Digital Tools – Flat Architecture to Get Ahead
When the EPLAN P8 software was introduced ten years ago, the company started doing project planning for electrical designs of individual low-voltage switchgear units. It does not manufacture series switchgear – only one-of-a-kind units based on a building-block principle. “For now, we decided to stick to a flat architecture for using the software.” For assembly drawings, employees at the main plant in Lennestadt and at the secondary location in Grimma, Saxony, work on project planning with AutoCAD Mechanical, while electrotechnical design is done with the EPLAN Electric P8 application. Parts lists are transferred from the CAD software to the internal ERP system – at this time, there are no other interfaces between the systems.
The plan is to gradually expand the use of the digital twin at Hensel. Currently, this is being tested for the design of terminal strips; the engineers use Smart Designer, WAGO’s online configurator, as a project planning tool. The Minden-based connection and automation engineers consistently provide switchgear manufacturers with all the data, software tools and interfaces they require throughout their processes – from electrical and mechanical planning, to ordering and manufacturing configured products, to individual products. Steffen Winther, Market Manager for Engineering Services at WAGO, sees the implementation of the digital twin as essential in the long term in order to achieve a certain degree of digitization throughout the entire process chain: “Today, a design engineer spends at least 30 percent of his or her time on data creation and maintenance. The digital twin can save time and money.” The goal, he says, must be to achieve integrated production.
The basis of the data for the digital twin comes from the EPLAN data portal, where commercial and 2D data are also stored. 3D data is also available; it would also be possible to add these at a later date on the basis of the item numbers provided,” explains Thomas Göbel, who is responsible for EPLAN administration at Hensel: “We prefer to collect more data, rather than having to add data later.” However, insufficient data standardization among manufacturers remains a problem. “We assume that we’ll be able to achieve measurable efficiency gains in the future with a sophisticated data standard,” emphasizes Göbel. Ultimately, the company has a responsibility to its customers to not provide them with a jumble of data and documents – and also to not confuse its own production employees.
Karl-Heinz Hupertz, Head of Project Planning at Hensel
Advancing Automation Processes with WAGO
WAGO supports Gustav Hensel in advancing automation processes. Karl-Heinz Hupertz also appreciates this partnership: “We’ve been working with WAGO for a long time. In addition to terminal strips and electronic components, we currently rely on their marking system.” From the existing CAE system, Hensel’s control cabinets and components are labeled using WAGO’s thermal transfer Smart Printer. For medium-sized companies, the specific application of the technology is the lesser problem anyway; the real issue is the lack of personnel capacity, explains Steffen Winther. “A control cabinet manufacturer should employ at least one person in the company to set up the digital twin and establish consistency, for example. That can’t be done on the side, in addition to day-to-day business. The topic is too big for that,” says Winther with conviction. The human factor will remain important in the future. Hupertz shares that assessment: “We are currently in the process of creating space for integrating the digital process into the daily routine bit by bit.” Ultimately, this also has to do with protecting Germany as a center of industry – not for nothing is Gustav Hensel’s campaign called “Made in Germany.”
“New Work” in the Digital Age
In control cabinet manufacturing, the digital transformation is changing not only specific workflows, but also the way people work. The focus is shifting more and more to creative and flexible working methods. “New Work” is becoming the “new normal” in Minden as well.