Customer Application

December 12, 2018
Control Cabinet Manufacturing at Ford Using WAGO Terminal Blocks

Henry Ford was, without a doubt, one of the most important pioneers in automobile production and left his mark on the industry like no one else, through the introduction of assembly line production. The aspiration to always improve processes remains in the company’s DNA up to this day. During a recent factory-wide vacation, the press line at the production facility in Cologne, where chassis parts for the Ford Fiesta are fabricated, was rebuilt and optimized. And a seemingly small element played a major role in this process: a WAGO rail-mount terminal block.

The Ford plant in Cologne has lots of big equipment, but sometimes it’s the little details that matter.
Around 18,600 employees work for Ford in Cologne, where they produce one of their most successful compact car models: Up to 1,400 of the popular compact Ford Fiesta roll off the assembly line daily – and have since 1976! The large punching machines and presses used to produce the chassis components have a lifespan of several decades. However, many of the components and systems involved in the press line don’t last anywhere near that long. For example, during conversion and retrofitting – typically performed during factory-wide vacations – new assemblies are installed, the safety technology is expanded and the electronics are updated. During the process, the control cabinets, including the control and automation technology, as well as the energy distribution, are updated and further optimized.

A Service Provider within the Company

The grounds of the Ford plant also house the in-house equipment production department. In this department, about 180 employees carry out conversion and retrofitting projects for various equipment in the production plant. The main focus is on control cabinet manufacturing. This department normally covers the entire spectrum, from electrical planning and design, to the mechanical structure and wiring, to programming and commissioning. The orders for in-house equipment production come primarily from the two German Ford plants in Cologne and Saarlouis. But the other European plants have also already implemented projects that have to hold their own against external competition.

Christos Abatzis is proud that the conversion worked smoothly.

Project-Based Conversion to Standardized Terminal Block Technology

The various internal customers within the Ford Group sometimes set very different requirements for their projects. This also applies to components for use in control cabinets, for example. As a result, in the past, different terminals blocks from different suppliers were often used in the control cabinets. Two years ago, during the conversion of a press line in the Cologne plant, the idea arose for the first time to standardize terminal blocks by switching to exclusively using WAGO rail-mount terminal blocks for the conversion of the press line. Agreeing on a uniform project-based system leads to enormous advantages for logistics, purchasing and spare parts procurement.

For the people involved at Ford, the choice for WAGO’s rail-mount terminals blocks was based on financial and – above all – technical considerations. The project-specific concentration on one terminal block system reduces warehouse volumes and provides predictability for all employees involved in the planning and production process. WAGO’s innovative push-in CAGE CLAMP® connection technology offers the end customers superior contact quality, even – and especially – under extreme conditions. One of the greatest technical advantages of WAGO’s rail-mount terminals blocks is the push-in connection technology. Not only does it make the wiring quicker than the old terminals blocks using screw technology – the fact that the terminal blocks are maintenance-free is also a great advantage, since screw connections need to be retightened at regular intervals. With WAGO terminals blocks, this work is unnecessary. And this saves significant time on maintenance. Furthermore, faults occur less often. The large presses experience very significant vibrations. This creates a risk of screw connections coming loose. Therefore, two years ago the maintenance department advocated for switching over to WAGO rail-mount terminal blocks, which at that time were already listed as the plant standard, in the conversion of the press line as well.

“One of the greatest technical advantages of rail-mount terminals blocks is push-in connection technology.” Christos Abatzis, electrical foreman in the in-house equipment production department.

» One of the greatest technical advantages of rail-mount terminals blocks is the push-in connection technology. «

Christos Abatzis, electrical foreman in the in-house equipment production department.

Easy Wiring and Clear Marking

Not only does the push-in connection technology of WAGO’s TOPJOB® S Rail-Mount Terminal Blocks make them maintenance-free – the electrical department staff is also able to trim wiring time by nearly 25%. Conductors with crimped ferrules are easy to insert, making wiring very quick and easy compared to screw-type terminal blocks. The marking method also saves time: Standardized marking strips exist for all terminal block sizes, which the Ford employees can print quickly and easily with one of the two printers that were purchased for this purpose. WAGO Smart Printers are controlled online, allowing the markings that are created to be stored and reused in later projects. The marking strips offer plenty of space for clear labeling of connection points. This too saves wiring time, since employees can find the right connection point more quickly. And the clear marking makes maintenance much easier too whenever faults need to be eliminated. Besides the rail-mount terminal blocks, the Smart Printer can also be used to mark conductors with marking sleeves or thread-on wire markers, making it an incredibly versatile solution.

The push-in connection technology reduces the wiring time by up to 25% for the in-house equipment production department in the Ford plant in Cologne.

The Right Terminal Block for Every Application

The control cabinets built by the in-house equipment production department mostly use TOPJOB® S Rail-Mount Terminal Blocks. They are used to connect a wide variety of signals from sensors and actuators. Ford limits itself to three or four series of rail-mount terminals blocks. That works very well, especially since the terminal blocks accommodate a very wide range of possible conductor sizes. The power distribution with large conductors is connected via high-current rail-mount terminal blocks equipped with POWER CAGE CLAMP. The experts at Ford use WAGO’s terminal blocks for other requirements as well. Recording power consumption has become an important part of many projects. For this purpose, Ford uses current converters and 3-Phase Power Measurement Modules, as well as function modules from WAGO’s 750 Series automation portfolio.

During the recent factory-wide vacation, another press line was also converted – based on past success, the control cabinet was again equipped with WAGO rail-mount terminal blocks. Using the standardized rail-mount terminals blocks for press line conversion projects has since become routine. However, during conversion, it was important for the in-house equipment production unit that WAGO support was always reachable to help Ford’s team get is bearings in a broad product portfolio. The tight integration between the Ford Key Account at WAGO, WAGO’s local sales office and industrial system advisors enabled short response times.

Text: Lena Kalmer | WAGO

Photo: Ford

The press lines are being brought up to the state of the art with reworked electronics.

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