Digital – Down to the Fingertips

PLM, ERP, MES – In the industries of the future, software technologies like these will be increasingly used to digitize and automate ordering and production processes. No business headed for smart factory technology can afford to be without them. The people at WAGO, based in Minden, Germany have realized this, too. As early as 2000, the company began to comprehensively digitize its value added chain. Today, the manufacturer of electrical interconnection and automation products not only saves on paper, it also decides when and where orders will be processed in a fully automated manner. This is especially relevant, not only when shipping in-stock items, but also when producing custom products for customers.

Planning with the smartDESIGNER from WAGO:

With the smartDESIGNER 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.

Digitized Ordering Process:

Step 1:

  • Configuration using the smartDESIGNER 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.


Save valuable engineering time: Read external data, configure rail-mount terminal blocks online without previous definition, automatically check, document and mark them all – with just one software tool.

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 in 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 smartDESIGNER and re-submit the data to WAGO.

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,” states Burmester, and adds, “we have already come close to our vision. However, there are still a number of small tweaks that we have to make to streamline the processes and become digital down to our fingertips.” On the international level, WAGO is poised to take another big step; they are about to switch to SAP as their 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 traditional, manual labor. While the terminal blocks and I/O modules are manufactured on modern production lines, both the individual assembly of the components and marking them remains complex due to the number of possible configuration options. Therefore, these steps are performed manually. Yet even this manufacturing area has eliminated paper dockets. Instead, the staff always sees the most up-to-date version of the order on their workstation screens, so that 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 smartDESIGNER earlier.