The starting gun was sounded five years ago: Eplan, Rittal and Phoenix Contact founded a technology cooperation for panel building and switchgear manufacturing – “Smart Engineering and Production 4.0”. Its goal was the integrated digitisation of engineering and production processes.
Today, this vision has become tried and tested solutions that open a path to industrialisation for companies. These solutions are used day after day and ensure an efficient value creation process, underscoring one thing that runs through engineering to manufacturing to sales and service: absolute, end-to-end data continuity based on a single source of truth.
The goals were ambitious when Eplan, Rittal and Phoenix Contact joined forces to form a technology networked called “Smart Engineering and Production 4.0” in 2015. The objective: to explore end-to-end digitisation in panel building and switchgear manufacturing. It was about ideas, trends and visions for the future. Today – five years later – the ideas from Smart Engineering and Production 4.0 have been transformed into concrete product innovations. Configurators, engineering platforms, automation solutions for manufacturing, and digital assistance systems work as a network. Data are used from the start to the finish, from engineering to manufacturing through to operations and even service.
The bottom line is that the systems interact perfectly! Device data has been standardised and is available continuously in engineering, in materials management and in the manufacturing processes for panel building and switchgear manufacturing and makes an end-to-end contribution to completely digitised processes based on a single source of truth.
Helping Shape the Data
Eplan, Rittal and Phoenix Contact all threw their support behind further developing standards, including ECLASS for the digital description of devices and device data. ECLASS has become established meanwhile, and in combination with AutomationML makes an important contribution to providing data across all systems in engineering, configuration and manufacturing. As Eplan CEO Sebastian Seitz sees it, the entire panel building and switchgear manufacturing sector benefits: “Automation and digitisation of panel building and switchgear manufacturing can now be achieved. The basic prerequisites for it were standardised, quality device data and interface standards, which we successfully developed.”
Panel Building Gets Industrialised
Engineering data from an integrated, virtual product description flow into the manufacturing process via standardised data exchange formats such as AutomationML. Rittal Managing Director Research and Development Dr Thomas Steffen explains: “As a result, conventional automation technology such as drilling and milling centres and wire assembly machines can be integrated into the digitally supported production processes for panel building and switchgear manufacturing.”
Summing up the joint work, Phoenix Contact CTO Roland Bent says: “We have transformed our ideas into specific products to support highly automated manufacturing, including mass customisation. We looked at the entire process and always kept an eye on the big picture: digitised product development in panel building and switchgear manufacturing that paves the way for industrialising the field.”