Weidmüller offers process-wide solutions for panel building

Many manual tasks for mechanical assembly and wiring during the installation stage account for more than 70 per cent of the working time. This is where the process-wide solutions from Weidmüller are advantageous.
Weidmüller offers process-wide solutions for panel building
Many manual tasks for mechanical assembly and wiring during the installation stage account for more than 70 per cent of the working time. This is where the process-wide solutions from Weidmüller are advantageous.
 
Standardisation, automation and process-wide solutions offer considerable optimisation potential for time-consuming, manual activities such as panel building. Weidmüller has been working very intensively on these areas and has developed solutions for every work step, speeding up processes by up to 80 per cent.
 
The unwavering truth is that “the customer does not want products, he wants solutions”. It is particularly interesting when automation or cloud solutions offer further potential for seemingly sophisticated manual tasks. A great example of this is panel building, which still requires the hands and eyes of experts, both at the workstations and on the installation site. It has been proven that even wiring and marking contact points – tasks that have been carried out for decades – can be improved, thereby not only speeding up the work, but also making it more comfortable and less prone to errors. It's a win-win situation for the customers and the panel builders. With its Workplace Solutions, Weidmüller has examined and optimised every work step.
 
The science of panel building
Methodical inspections for work organisation have been around since the start of industrialisation. One prominent example is the Toyota production system, which resulted in the development of the 5S workplace organisation method and the Lean principles. A current study by the Institute for Control Engineering of Machine Tools and Manufacturing Units (ISW) at the University of Stuttgart is focused upon panel building. The exact title of the study is “Panel building 4.0 – A study of automation and digitalisation potential in the production of panels and switchgears in classic machinery and plant engineering.” It is based on a field study of 12 German panel builders. 
 
In doing so, the Stuttgart-based scientists not only examine the actual status but also look at specific recommendations for action. The outcome of the study is that those who took part see considerable potential for improvement and savings in panel building, both in terms of general standardisation and also the standardisation of workstations. The project planning and circuit diagram design work steps tie up more than 50 per cent of the working time during the planning stage. The reason for this is inconsistent engineering processes and increasingly complex requirements as a result of the growing project business. Many manual tasks for mechanical assembly and wiring during the installation stage account for more than 70 per cent of the working time. This is where the process-wide solutions from Weidmüller are advantageous.
 
Planning, installation and operation
Digital data consistency shapes the entire Weidmüller product range. Software tools support the user from the very first step. Data is recorded digitally from the start of the process and made available to all subsequent steps by means of M-Print PRO (marking), the Wire Processing Center (semi-automated cable assembly) and the Weidmüller Configurator (configuration). Each tool has CAE interfaces in order to make the data quickly and easily available in common engineering environments. By accessing the data generated during the planning phase, this reduces the error rate significantly, as no information is lost between the individual work steps and there is no need for manual processing. Digital consistency also speeds up reliable documentation, commissioning and maintenance work, as not only are all production steps tracked, but all the configurations can also be reproduced.
 
Standardisation and consistency are the top priorities, even for procurement, work preparation and storage, such as through the use of markers that are compatible across manufacturers to enable a clearly marked panel. Besides the tools used to plan and forward data, Weidmüller has also been giving a great deal of thought to ergonomics and efficiency at the workstation. As such, the offering is not restricted to individual components such as tools and measuring instruments. Weidmüller has focused upon the workstation as a whole, demonstrating it as a mobile workstation for cable assembly and a tool chest.
 
Wire Processing Center: Semi-automated cable assembly
Cable assembly, wiring and marking activities in panel building are still time-consuming. There are fully-automated systems for large-scale production, however they are not suitable for the project business of panel builders, who often need to use classic tools. The Wire Processing Center (WPC) from Weidmüller fills in this gap between full automation and pure manual work – perfectly coordinated components that are housed on a mobile workstation. This means that the compact workstation can be moved around and positioned wherever it is needed. Improvised working at the panel and having to continually walk back and forth between the installation site and the workstation are things of the past. 
 
The WPC comprises a cutting machine, an automatic stripper and crimper and a thermotransfer printer. Furthermore, there are cable feeding systems for cable reels directly on the WPC or the feeding of upstream systems such as for larger cardboard boxes. A rack system for stockpiling consumables is also included. With the WPC, wire cross-sections from 0.5 mm2 to 2.5 mm2 (~ AWG 20 – 14) can also be processed.
 
The software is intuitive to operate. It navigates the user through the assembly process and controls the correct processing of the individual work steps. This semi-automated cable assembly speeds up the process by up to 80 per cent, as the cable can be automatically cut to the correct length, for example, while the wire markers can be printed. All the operator has to do is attach the markers and insert the wire ends into the automatic crimper. It is adjusted to the correct wire cross-section automatically by the software. This can also prevent operating errors.
 
The orders can be conveniently visualised and filtered on a 15“ touch screen display, so that all orders with a specific wire cross-section, for example, can be processed one after another, i.e. without a reel change. The operator can, however, also remove individual components from the process sequence, such as if marking should take place directly at the panel at a later point in time. The WPC thus offers additional flexibility, meaning that all components can also be used in stand-alone mode in their respective individual functions. Even short-term changes, which are common in the project business, can be performed directly on the WPC. The operator has complete flexibility to alternate between purely manual operation and a highly-automated process at any time. Upstream planning software (WPC tool) that gives the planner complete freedom is used for feeding in the assembly data. Data can be imported directly from EPLAN or CSV files, however can also be entered manually. 
 
This data can be transferred out of the planning software via the company's internal network directly to the WPC or can be transferred using a USB stick.The Wire Processing Center can be tailored to the individual workstation and can be integrated into existing structures. If initially only individual components (machine or printer) are used in production, further WPC system components can be easily added at any time. The chassis also offers additional connection options such as USB, power supply and compressed air. With the Wire Processing Center, panel builders are able to optimise their working processes while maintaining the same high level of quality.
 
Weidmüller tool chest – orderliness and efficiency at the workstation
Weidmüller has even identified improvement potential for purely manual tasks. What use is the best tool if the operator has to search for it somewhere at the bottom of a tool chest or if there are no working surfaces available? This is why Weidmüller has developed a tool chest that is based on the afore-mentioned 5S and Lean principles for work organisation. Each item in the tool chest has its own fixed position thanks to cut-outs in foam inserts. 
 
Standard tools are positioned directly within reach, and tools that are often used together are positioned alongside each other. This well thought-out arrangement alone reduces the time spent searching for, reaching for, tidying and checking tools by up to ten per cent. The inserts are for universal use, so the users can adapt them to their own needs. So that the user can clearly see which tool belongs where, the cut-outs can be labelled using MultiCard markers and QR codes. And at the end of the working day, he can see immediately whether any tools are missing, and which ones they are. These markings also link to the online catalogue containing all the relevant technical data. The tool chest can be arranged according to individual needs and can also be equipped with machines and printers. The three-part foam inserts enable application-specific drawer layouts. Thanks to the standard perforated panels on both sides as well as an optional perforated panel at the rear, additional elements can also be attached.
 
Perfection from the cloud to the crimping tool
The portfolio shows that Weidmüller has taken into account and optimised each work step for its customers, from the online order right through to the close-at-hand tool. The company has built up know-how from many available sources, from scientific studies, from its customers' practical experience and also from its own expertise through exchanging with customers.
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Blurb
Cable assembly, wiring and marking activities in panel building are still time-consuming. There are fully-automated systems for large-scale production, however they are not suitable for the project business of panel builders.
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