The magazine of Friedhelm Loh Group

The magazine of Friedhelm Loh Group


Innovation – Eplan

How to reach the top

Automated engineering. For many companies, taking the necessary steps towards automation feels like an arduous uphill trek. Eplan eBUILD – the cloud-based solution designed to automatically generate circuit diagrams – makes taking those first tentative steps towards the summit a whole lot easier.


Text Sonja Koesling ––– Photography

Copy and paste – plenty of people use it when generating circuit diagrams, and it seems pretty simple and effective. However, once you’ve copied and pasted the wrong thing once, you can find the error gets passed on from one project to the next. One of the benefits of automating engineering processes is that it can help companies ensure errors do not occur in the first place.

The “Engineering 4.0” study conducted by Eplan and the European 4.0 Transformation Center at RWTH Aachen divides the transition from manual to fully automated engineering into five stages, known as “e-levels”. It also unveils the enormous potential that going up one or more levels can have for companies. For instance, compared to traditional methods of creating circuit diagrams, using a circuit library for product functions (level three) can deliver a time saving of 50 per cent, while semi-automating the process (level four) can result in a 75 per cent saving. These are certainly compelling prospects – but “levelling up” also means first having to put effort into standardising processes. Nevertheless, according to the study, this is a worthwhile endeavour for most companies – even up to higher efficiency levels.

Successful together: The Hamburg-based control technology company HPS is boosting its efficiency with Eplan solutions – here we see two colleagues discussing a circuit diagram they are creating.

In practice, however, many companies see the journey to automated engineering as a mountain they need to climb, with a great many unanswered questions to clarify with users along the way: What exactly does automating the creation of circuit diagrams involve? How do we consolidate all the associated work steps and processes? What support is there to fall back on? Software solutions that use configurators as a basis for automatically generating circuit diagrams can provide vital support. These configurators usually need to be created in the first place by experienced electrical engineers using predefined partial circuits (also known as macros), with the end result that circuit diagrams can then be generated practically at the touch of a button.

Eplan eBUILD is part of the Eplan ePULSE family, which aims to unify cloud- based engineering data, projects, disciplines and engineers from all over the world in a single network. “Using ePULSE as a basis, we’re providing free circuit diagram libraries in Eplan eBUILD this year that will make it easier for anyone interested to get started with automated engineering,” explains Thomas Michels, Senior Director of Software Cloud Business Software at Eplan. After all, Eplan eBUILD comes with prefabricated configurators. “The libraries provide templates for simple controls that enable users to be productive right away,” says Michels. In other words, eBUILD is based on a new engineering methodology that can be continuously expanded by adding new template libraries from well-known manufacturers in Eplan ePULSE.

According to a recent study by the International Data Corporation, the cloud is already an integral part of the IT or corporate strategy of German companies. Ninety per cent of the organisations surveyed claimed to have set out a cloud strategy. That said, they do have their reservations. “Many companies worry their data could be lost in the cloud,” says Michels. “But data centres are in very safe hands with the big cloud providers nowadays. They have to go through certification processes that require the highest level of security.” Eplan uses Microsoft Azure for its ePULSE solutions and has secured access to the data using a sophisticated rights and roles concept. As a result, the benefits outweigh any potential concerns.

NEW OPPORTUNITIES IN THE CLOUD

Companies that have been using Eplan solutions for some time now are also open to new cloud-based approaches. For instance, Bernd Mähnss, Managing Director of Hanseatic Power Solutions GmbH (HPS), emphasises that “the cloud offers new collaboration opportunities that everyone can benefit from. For example, our customers can access all documentation online – no matter where they are or what device they have to hand.” What used to be done on paper can now be edited digitally. “The aim is to enable our customers to share their changes with us while also leaving a clear audit trail. Overall, projects can be pro- cessed faster and more efficiently,” says Mähnss.

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