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Video: Find Your Own Path To Digitization
2023 Author: Hannah Pearcy | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-24 11:12
Sebastian Seitz: The range is very wide: there are control and switchgear manufacturers who are very far into digitization and others who are just starting out. The importance of the topic is recognized, but each company has to find its own path to digitization.
construction practice: What does the degree of digitization depend on?
Uwe Scharf: In control and switchgear construction, there are companies with five employees as well as companies with 50 or 500 employees. The degree of digitization is often also dependent on the size: Small plant manufacturers are often still very skilled at hand. One can say that the larger a company is, the higher the degree of digitization. Today, most companies already work with digital tools in some way. The real question is: How consistent are the digital processes and where are there media breaks? It is crucial to identify and remedy these weak points in order to create end-to-end digital processes.
Sebastian Seitz has been CEO of Eplan and Cideon since 2018. With a view to future business models, he drives the further development of the two software companies. Uwe Scharf has been responsible for the IT and Industry business units and marketing at Rittal since 2019. The electrical engineer has been in management positions at Rittal since 2001.
construction practice: What is your vision of a continuous value chain?
Seitz: Our vision is that we actually digitally support switchgear construction from engineering - i.e. from the first development phase - through manufacturing to operation. The digital twin of the switchgear plays an important role here: it contains data that extends from the planning phase to production. This data can then be used to control machines and automate and digitize all processes.
Construction Practice Podcast
The Konstruktionsspraxis podcast, the specialist magazine for listening, provides quick and entertaining information about exciting technology topics. In this episode we take a look at digitalization in control cabinet construction. Our editor Sandra Häuslein talks to Sebastian Seitz from Eplan and Uwe Scharf from Rittal about what the ideal digital value chain in control cabinet construction looks like and what options are available to initiate the first digital processes.
construction practice: You mentioned the digital twin. What is the benefit of this in switchgear construction?
Seitz:Imagine a finished control cabinet, expanded with all components. If you have mapped it as a complete digital twin, you not only know the dimensions and the electrical components, but you also have all the additional data necessary to manufacture this cabinet - based on a digital model. In this way, the machines can be controlled automatically from the digital twin, which bring the holes into the mounting plate so that the component can also be screwed into the correct position. It is also possible to calculate the necessary air conditioning if we know in advance and can digitally see which components are installed where in the cabinet. And we can simulate what the consumption behavior looks like in live operation. So the digital model covers many different aspects.
Enabler of construction
These technologies have game-changing potential
construction practice: So the digital twin not only plays a role in development, but also in operation?
Sharp: Yes, of course. You see, the work process for us starts relatively simply with the digital model of an empty control cabinet. This is then taken up in the Eplan engineering tools and enriched with the digital models of hundreds and thousands of components from the Eplan Data Portal. The customer can then check exactly whether everything fits: Are there any collisions? Is the air conditioning sufficient? Or do I have to introduce additional active ventilation? There is maintenance or expansion work in operation. All changes must also be tracked in the documentation. If this is in digital form - at best within a digital twin, this digital model grows with every step of the value chain. Many mistakes can be avoided.
Future opportunity digitalization in control cabinet construction
Construction practice: So when it comes to digitization, you have to look at all areas - from engineering to operation?
Sharp: Exactly. For this reason, we have exemplified the entire process in the Rittal Innovation Center in Haiger. Neither Eplan nor Rittal are control and switchgear manufacturers. We are a manufacturer of control cabinets and supply machines, Eplan supplies the engineering tools. We know how to use both optimally and can show you the optimal workflow. We do that in the Rittal Innovation Center. In the meantime, 13,000 customers have visited us. We then discuss together what your optimal process could look like. The starting position is always the recording of the current state. The target condition and the necessary steps are then worked out with the Rittal and Eplan consultants. Depending on the customer, this is very individual.
construction practice: What is the cooperation between Eplan and Rittal like in this context?
Scharf: We have teams on both the product management and development side. The gearing should be as tight as possible so that we actually prevent every break that we can avoid from the start. In the end, the solutions should be universal and easy to use for the customer. To do this, things have to work properly together.
construction practice: How high is the interest of plant manufacturers in digitization right now?
Seitz: There is a lot of interest. Especially in Central Europe, many control and switchgear manufacturers are cost-driven. There is great concern among them that plant engineering is moving to cheaper wage countries. The pressure increases to position yourself more efficiently. A lever for efficiency gains in switchgear construction is the combination of the digitization of processes and the reuse of these results in manufacturing processes. Whether these are then carried out manually or by a machine depends on the size. We can deliver added value at every level and for every company size to make processes more efficient.
Construction practice: Let's take a look into the crystal ball: Will digital processes in control and switchgear construction prevail?
Seitz: I do believe that the majority of those who do their business professionally and think ahead will digitize because the efficiency gain is enormous.
construction practice: Does this apply to companies of all sizes?
Scharf: I believe that there will also be small switchgear manufacturers in the future who will not work in such a highly automated manner. It is more a question of individual systems, the numbers of which remain manageable. But the digital processes - in whatever form and to whatever extent - will prevail. My prognosis is: in ten years, everyone will rely on universal digitization. Those who don't do this will disappear from the market. But the form of how much machine support will be used and how high the level of automation will be will remain very different.
Thank you very much Mr. Seitz and Mr. Scharf.
* Sandra Häuslein, Monika Zwettler, editors in construction practice