NorthWind Technical Services believes that automation is at the heart of any modern manufacturing system. The control panel fabricator, headquartered in Kansas, USA, is 100% customer-centric, because each use case, and therefore each system, is unique, requiring attention to every specific detail. With this in mind, NorthWind is keen to ensure its own industrial partners share this commitment to their customers’ success. This prompted the company to collaborate with EPLAN and Rittal – they supply software and equipment that enable NorthWind to move forward with its automation philosophy.
NorthWind developed a number of software tools as far back as 2005 to standardise and streamline PLC programming and HMI configuration. Since 2017, automation efforts have been extended to manufacturing activities. With the help of innovative solutions from Eplan, engineering work is now largely a matter of configuration.
To process control panel enclosure parts such as doors, side panels and assembly plates, NorthWind employs a Perforex machining centre from Rittal Automation Systems. The control system integrator also invested in a Wire Terminal WT for the automated preparation of cables. For actual wiring, the EPLAN Smart Wiring tool provides effective support to workshop staff.
“When a customer order comes in, the design team begins with electrical engineering aspects of the automated development process,” explains Mike Bosworth, who founded the business in 1997. “This phase is very important, as it generates the data used for the remainder of the project.” For example, the data is employed by the Perforex centre for the high-precision production of all cut-outs, drill holes and threads in the enclosure and mounting plate. The high quality of fabrication contributes significantly to rapid product assembly in the workshop. The Wire Terminal WT also makes use of this data to control all steps in processing the cables: cutting to length, insulation, labelling and attachment of ferrules. The EPLAN Smart Wiring software subsequently aids workers with the actual wiring process, enabling great speed and accuracy, with virtually zero faults. It also interoperates seamlessly with NorthWind’s own software.
Time savings across the board
Integration across all levels of the project is, according to Mike Bosworth, the greatest benefit of recent investments: “The new software and machinery have resulted in a drastic reduction in schematics creation time, increased design quality, decreased shop build time by 50% and increased quote accuracy to customers.” Moreover, the new systems have reduced the errors that were repeatedly encountered in the past, e.g. with manual operations. Software programming, too, is now faster: “Every step supported by EPLAN software and solutions from Rittal Automation Systems in combination with our own software suite enables us to automate processes and to serve our customers better and more quickly,” concludes Mike Bosworth, summarising NorthWind’s positive experience with Rittal and EPLAN products.