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“We improve consistency and data transparency along the value added chain.“

Interview regarding control cabinet manufacturing with Simone Brinkmann-Tewes, manager of smartData Engineering at Wago Kontakttechnik

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Ms. Brinkmann-Tewes, why should a control cabinet manufacturer whose order books are well filled be concerned about the topic of digitalization?

Efficient processing of individual orders is especially important when order books are well filled. There are still many manual processes that consume a great deal of time and are prone to error, but could be eliminated with sensible application of the possibilities digitalization offers. Also, it is important to prepare for the future and ready your production for long-term developments – to avoid being left behind competitors after the next ten years.

Many control cabinet manufacturers are hesitant to confront such a complex and at times, extremely abstract, topic as Industry 4.0 to find a starting point for implementing it in their companies. Do you have a tip on how to manage this?

Start Small – This Is My Motto. Companies need to examine their processes in detail, to identify the places they can start making processes more consistent. The important questions here, for example, are: When is the same data entered several times? How do my customers provide me with data – still analog by fax or PDF, or is it already entered electronically? How many internal systems are occupied in the entire process?

One example: Today, with a suitable interface, marking materials can be printed out directly from the planning software. This is much faster than manually entering the marking information in a yet another software. This also helps prevent errors. True, such measures do not completely digitalize the entire production, but this is a first step to getting there.

Companies need to examine their processes in detail, to identify the places they can start making processes more consistent.

Simone Brinkmann-Tewes, Wago Kontakttechnik

With what solutions and services does WAGO accompany its control cabinet manufacturing customers on the way to the digital future?

We primarily provide support with services and software that contribute to advancing horizontal integration. This means improving consistency and data transparency along the value-added chain while making one's own processes more efficient and less susceptible to error.

We have collected our offerings under the name “WAGO smartDATA.” What we offer here is, for example, master article data and macros for EPLAN, WS CAD and various other CAE tools. For hardware planning, we also have 2D and 3D models for over 15,000 products, which each planner can enter directly into his or her favorite CAD software. And last but not least, we offer our own configuration tool – the smartDESIGNER. This tool is online, so our customers have the option of checking the plausibility of their CAE planning, exporting parts lists or automatically generating the essential records for documentation. And of course – referring back to the initial example – this lets them transfer the marking for all WAGO components directly to the printer.

In digitalization, a great deal depends on the completeness and quality of the data. What strategy does WAGO follow to represent its products digitally?

Our customers always need up-to-date, valid data for their CAE and CAD planning directly from the manufacturer, instead of generating or updating it themselves, or retrieving it from a third source. This has an extremely important advantage in that all data is always automatically updated, or the availability of an update is automatically displayed.

For us to provide our customers with valid data at any time, we make sure that it always originates from only one source. For example, our Product Data Management System (PDM) is the source for all technical data, while our Enterprise Resource Planing System (ERP) is the source for all logistical data. We regularly keep all other subsystems up to date with this data – both our own and those of our customers' systems.

Ultimately: Constantly updated, valid data that all customers can trust and rely on to build their own digitalization processes!

Are there reliable figures indicating the efficiency increases control cabinet manufacturers can achieve with the WAGO solutions?

Our customers' processes are very different. We at WAGO are so flexible with our offers that we support these myriad processes across their entire spectrum. This can be as simple as issuing a printing task, or can encompass the entire process. This is why there is no reliable data for determining average efficiency increases across the board.

When solutions for digitalization come from a company, usually the requisite data is very consistent and thorough. However, during design and construction, control cabinet manufacturers normally contend with hardware and software from different suppliers, which can exhibit considerable data gaps. As well, the hardware and software from their customers – the machine manufacturers – often come with only analog and in many cases, insufficient data. How can these obstacles be confronted as efficiently as possible?

For one thing, the central tool our customers work with is manufacturer-neutral – for example, EPLAN. In order for planners to properly work with this tool, manufacturers must provide the appropriate data, which then only needs to be imported. Further along in the process, tools from individual manufacturers come into play – for example, our smartDESIGNER with its plausibility check. Then customers can make their own decisions regarding the manufacturer-specific tools they want to use, based on the added value they offer.

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