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Data: the foundation for successful automated wiring

Author: Mark Guest

Electrical control manufacturers continue to be placed under considerable pressure. Why? Projects are becoming more complex, the trading environment is extremely competitive, and customers are naturally wanting to keep their costs to a minimum. This mounting pressure begins right from the outset when the estimating engineer receives the lengthy specification for a new project. This is then followed by individual challenges throughout the whole process.

In a battle to stay competitive, departments often address their individual processes, identifying which parts they can streamline to improve their productivity. For example, the engineering department may decide to use project templates, macros and standard circuits in designs to prevent engineers from copy and pasting errors from previous jobs. Whereas, the production team may look for new products which improves health and safety for workers, such as the Rittal Smart Lifter to move populated enclosures around the shop floor. But for the company to truly tackle the mounting pressures, the departments must bring together its silo-ed systems and work on streamlining the companies overall processes. How does the company achieve this? Through a seamless flow of digital data – from the electrical design, right through to manufacturing and wiring the panel.

What is a seamless data flow?

In electrical control manufacturing, a seamless data flow refers to the smooth transition of electrical data such as wiring routes and panel cut outs from department to department through digital technologies. This means that that all relevant details outlined in the schematic and 3D digital twin is directly sent to the appropriate departments such as production. Production can then use this exact data when manufacturing the panel, leaving minimal room for interpretation or guess work which could lead to costly mistakes that push back lead times.

Where does seamless data flow really make an impact?

The digital twin is at the heart of this workflow and is created during the engineering process to link all downstream process steps – from sourcing and manufacturing through to operations and maintenance. By linking all process steps, communication and collaboration is improved throughout all departments.

Let’s use wiring the control panel as a great example to show how this data flow would work in practice.

  • Intelligent data from the digital twin can be used for wiring industrial control panels to support your working processes – from manual through to automated approaches – to save you time, reduce errors and ensure compliance with the latest wiring codes & standards.
  • If a control panel is designed with EPLAN Pro Panel for example, the software tool automatically generates lists that provide all the necessary information to the engineer, including the routing, end points, cable designation, as well as the size and colour of each wire. These lists make it easier and faster as well as reduce the number of errors.
  • This information can then be linked to ordering systems such as SAP ERP for example, by where all wiring equipment can be ordered quickly to ensure the wiring technician can start the project on time. As the wire lengths have been carefully calculated in EPLAN Pro Panel, you can be sure there is enough wiring to complete a project and more importantly minimise excess waste.
  • The next step is wire fabrication. The painstaking task of cutting, stripping, crimping and finally labelling each wire is commonly completed manually, by hand. However, by using the same information from the digital twin, this can be directly exported to the compact and fully automatic wire assembly machine, Rittal’s Wire Terminal (WT) Machine. The WT machine takes care of all these tasks with very little human interference and 8 times faster than manual. What’s more, these wires can then be stored in sequence in the 13-way storage cassette ready for terminating by using EPLAN Smart Wiring.
  • Now the wires are in sequential order, it is possible to use virtual assistants via EPLAN Smart Wiring to provide technicians with step-by-step wiring instructions on tablets and/or laptops. EPLAN Smart Wiring allows for wiring technicians to clearly see the connection points and exact wiring routes making it virtually impossible to miss wires, even if a wiring job starts with one person and is finished by another.

Benefits of a seamless data transfer

As the most efficient wiring route was calculated during the design stage in EPLAN Pro Panel and then fed through to the rest of the workflow, the benefits are across the whole…

1. There’s a single source of truth
The data from the digital twin is used by all departments, therefore, everyone is ‘reading off the same hymn sheet’.

2. Paper diagrams are no longer needed
EPLAN Smart Wiring sends the wiring technician with all data digitally through a tablet or computer, therefore removing the need for lengthy paper diagrams which often get left around the shop floor, causing confusion as individuals may not be working from the most recent version.

3. Two-way communication
The data is sent from department to department with ease. Not only is the wiring information sent from engineering to production, but EPLAN Smart Wiring allows production to directly feed information back to the engineers such as any changes or anomalies via an email from the shop floor.

4. Better quality wiring with fewer mistakes
By eliminating the need for the interpretation of printed schematics, the WT machine and EPLAN Smart Wiring ensure that all projects are standardised and completed to a high standard. By introducing processes based on set standards and accurate data, manufacturers can achieve a consistently high level of quality, production standards, manufacturing output and customer satisfaction.

If your team are still using manual methods for wiring and you wish to explore the possibilities of a more automated and quicker process with less errors download the free interactive whitepaper ‘Intelligent Wiring – From Digital to Physical’.

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