How to optimize your control cabinet construction

Partial automation reduces costs, helps ensure flexibility and can save time for workers in the long run.

By Weidmüller September 10, 2022
Courtesy: Weidmüller

Control Cabinet Insights

  • Using a semi-automated packaging system increases efficiency, offers less production errors and maintains flexibility.
  • Improvements in ergonomics and efficiency at the workplace through implementing four small measures to stay organized and optimized also saves on expensive production time.
  • Mobile workstations in a factory can forward data to the online catalog with additional information through the use of MultiCard markers and QR codes. These stations can be equipped to meet individual requirements and lower downtime because employees will no longer spend time trying to find something when they can locate it swiftly with a ping to the markers.

The average control cabinet manufacturers have to reduce costs if they want to remain competitive. They should coordinate their production processes and harmonize them. To produce even batch sizes of one quickly, it is necessary to make changes along the entire process chain.

Small- and medium-sized companies can benefit from semi-automated manufacturing in control cabinet construction. A look at the assembly of cables clearly shows these benefits. A comparison of the three possible production processes – manual, semi-automated and fully automated – shows where savings can be realized.

If the advantages and disadvantages of all three production types are balanced, the following results can be expected: Mid-sized investments, excellent quality, high flexibility and reduced production time are the main arguments in favor of semi-automated production. Manual assembly also takes a lot of time and requires considerable investments and fully automated assembly offers limited flexibility.

Packaging system increases efficiency

The software-controlled Wire Processing Center (WPC) from Weidmüller illustrates how this can be done in practice. It provides medium-sized control cabinet manufacturers with ample opportunities to minimize production errors and increase efficiency by up to 80% while maintaining flexibility.

This modular assembly system consists of cable processing machines and industrial printers. A special software communicates with the respective modules via the existing interfaces. A planning tool ensures optimal data consistency: The CAE data from engineering is adopted and used to execute cable processing orders. Manual transfer errors can be avoided in this way.

The WPC gives users maximum freedom in data entry, process control and component integration such as cable feeding, cable sorting and additional printers. This allows scheduled projects to be processed in a simple and flexible manner.

Small savings’ impact

Software and automatic machines not only save expensive production time, but improvements in ergonomics and efficiency at the workplace can also contribute to this. In classic control cabinet construction, 72% of the working time is spent on mechanical assembly and wiring. By improving the efficiency of these steps by 10%, the manufacturing costs can be significantly reduced. A tool chest developed according to 5 Sigma and Lean principles and specially designed for control cabinet construction allows that. The four “small” measures of standard tools, special tools, tidy workplaces and daily tool control can lead to increased efficiency. Studies have shown total savings of 40 minutes per day are possible using this method.

This isn’t limited to control cabinet construction: Everything has its place. In the workshop, this means that every tool, be it a standard tool or a rarely used special tool, should have its own fixed position on or in the tool chest. Standard tools should be positioned within easy reach, and tools that are frequently used together should be placed close to each other. Compared to a workplace that has not been optimized, individual work steps can be carried out more quickly. This means the worker needs less time for searching, accessing, tidying up and checking.

Mobile workstations in the factory

There is another detail that reduces unproductive idle times during a working day: Recesses in foam inserts provide a clear overview at the end of each shift. Is a tool missing? If so, which one? It also is useful to mark devices with MultiCard markers and QR codes. They allow users to forward data to the online catalog with additional information and can be equipped to meet individual requirements. They also can be fit with automatic machines and printers. In this way, intelligent mobile production stations in a factory can be designed to suit the respective processes.

A workstation in the switch cabinet construction that is optimized for all actions should not be underestimated as a cost reducer in the production process.

A workstation in the switch cabinet construction that is optimized for all actions should not be underestimated as a cost reducer in the production process. Courtesy: Weidmüller

Control cabinet potential

The cost reducing potential of a control cabinet workplace that has been optimized in all respects should not be underestimated. Together with the work steps of semi-automated wiring and pre-assembly, such as cutting to length, stripping and crimping of cables, expensive work and time expenditure required for recurring activities can be significantly reduced.