“The machines do almost everything themselves.” That’s what Oliver Curty, an Elpex AG employee says about the work processes in his company. This Swiss control and switchgear manufacturer has relied on automation in production since 2016. Automation is worth its weight in gold, especially in switchgear construction. Previously, almost half of the production time had been spent on wiring, as wiring can take up as much as 54 hours for a typical enclosure. This is a very time-consuming process for Elpex, which delivers its products to food manufacturers, the automotive and construction industries, to machine builders and automation companies.
One way of improving the efficiency of this process is the Wire Terminal WT 36 fully automatic wire processing machine, which has recently been in use at Elpex. Rittal and Eplan products are enabling the company to optimise all the processes along the value chain. In addition to the Wire Terminal WT 36, the panel builder and switchgear manufacturer also use EPLAN Electric P8 software in conjunction with EPLAN Pro Panel Professional. The cutting centre Secarex AC 15 and milling centre Perforex BC 1001 HS from Rittal Automation Systems are also deployed.
The Wire Terminal automates wiring
As a result, the process permits significant gains in efficiency. Wire processing is performed eight times faster with the machine than with conventional methods. The designation “WT36” stands for the number of wires that can be produced with the wire assembler. It is possible to automatically produce 36 different wires with cross-sections ranging from 0.5 mm² to 6 mm² without retrofitting and then to print them differently in either black or white. The Wire Terminal carries out several work steps in one device: Cutting to the required length, wire stripping and crimping operations are all performed without an operator needing to intervene.
While these steps previously had to be carried out by hand, Elpex employees now receive great assistance and can concentrate on their other tasks. The wires for 400 enclosures are assembled with the machine every year. Manual wiring would mean that 21,600 hours would be needed, with 54 working hours necessary for each enclosure. With the Wire Terminal, this work can be done eight times faster in just 2,700 hours.
Use data from the design phase
Without data, however, it would be impossible to use the wire processing system as efficiently. Elpex has already laid the foundations for this with the EPLAN Electric P8 and EPLAN Pro Panel. Electrical and assembly planning is carried out this way so that the data required – including wire lengths, cross-sections, colours or wire end preparation – can then be transferred seamlessly to the Wire Terminal. “In the past, we either had to do everything by hand or have it done externally. Now, thanks to these three machines, we can do everything ourselves and follow every step along the way,” Oliver Hirsiger says.
Process acceleration through efficiency
Automation at Elpex ensures that a great deal of working time is saved. By networking with the EPLAN products, employees always have one eye on the entire process and can be sure of obtaining standardised wires for further processing thanks to the high quality of the Wire Terminal. This not only reduces production time but also simplifies the work process and ensures improved quality.
For more information on how to achieve automation and a smooth flow of data from the digital design to the physical end result, download the free interactive whitepaper.