In the past, customer demands for short delivery times regularly posed problems for switchgear manufacturer Meurer-etechnik. “Previously, the idea of promising a delivery time of two weeks for call orders for a finished switchgear would have been unthinkable,” recalls Dietmar Meurer, Owner and Managing director of Meurer-etechnik. In the last few years, the company’s owner has been preparing himself for such challenges by investing massively in automation and digital transformation. This is now paying off for the medium-sized company with its 35 employees. Nowadays, shorter delivery times are no longer a problem, and the approximately 30 percent higher throughput in production also has a positive effect, as Mr. Meurer explains: “for some customers, we have only recently become attractive because we can now supply the kind of quantities that had simply not been feasible before.”
Every process is being put to the test
One new machine on its own is not the uniquely decisive measure to ensure competitiveness. “When we invest in a machine, all the processes involved have to be put to the test, the planning has to be approached rationally and, in the end, all the data has to be consistent” says Dietmar Meurer. The medium-sized panel builder and switchgear manufacturer has been implementing this strategy successfully. Meurer-etechnik has completely reorganised its engineering, work preparation and production departments. It has invested both in engineering and in the workshop. Electrical planning is performed in Eplan Electric P8, and then a 3D enclosure model is created in Eplan Pro Panel. The data generated this way is then used, among other things, in the workshop to control the automated systems there. One of Dietmar Meurer’s biggest investments was in a Perforex BC CNC machining centre from Rittal Automation Systems, which he acquired to increase efficiency in the workshop. It drills, mills and taps threads in panels and enclosures fully automatically. Previously, all the enclosure parts had to be marked by hand and then machined mechanically using conventional tools. Throughput in the workshop has been increased by 30 percent following the commissioning of the Perforex BC and a similarly automated wire processing system. No one element stands alone; all of the processes are interconnected as a system. All-round solutions also enable a comprehensive increase in productivity and efficiency in product manufacturing. “Nobody has to make the mistake of looking at an investment and its pay-back period in isolation,” says Dietmar Meurer. The entrepreneur has to see the bigger picture and realise that improvements are never fully completed.
For Dietmar Meurer, the decision to invest five or even six-digit sums in automated machines was not an easy one as the question of amortisation was also an important issue: “Such calculations aren’t much use to me, though. What is much more important is the consideration of whether we can still be competitive in three, five or ten years without any modern automation technology – or even if we will be able to operate in the marketplace at all!”