EPLAN speeds switchgear manufacturing process by 30%

  • August 27, 2012
  • EPLAN Software & Services
  • Case Study

August 27, 2012 - EPLAN Platform increases the speed of process at the company W. Althaus AG by 30%. A Swiss company, W. Althaus AG, a full-service provider for industrial automation, delivers around 5000 switch cabinets per year all over the world, uses the EPLAN Platform as the backbone for data consistency. The recent migration to EPLAN Pro Panel, the 3D system for switchgear construction, brought about a quantum leap in terms of process optimization. Every year, the industrial automation specialists from W. Althaus AG in Switzerland deliver around 5000 switch cabinets, from single and serial control units to prototypes, and around 800 small control units all over the world. The fully automated float glass production line in South Korea, with round-the-clock availability, is just as much a part of the customer portfolio as Swiss solar systems or conveyor systems in the food industry. The family-run company employs around 110 people and provides a comprehensive range of services, from project planning, hardware and software development to delivery, commissioning and final acceptance. Control cabinets, terminal strips, operating panels and control panels are all manufactured in-house, in a production area that is close to 20,000 feet in size. Cable and wire fabrication also takes place in-house. The Althaus designers useEPLAN Electric P8 and EPLAN Pro Panel (the 3D system for switchgear construction) for all of their electrical engineering needs. Integrative processes, including 3D data "We do not specifiy the materials and components that are used by our customers or the integration of device control units," explains Marco Schneider, Company Manager of W. Althaus AG. “However, this requires careful maintenance of complex product databases, which is easy to accomplish with EPLAN: The material data of the majority of manufacturers can be imported directly in 3D, and synchronization with customer databases can be even more effective, using a solution that has been programmed in-house.” With ATHAS, the "Althaus Terminal Handling System,” the company has developed a manufacturer-independent universal solution for the automatic production of terminal strips using robots based on EPLAN Pro Panel. This is now being offered to terminal suppliers and other switch cabinet manufacturers. "We are committed to achieving the highest degree of automation possible," says Schneider. For him, the EPLAN platform is not just engineering and ECAD software, but the data consistency backbone within the company. Projects that have already been completed can be retrieved from the databases and reused. Predefined modules, components and sub-projects, including the necessary items and materials, can be stored in the EPLAN database as macros and transferred to follow-up projects. The ERP system is also linked to EPLAN. Using the automatically generated and adapted bills of materials, means that materials which are no longer available in the company's own warehouse, can be ordered in plenty of time and with exact requirements. New dimension: EPLAN Pro Panel W. Althaus AG was one of the first Swiss companies to migrate from EPLAN Cabinet to the new EPLAN Pro Panel. This migration gave them a quantum leap with regards to process optimization. With EPLAN Pro Panel, the company is now consistently working with 3D data throughout the EPLAN Platform. To Roland Ackermann, head of electrical engineering, the advantages are obvious. The EPLAN Platform has now been optimally integrated, the removal of previously required intermediate steps during data transfers has saved time and avoids mistakes, performance capability has improved significantly and operation has become easier, even for beginners. "Simulation has improved because of the 3D graphics, you can immediately see what has to go where, and collision points can be avoided from the outset," said Ackermann. Above all, he and his team can work with much more flexibility. “Because all project disciplines are networked on a uniform data basis, and changes and updates are registered consistently through to the bills of materials, I can also start with the device-based mounting layout and transfer over the information for the circuit diagram and then complete the connection definition later , almost like Windows, using Drag&Drop." Consistent through to production Operations manager, Marco Schneider, particularly appreciates the communication strength of the EPLAN solutions. For example, in metalworking for flat mounting plates, Althaus uses a fast laser cutting machine with a thread cutting head as an unusual addition. , They also use a 4-axis CNC machining centre for plate, box and housing machining. The machining data that is required is generated in EPLAN Pro Panel and read directly into the machine control unit. Not just electrical diagrams, material lists, terminal plans and layout plans have to be generated using EPLAN, but also the machining data for the systems that cut channels and rails to length, the wiring assistant and the previously mentioned automatic terminal strip assembly machines. The automatic cable fabrication system also receives the information that is needed about cable lengths, wires, bundling and labeling directly from EPLAN., They use this information to create cable bundles that are ready for installation and are clearly labeled. "When our production employees start with the layout, everything is there and pre-equipped; they basically assemble a "construction kit" and do not have to spend time looking for materials and jobs in the assembly plans," summarizes Schneider. “This ability pays for itself, even in single quantities, and it increases the pace and eliminates mistakes,” explains the operations manager. “In addition, time-consuming and expensive corrections can be avoided and personnel can be deployed more efficiently.” This high degree of preparation means that repeated and routine tasks can also be carried out by non-specialist employees. At Althaus, the employees work in teams and deal with layouts, wiring and quality control; testing takes place manually and automatically with the aid of the "Panel Scout" test control unit which has been developed in-house. Speed of process increased by 30% The standardization and automation of processes, which should be as extensive as possible, has reduced throughput times within the company by approximately a third by using the EPLAN Platform, estimates Schneider. EPLAN Software & Service develops engineering solutions, which accelerate the product development process. Interdisciplinary expert systems assure the highest degree of productivity and data integration. The solution provider develops customer-specific and tailor-made PDM and PLM concepts and provides comprehensive services such as customizing, consulting and training. Innovative development competence, a consistently practical approach, and international presence are the resulting success factors. EPLAN is part of Rittal International and thus of the Friedhelm Loh Group with 600 employees around the world and forecast sales of 4 billion USD in 2011. EPLAN is therefore synonymous with continuity and investment security. Four offices in North America and our presence in 50 countries support 30,000 customers with 90,000 installations worldwide. The corporate motto - 'Efficient Engineering' - underlines the proficiency of optimized, efficient processes, which keep companies competitive in the long term.  

Learn More

Did you enjoy this great article?

Check out our free e-newsletters to read more great articles..