The magazine of Friedhelm Loh Group

The magazine of Friedhelm Loh Group

Digitally supported switchgear engineering
Innovation – Eplan

Strong together

System technology. What do American footballers and their focused team work to achieve the perfect play have in common with system technology from Rittal and Eplan? More than you might expect. In short, it’s a case of one for all, and all for one. This metaphor highlights how a coordinated system that links together plant engineering and digital solutions can tap into undreamt-of potential.

Text Jan Flegelskamp ––– Photography

American Football. It’s a heady mix of speed, precision and power, with individual players relentlessly pushing their performance to the limit and beyond – all for the good of the team. However, the action on the field is also backed up by digital solutions such as play call plans on a tablet and live-data analysis. This combination of athleticism and tactics has been proven time and again to pay off – in the successes of the system coaches and the enthusiasm of the fans. The interplay between enclosure system technology and software works in much the same way at Rittal and Eplan. When companies are planning and implementing systems in line with their requirements, they always have to bear in mind the documentation, the potential need for modifications in the future and, last but not least, the importance of cost-efficiency. Rittal and Eplan are continuously developing their system portfolio and combining value-enhancing process steps in engineering, design, work preparation and production to create a seamless value chain.

When it comes to efficiency, it’s therefore always important to keep on scrutinising long-standing processes. At present, the major innovations in this area come from solutions that explore a new depth of integration. One specific example is wiring. At around 50 per cent, wiring accounts for the largest proportion of the total outlay that goes into building an enclosure. The conventional approach is to prepare the wire in advance, a process that involves cutting the wire to length, crimping it and labelling it, which takes 157 seconds on average.

Thinking ahead speeds things up

The job can be speeded up considerably if the necessary connections can be factored into the planning stage, the ideal routes identified and the required wire lengths also calculated. The physical execution of everything that has been thought through while the electronics were being designed – the functionally defined electrical connections – can be planned in Eplan Pro Panel. “By linking together engineering and production, companies can create perfectly coordinated combinations of software solutions, system technology, machinery and services,” says Thomas Weichsel, Head of Product Management at Eplan. The added value is clear to see – end-to-end solutions also give businesses the opportunity to boost productivity and efficiency across all aspects of the product creation process and beyond.

Four-and-a-half minutes is how long an electrician needs to replicate an electrical connection shown on a circuit diagram in actual components in an enclosure. A third of that time is spent on preparatory work such as reading the wiring schematic and locating the source and target. Another 13 per cent of that time goes on preparing the wire itself – working out roughly the right route and length. The remaining 56 per cent of the time is taken up by the wiring work proper – cutting the wire to length, fitting the cable terminal end, crimping it and installing it. “More often than not during the wiring process, electricians will flick through the entire wiring schematic several times over to piece together the information they need and flesh it out where necessary,” Weichsel points out.

About a third of the total working time is thus lost on reading and accurately interpreting the documents. The Eplan Smart Wiring assistance system is designed to simplify wiring. The software uses the digital prototype to provide wiring technicians with all the information they need. It clearly visualises the wiring process step by step – even on mobile devices, if required. “This leads wiring technicians systematically through their list of tasks,” Weichsel explains, which clearly makes the otherwise very complex process of wiring much more straightforward: “If you can read, you can wire – there’s no need for classic circuit diagrams anymore,” declares Weichsel.

Most users still consider the classic wiring plan pocket to be the go-to repository for all the information and documentation needed for service and maintenance work, such as equipment lists, parts lists, terminal diagrams and, of course, a print-out of the circuit diagram. You could say they are like the play call sheets that quarterbacks consult during a football game. However, that’s set to change in the future. A central information management tool is destined to help end-users and machinery and plant operators access system documentation digitally. This digital wiring plan folder could allow users with the necessary access rights to view all relevant documents. The advantages are clear – documentation is securely and centrally administered, available at all times and always up to date.

Clearly identified on a digital basis

The digital documentation is linked to the enclosure by a unique, patented component QR code, meaning that every Rittal VX25 large enclosure, its components and accessories carry precisely such a unique labelling system when they leave the plant. This ensures every enclosure in the world can be clearly identified. An app from Rittal can be used to scan the QR code for accessing information on enclosure items or using Rittal Digital Information Management to view the Eplan project for the enclosure or machine. What’s more, even redlining scenarios in service and maintenance can be mapped out by linking up to Eplan eVIEW, the new cloud solution from Eplan.

Only fully comprehensive solutions for optimising processes in enclosure building help users make real progress. That means combined hardware and software solutions, product-related data and holistic services for process integration throughout the customer’s operations. If all the solutions really come together, the end result is perfection – whether in enclosure building or on the football field. Ultimately, the play works when the whole team pulls together, combines everyone’s strengths and puts the best people in exactly the right positions.

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