Alexander Bürkle

Electrical design with the digital twin

In the more than 100 years since its foundation, Alexander Bürkle GmbH & Co KG has repeatedly reinvented itself, though always based on its existing core expertise. The company, which employs around 800 people at 22 locations in southern Germany, is currently evolving from an electrical wholesaler to a service provider that offers intelligent engineering support for its customers in building technology and industry, so helping them on their way to the digitalised future. In 2019, the decision-makers there resolved to consistently expand the engineering services and show customers ways into Industry 4.0 with a new concept for planning electrical systems. It began in building technology. Fabian Camek, Head of Design: “We replaced the E-CAD software and migrated to EPLAN, which offered us the best opportunities for consistent data use, from the initial concept to detailed planning and plant operation.”

Automated planning

One described the benefits of performing building distributor design with the EPLAN Cogineer and Preplanning tools in one sentence: “While the planner – often on the customer’s premises – configures the distributor and selects and assigns the components by drag-and-drop, the E-CAD system in the background takes care of the design.” The essential planning work is hence performed automatically – down to the very last detail. Even labelling the cables and wires (which will later also be created automatically) is already determined, as is the 3D structure of the enclosure.

The decision in favour of EPLAN was the right one. We have expanded our engineering portfolio and are maintaining closer contacts with our customers, whom we have freed from a great deal of work.
Fabian Camek, Head of Design at Alexander Bürkle

Enclosures for Industry 4.0

In a second step, Alexander Bürkle has transferred these principles to enclosure construction for industrial customers, which include leading machine tool manufacturers. Here, too, the engineering component continues to grow; one crucial prerequisite for this being consistent planning and electrical design on the EPLAN platform. The (pre-)planning is carried out with EPLAN Preplanning, while three-dimensional enclosure layouts are created with EPLAN Pro Panel. The hydraulic and pneumatic controls are planned with EPLAN Fluid. All the components needed to assemble the building distributors and, in the second step, the industrial enclosures, are stored in EPLAN along with all the characteristic data and dimensions. Three colleagues in the electrical design department record new items following uniform guidelines that are listed in a “Style Guide”, and then enter the items into the Alexander Bürkle article database.

Article databank: The basis for the “digital twin”

For mechanical engineers and their clients, this data is the “digital twin,” i.e. the virtual image of the machine or plant that is adapted to its current status throughout its entire lifetime. Fabian Camek points out that “Because digital and real systems are permanently linked, they develop an object memory. Those who use and maintain the digital data save time and money, for example, because they can better plan commissioning and maintenance and always have all the necessary information at hand when servicing is needed. This data is also very important when modernising or converting a machine.” 

“We are now designing organically, based on the functions and structured according to modules and fields” Fabian Camek explains. Thus, the designer does not start by selecting an enclosure size; instead, the size results automatically from the functions, components and modules. Electrical designers use the Rittal product range as default unless the customer requests otherwise. Moreover, Fabian Camek adds, the improved workflow means that the designs are free of errors right from the start. And what’s more, “Many individual tasks, such as choosing how the cable ducts are filled or how equipment is labelled, are carried out automatically.”


Alexander Bürkle
Freiburg/Breisgau, Germany

The way into the age of industry 4.0 - associated with this, the highest possible digitalisation.


The basic planning work will be automated – down to the last detail.

Even the labelling of the cables and wires – which will later also be automatically is created - is already fixed, as well as the 3D structure of the switch cabinet.