The magazine of Friedhelm Loh Group

The magazine of Friedhelm Loh Group

Automation in plant engineering

How to ramp up speed

In mechanical and plant engineering the primary focus has long since shifted away from being “just” on product quality. It’s all about the process. It has to be simpler, more efficient and, most importantly, faster. The only way to achieve that is by ingeniously combining hardware and software, through digitalisation and automation. When companies need assistance with that, Eplan and Rittal can help right from the start, with their value chain consulting and engineering expertise and automation know-how.

Text Ralf Steck, Hans-Robert Koch ––– Photography

Combined with a high-quality product, an efficient process provides that crucial competitive edge. Looking for advice?

The amount of work done by hand in panel building and switchgear is still very high, which makes the sector particularly vulnerable to current developments such as the skills shortage. For example, wiring takes a great deal of work and, more importantly, time that companies often don’t have. So what can genuinely help speed up work, and where is the best place to begin?


“A one-hundred-percent accurate wiring schematic is the bedrock of efficient panel building and switchgear manufacturing” explains Uwe Harder, head of Eplan Consulting. “Although every subsequent step builds on this digital foundation, companies often only create a logical wiring schematic – one that doesn’t go all the way down to wire level. That means details such as the colour and diameter of a wire or the precise number of terminals will be missing. These gaps cause issues in production most of all, because that’s where specialist expertise is needed so that a functioning enclosure can be built even though the documentation is incomplete. When working on that kind of basis, it’s only logical that there’ll be limited scope for automation.”

Planning 3D layouts in Eplan Pro Panel, instead of referring back to manufacturers’ STEP data improves engineering in panel building and switchgear manufacturing significantly.

The staff at Eplan Consulting have broad expertise and a great deal of experience from a wide range of projects and sectors and from working with companies of all sizes. Harder sets out the most important factors that make for an efficient process: “It starts with developing engineering methods and standards, and doing so across all disciplines. Integrated systems make it possible to get a full picture of the product and are essential for truly comprehensive digital mapping – a digital automation twin.

We also advise on how to link the engineering environment with system landscapes such as ERP, PLM and other IT systems.” The consultants start by carefully and thoroughly analysing processes. They are recording the current state of affairs. An offer is then put together that already incorporates an ROI analysis so the customer knows precisely which measures are necessary to achieve the desired outcome.

Harder continues: “It’s not just about linking up with other departments using SAP, for instance, it’s also about doing that on a very practical level within engineering itself. That means connecting to the configurators of terminal strips from the manufacturer. This approach ensures lots of processes and sequences that are still carried out manually today can be digitalised and therefore automated. At the same time, complete documentation is generated here in Eplan that can be used in production later on, as a basis for automation.”

back Part 2: The process offers potential  

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