Topics 25 September 2020
Digital – from Head to Toe

For equipment manufacturers to perform their core business optimally, a particularly high degree of efficiency is required from all engineering processes. In the event of order peaks, outsourcing sub-processes can be a good option. For this partnership to be successful, the supplier needs a high degree of technical expertise, and data transfer must be seamless. The WAGO solution offers the necessary data consistency along the value chain.

A look at day-to-day operations in production quickly reveals the great challenges that control cabinet manufacturers must constantly meet. These include customer requirements that can change from one day to the next, and order peaks that are difficult to plan for. The ongoing skills shortage is another problem for these companies. “In these circumstances, good partners are incredibly important,” says Steffen Winther from the Market Management Engineering Services department at WAGO.

» For the extended workbench to work, we’ve digitized the entire engineering process. «

Steffen Winther, Market Management Engineering Services at WAGO

Planning with the Smart Designer from WAGO:

With the Smart Designer from WAGO, system designers who, for example, design circuits for packing machines, can rely on an efficient and intuitive software tool: Configuration starts as soon as the tool is started through the WAGO website or EPLAN. The most current product information is always available to users online – including data sheets and product images, as well as downloads of CAE and CAD data. With just a few mouse clicks, designers can select interface terminal strips and I/O modules, which can then be assembled later in a way that is affordable, space-saving, and functional. An automated plausibility check guarantees that the DIN-rail assembly design is error-free. Designs are also exported – including parts lists, photos of the products used, and a 3D model – and orders are sent to WAGO.

Winther describes the situation as follows: “Every planning tool speaks its own language. If our customers use a CAE system for electronic planning – EPLAN or WSCAD for example – we have go in blind to try to understand this data and work with it.” After all, interface problems or data discontinuity quickly make the extended workbench unprofitable for customers. With WAGO, customers can rely on high-quality CAE product data and CAE macros.

“Customers can start working on the mechanical structure directly via an interface to the CAD tool,” explains Winther. “Or we handle that for them.” It’s important for the planning to function as simply as possible. WAGO’s Smart Designer configurator allows planned terminal strips to be constructed easily. Once assembly is complete, the data can be conveniently transferred to the WAGO Smart Printer thermal transfer printer. It works – no matter the data source. “In the WAGO system, everything fits together,” explains Winther. Customers can outsource process steps at any time, process the partial results further themselves or get involved in the process with their own data. “If necessary, the designer can request a completely assembled rail from WAGO directly from the Smart Designer after the planning stage by just following an HTML link,” says Winther.

Digitized Ordering Process:

Step 1:

  • Configuration using the Smart Designer from WAGO

  • Obtain online access for item data

  • Automated audit feature indicates possible errors

  • Export the design and place the order

Transparency instead of a Black Box

For most, what happens once an order arrives at WAGO is no more than a big black box: Yet what they see as a black box is, to WAGO, a glass box. Production at the Minden company is completely software-based and transparent from start to finish – at least, it is for every employee who needs access to the ordering and production processes.

Computer-based systems were introduced early into the product development process at WAGO; they are used in manufacturing and for product data management. This is because a rapidly increasing product range, the competitive market, and the company’s global presence place huge demands on the development and production departments.

Projects are planned with CAE software or the e!COCKPIT Engineering Software; data is loaded directly into the WAGO Configurator Smart Designer.

A Good Foundation for Sustainable Production

In addition, the company’s high quality standards have led to a large vertical manufacturing range and the need to develop and produce their own equipment and tools. The Teamcenter product lifecycle management system (PLM) was introduced when the company entered the new century. It enabled integrated control and management of product data and processes across the entire product lifecycle. “We have made optimizing the complete process chain a priority – from development to manufacturing,” explains Michael Burmester, who heads the process and product data management division at WAGO. He adds, “It was important for us to lay a good foundation so that the production processes could be designed for long-term viability. Even back then, it was clear that we would have to digitize all of our processes and information in order to do this.”

» We made optimizing the complete process chain a priority – from development to manufacturing. «

Michael Burmester

Head of Process and Product Data Management at WAGO

Digital, Fast and Flexible

Once an order has been received at WAGO, the data is entered for processing into the PLM system. This adds relevant information to the configured product – for example, ETIM and eCl@ss classification data, as well as information on the packaging type and unit. This step also determines when and where orders will be processed. This decision is based not only on the requested delivery date, but also on logistical data, like delivery routes, shipping times and the capacities of the production equipment at the facility in question. For example, WAGO produces and delivers terminal strips at its Sondershausen, Thuringia facility within just a few days.

Digitized Ordering Process:

Step 2:

  • Orders entered into the PLM system at WAGO are checked.

  • Additional information for the order is compiled.
  • Planning by delivery and logistics

Completely Digitized Process Chain and Real-Time Capability

The order is further processed by the Enterprise Resource Planning System (ERP). WAGO uses SAP for this purpose. This generates a manufacturing order and triggers the production and logistics processes. SAP and the manufacturing execution system (MES) enable control and monitoring of production in real-time. All relevant operating and machine data, as well as staffing information, is collected for this purpose, and any additional data that would have a real-time impact on the manufacturing process, are also input.

WAGO’s completely digitized process chain and the real-time capabilities of the system allow for subsequent changes to an order until just prior to the point of manufacture. This is a great advantage for system designers who, as one example, might realize the day after the order was sent that they selected the wrong supply module. Then, the designer can simply revise the configuration in Smart Designer and re-submit the data to WAGO.

For better data transfer, WAGO adheres to the “ecl@ss” and “ETIM” classification standards. In this way, the company ensures that technical and commercial product data is machine-readable and system-compatible throughout the EU. “The goal is for the various data systems to understand each other so well in the future that data can be transferred seamlessly to the other system,” says Winther, explaining WAGO’s commitment. This allows unnecessary expense and sources of error to be eliminated. “Data provision standardized in this way makes it possible to set up a particularly efficient value creation chain,” says Winther in summary.

Digitized Ordering Process:

Step 3:

  • Further processing of the order is performed by the Enterprise Resource Planning System (ERP).
  • Generating the production orders
  • Push to the production and logistics processes
  • Controlling in real-time
  • Possible changes to the order until just prior to the start of manufacturing

» We are really pleased with what we have achieved thus far. «

Michael Burmester

Head of Process and Product Data Management at WAGO

Well Positioned for the Future

WAGO has continuously expanded and improved its ordering and production processes since launching them in 2000. One milestone on the road to the smart factory was the introduction of SAP in 2015 at all German production sites. “We are really pleased with what we have achieved thus far,” says Burmester, adding: “We are already quite close to achieving our vision. However, there are still a number of small tweaks that we have to make to streamline the processes and make ourselves digital from head to toe.” On the international level, WAGO is poised to take another big step – the company is about to switch to SAP as its global ERP system.

Even with the cutting-edge, automated processing system, the rail assemblies produced are, in the end, a mixture of machine production and good old manual labor. While the terminal blocks and I/O modules are manufactured on modern production lines, both the individual assembly of the components and the marking process remains complex due to the number of possible configuration options. Therefore, these steps are performed manually. Yet even this manufacturing area has gone paperless. The staff members always see the most up-to-date version of the order on their workstation screens, so they know how to populate a specific rail. Incidentally, the 3D graphic that they see now is the same one the system designer modeled while working in Smart Designer earlier.

smartDATA in Use

WAGO Supports Users, from Planning to Commissioning

From Design to the Finished Project

Within the industries of the future, ordering and production processes will be increasingly digitalized and automated. The goal: Consistency and data transparency along the entire value-added chain in order to reduce costs and save time while preventing unnecessary added expense. To support this horizontal integration, WAGO offers smartDATA Engineering, a solution that supports users from planning and design, to engineering, to testing and commissioning.

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