Text Annika Thomas ––– Photography
According to the VDMA (German Engineering Federation) in a recent joint publication with McKinsey entitled “Customer centricity as key for the digital breakthrough”, digital solutions are increasingly helping European mechanical and plant engineering companies to stand out from the crowd and ensure customer loyalty.
Its advice to the industry is to systematically change perspective, moving away from a silo mentality and a fixation on in-house solutions towards specific added value for end customers such as equipment operators.
THE EPLAN PLATTFORM
One platform, multiple solutions – the Eplan Platform offers engineering software such as Preplanning for systematic preliminary planning, Electric P8 for preparing circuit diagrams and Pro Panel for 3D enclosure planning, all from a single source. Standardised interfaces and integration processes enable continuous data flows throughout the value chain, with additional links to various system solutions from Rittal.
The user interface has been completely revamped for the new generation Eplan Platform 2022. With the new Backstage view for holistic project data management, the cutting-edge operating logic and clearly structured insertion aids, the focus is on optimising the user experience. This also generates specific added value for the individual solutions. The new Eplan Platform is available from summer 2021 and was unveiled to the public at the digital Hannover Messe.
In key sectors such as the automotive industry, it is particularly common for end users to have long been working with widely established standards and platform solutions. The joint publication recommends that the majority of mechanical and plant engineering businesses should therefore switch their strategic focus to maximising compatibility with existing platforms – such as the Eplan Platform that has successfully been established on the European market for some years now.
This platform offers holistic engineering solutions for mechanical and plant engineering, panel building and switchgear, and numerous other sectors. It ensures continuous data flows throughout the value chain, as Eplan CEO Sebastian Seitz explains: “The Eplan Platform’s solutions cover everything from preliminary planning and two-dimensional circuit diagrams to digital enclosure prototypes.” The company also works with industry partners to develop standardised interfaces, ensuring close links between its software and system solutions from Rittal. Seitz, too, sees focusing on added value for end users as a key success factor. “We’re looking to further intensify the relationship with our customers because, in times of digital and industrial transformation, the success of both sides is based on close communication,” he says.
The cloud environment offers users of the Eplan Platform additional added value and services. For example, Eplan eView supports multidisciplinary, cross-company coordination processes, while eBuild is driving the automation of engineering processes. The Eplan Data Portal provides manufacturing data in a standardised format for easy incorporation into engineering projects. The cloud and platform solutions will be interlinked even more closely in the future. Eplan eManage offers the industrial ecosystem cloud-based access to complete projects from the Eplan Platform, without switching between different media. This gives all stakeholders secure access to clearly structured engineering data.
A free version of the new cloud solution – Eplan eManage Free– is now available, and the launch of the full version of Eplan eManage is scheduled for the summer.
PLATFORM OF THE FUTURE
When developing the Eplan Platform 2022, which was unveiled at the digital Hannover Messe and is scheduled to be available from this summer, the emphasis was therefore placed on a new kind of user experience. The interface looks and works like apps for mobile devices and internationally established desktop applications. The many different software functions that have been developed over the years are arranged based on a customisable multifunctional toolbar, insertion aids and a Backstage view.
Key and frequently used features are positioned prominently. The 2D graphics editor has also been completely revamped. “Away from the workplace, we’ve become accustomed to software that we can operate intuitively, without much explanation. Especially in a technical working environment such as engineering, users therefore also expect tools that, in addition to delivering high-quality results, are – and will long remain – state of the art when it comes to operation and visuals,” emphasises Seitz.
UNLOCKING NEW MARKETS, WHILE REMAINING MARKET LEADER
He considers this aspect to be especially crucial in the United States and Asia. “Alongside sophisticated technologies, it’s also important for the software to be as easy as possible for new users to get to grips with. Then, of course, there’s the famous rule of thumb in engineering that first impressions count. We can’t afford to rest on our laurels just because we’re one step ahead right now. We need to continue developing and keep proving ourselves to customers. In other words, we’re placing the future focus of our solutions in the hands of the people who use them,” Seitz continues.
SUBSCRIPTION MODEL FOR NEW LICENCES
This approach is also reflected in the subscription model for new Eplan licences, which is due to be launched in August 2021. “The success of our customers is at the heart of everything we do. When we develop our software, we aim not simply to keep companies on board, but to wow them,” underlines Seitz, who sees enhanced flexibility as a clear customer benefit. In uncertain times, he feels it is particularly important to reduce the investment risk by offering low entry-level prices and greater flexibility when it comes to deciding whether to continue using the software. “Ultimately, a subscription model means that – in our role as market leader – we’re committing ourselves to ongoing development in line with the latest engineering requirements.
With the Eplan Platform 2022, we’re creating the technical basis to prepare ourselves for the digital future. The aim in the coming years is for existing and new customers to remain confident they’re getting the best engineering solution on the market with us – and for them to continue using our services,” says Seitz.
COLLABORATION IN THE ECOSYSTEM
To ensure this is the case moving forward, Eplan is enabling increased use of projects via cloud services. With Eplan eManage, for example, it will be possible in the future for entire platform projects from Electric P8 or Pro Panel to be available within the ePulse cloud environment, if required. Firstly, this function offers users a secure, central backup option for multidisciplinary projects. Secondly, project data backed up in the cloud can be accessed at any time and then processed within the usual local platform environment. Any changes made are ultimately synchronised with the cloud project.
In conjunction with the redlining and greenlining functions in Eplan eView, digital coordination processes – and thus collaboration between business partners throughout the value chain – are strengthened. “In this way, we’re driving the digitalization and automation of entire industrial ecosystems,” concludes Seitz. A free version of the software – Eplan eManage Free – has been available since mid-March and the paid full version is due to be released in the summer.