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Schaltanlagenbau GmbH H. Westermann: Automatic production in switchgear construction

Digitisation has also arrived for medium-sized companies in the switchgear industry. One such example is “Schaltanlagenbau GmbH H. Westermann” in Minden, Germany. The company, with a workforce of around 70 employees has merged two locations in the last few years and optimised production. One aspect of this optimisation is that switchgear construction is now digitised. With the support of the “Digital in NRW” competence centre, backed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Mechatronics System Design (IEM), the circuit diagram in its printed form, among other things, will disappear from production. An investigation by the IEM has shown that wiring accounts for half the working time needed to create switchgear. Consequently, the largest efficiency gains are expected here.

“The digitisation project fits into our strategy very well and opens up some interesting potentials in this changing market.”
Heinz-Dieter Finke, Technical Managing Director, Schaltanlagenbau GmbH H. Westermann

Wiring without a circuit diagram

A great deal of manual work is still needed when wiring components in an enclosure. Up to now, the circuit diagrams have been printed out at Westermann and then made available to the electricians as they work. Each wiring job performed is ticked off on the circuit diagram. This traditional procedure has a number of disadvantages; for instance, the markings made are sometimes highly individual. If an employee needs to continue a job that one colleague has already started, for example, he first has to figure out the meaning of colleague’s markings. In addition, a printed diagram only ever represents one image of the project at a specific time. It does not include any changes made after printing the circuit diagram. To ensure consistent and up-to-date data storage during the wiring process, the employee has to be able to access the digital (and thus always up-to-date) planning data. At the same time, digital wiring support can be valuable in reducing workloads. Eplan’s “Smart Wiring” program represents one way of making work easier. On a tablet, the software displays all the individual connections that have to be wired. In addition to the source and the target of the wiring, the colour and cross-section, as well as the treatment of the wire-ends are shown, as are the connection point designations. If a virtual prototype has been created for the switchgear in Eplan Pro Panel, the routing path of the wiring can also be visualised. Transmitting the circuit diagrams to the workplace digitally also means that changes to the project can be communicated in real time.

Initial tests were successful

Aided by the Fraunhofer Institute, an examination was made into how effective “paperless” wiring is in practice. To this end, an example switchgear unit with typical components within a Rittal AE enclosure was set up as a demonstration. Several members of staff – a qualified electrician, a trainee and a semi-skilled employee – had to wire the switchgear, both conventionally and with the help of Smart Wiring. Clear savings in the time spent on wiring plus an increase in quality could be proven. Employees could customise their own way of working with Eplan Smart Wiring software in order to make wiring easier and more efficient. Overall, all were agreed that digitisation in wiring in switchgear construction works very well. Following these successful tests, the company is now working on making digitisation in production the standard process.