides workers step by step through the wiring process. “This simplifies work to such an extent that even colleagues with little experience can now wire the switch boxes,” Ackermann points out. Burnell Switchgear & Control, a manufacturer of power distribution systems, is another customer that Eplan works with. The company aimed to create more efficient processes by rolling out an end-to-end CAE system. “We realised that we need a solution that improves our technical operations and helps us optimise our production process. That’s why we went to Eplan,” Project Manager Piotr Wozniak recalls. “Once the experts from Eplan had seen how we work, they suggested that we came to Germany to visit the Rittal Innovation Center in Haiger. The solutions we saw there really won us over.” Like Wieland, Burnell ultimately opted for a combination of Eplan Pro Panel and Eplan Smart Wiring to optimise the planning and production of their enclosures and switchgear. Burnell also decided to acquire a Rittal Perforex to automate enclosure machining. Wozniak is well aware of the productivity boost: “We can reduce individual worksteps in production from several hours to a few minutes.”
“Even though we offer assistance, we also like to provide training so customers can help themselves,” explains Markus Jaensch, an expert for Eplan Experience. Eplan consultants are often called into companies to work with staff on establishing a basis for using the software more efficiently. However, companies don’t always have to acquire new software in order to harness potential improvements. Eplan offers businesses collaborative workshops for analysing and then optimising their current working processes. The following questions are the most important to consider when starting out: How efficiently do the companies believe they are working? And, as a percentage, to what degree are they utilising the potential of their existing Eplan software? “It doesn’t usually take long to get the answers, as most companies are aware there’s room for improvement. Then we talk about exactly how Eplan can be deployed in the company.”
Standardisation is key
One typical example of self-help is the generation of macros – a way to standardise the creation of circuit diagrams. Eplan can provide very specific assistance to optimise this process, or even create a comprehensive macro library in the software. This has numerous benefits. For example, project elements that crop up time and again can be stored as macros and then simply reused. That means not having to start from scratch every time. What’s more, if the macros have been set up properly, users can completely avoid common copy-and-paste errors. In a nutshell – a well-stocked and curated macro library offers a sound basis for automated engineering. If required, Eplan Cogineer can be deployed to take this to the ultimate level, i.e. automatically creating circuit diagrams, virtually at the touch of a button. “Once we have optimised the processes and added solutions, we continue to support the company. We offer subsequent staff training, because we want to ensure the workforce accepts and utilises the chosen improvement measures, so that their work actually gets easier,” Jeansch points out.