WIN! The cabinet planning and design stages form the basis of all of the steps that follow within the process chain. At this point, it's all about creating a detailed foundation for efficient assembly. Which trends and prospects do you see in this field?
Seiger: Cabinet assembly and configuration are our customers' core areas of expertise. But given the range of products available, it can be difficult to maintain an overview of suppliers' product portfolios and assemble an optimum selection for the relevant application.
The large CAE system suppliers will continue to improve in the future in this respect – with new ways to automate work processes that were previously performed manually. 3D product imaging, for instance, will make it possible for functional areas to be allocated with even greater precision.
Indeed, a great deal of importance is being ascribed to component manufacturers. We are already setting the course for tomorrow's planning process today by not limiting our product data to technical performance characteristics. Rather, we are focusing more on aspects that support product-related improvements to our processes. After all, planning, installation and servicing processes are cost drivers just as much as the physical components themselves.
WIN! Against this backdrop, what direction do you think component suppliers have to develop the subject of data management in?
Seiger: Because modular terminals, markers or signal and data connectors are neither the most complex nor the most costly components in the cabinet, it is indeed rare that people go through the tiresome process of conducting intense product research.With this in mind, it is desirable to have CAE libraries containing product data that enable our customers to create complete solution structures in just a few steps by asking relevant central questions.
For me, this also includes the accessories assigned to products by way of object dependencies. Equally, we are integrating product-specific data that supports the production automation, ordering, logistics and documentation processes. We are pursuing the clear goal of ensuring that the customer never loses sight of product or process costs, whilst at the same time profitably optimising our own development, production and logistics structures.
If you think about an I/O system, for instance, ideally the station will have already been completely planned, and in the next stage, the defined input and output cards can be used to directly configure the right terminal strip as an interface. We can support a concept such as this by being extremely
familiar with ideal types of solution structure from practice and by being able to relieve the strain on our customers during the system planning process by providing prepared configurations for their CAE systems.
WIN! Careful planning paves the way for efficient installation. What bridges are you building with your portfolio of modular terminals, for example, to guarantee added value in this context?
Seiger: We are close to our customers and very much immerse ourselves in their applications and processes through intense information exchange.
Often, standardisation is a good solution, as a sophisticated universal spectrum can cover a multitude of functions. Developing this approach leads to even more significant potential for cost optimisation as a result of manufacturer-independent standardisation both with respect to geometry/functionality and variant diversity.
I also see a key trend in segment-specific solutions. If a special application and its requirements are known, purposefully arranging or even leaving out superfluous product functionalities can significantly contribute to efficiency and reliability.
Our marshalling terminal for process control technology is one example of this. The 1.5 mm² terminal with up to 16 levels is not designed for 17 A as is common practice; rather, it is optimised for its defined target application with a reduced current. A compact design becomes important during the planning process. Given the high signal density, our initial customer only needed one cabinet where two had been necessary in the past.
The identification aids on the product deliver yet another planning benefit. In this regard, the coloured matrix structure allows for error-free signal assignment, such that our customers benefit from optimum orientation when undertaking extension and maintenance work – without having to mark every connection point individually.
WIN! Marking contributes significantly to process optimisation in cabinet construction. Which approach is Weidmüller adopting in this field?
Seiger: We consider the topic of cabinet marking in an entirely systematic fashion – true to our motto of "systemised marking".
All of our efforts are devoted to speeding up and, at the same time, stabilising customer processes. In so doing, in the field of marking we focus on the markers themselves, the printer solution and the software that goes hand-in-hand with the system. We design all of the benefits in these areas such that they set the standard when considered individually, but turn into real productivity drivers as part of the system.
Often, when a customer is attempting to come to a
decision on a marking solution, the initial costs are the primary focus, but I always recommend taking a critical look at the consequential costs too. How much will it cost if, in the event of a fault, it is no longer possible to read or even find a marker? How much could you save during the planning process as a result of excellent data continuity and software-based integration in the CAE planning programs? We are kept busy by questions such as these, and they also give rise to our solutions.
WIN! Weidmüller is also known as a driver in the tools segment, especially for its stripax® stripping tool. How much do you think the tools help to increase productivity?
Seiger: We design our tools in such a way that they make the installation process in itself easier and also optimise the result.
When it comes to processing cables, conductors and connecting materials such as cable lugs and wire-end ferrules, our high ergonomic design standard that enables especially effortless working comes into play.
In the finish up, what counts is primarily the lasting professional quality and the cost-efficient integration of various functions in a single tool. In this way, for instance, a cable can be stripped in two stages within a single work step using our sheathing stripper.
In our automatic machines, we bundle the stripping and crimping work steps, allowing for extremely economical processing with high throughput rates and no need to change tools.
WIN!You've outlined a few trends and prospects that we can expect in the near future. From a longer-term
perspective, what do you think the future of electrical connectivity holds?
Seiger: We have already conducted various studies on automation concepts and discussed these with our customers. In so doing, we were able to prove that the approaches with the biggest cost levers cannot be implemented for all IP20 components without an industrial standard.
Against the backdrop of our saturated market, however, I do not think that a standard such as this is realistic at the present time. Today, we are relying on an evolutionary development in cabinet construction. Important factors in this respect are the increasingly modular design and individual automation solutions.
Sophisticated component solutions that allow our customers to improve their cost situations – also given the fact that active and passive products are to all intents and purposes converging even further – are another point. In addition to the segment solutions mentioned, I see another trend-setting approach in improved test properties.
Complex systems are being put through their paces before delivery to avoid nasty consequential costs. Our customers invest a lot of time in testing systems' assembly and operation concepts. Here, they can look forward to new software functionalities to increase speed, as well as convenient test accessories. Ultimately, these are also an excellent complement to our claim that we offer our customers added value in the planning, installation and operating processes.
Published in February 2014