Automating control panel design

13 May 2018

We find out how one panel builder has been able to increase its productivity by around 70%.

UK-based PNE Controls was founded by Neil Cockings and Pete Walton who have worked together at several companies over the last 25 years.

PNE Controls was set up 2 years ago to offer design, installation and testing of electrical control panels and systems. Its founders have extensive experience in systems across a wide range of industries.

The PNE Controls team members had all previously used EPLAN computer-aided engineering (CAE) software, so were comfortable in making the decision to invest in EPLAN Electric P8, to give the company access to an electrical engineering design software package with comprehensive range of options for planning, documentation, and management of automation projects. 

The entry level EPLAN Electric P8 licence purchased by PNE Controls supports schematics with up to 80 pages, macro variant technology with placeholders, wire and device numbering, with additional modules for single line and revision. Changes can be made at any stage, and are fully tracked.

Production and maintenance documentation is automatically generated so the user simply has to tailor the reports to suit individual projects. The basic backbone of the documentation is already there including, for example, cable overviews, cable diagrams, summary of parts lists, terminal strips, terminal diagrams, table of contents. The PNE Controls team found that using the EPLAN Electric P8 allowed it to automate all of the routine tasks involved in control system design, saving an enormous amount of time as well as reducing errors to a minimum.

“We had all used EPLAN CAE software before setting up PNE Controls, so it made good sense to approach the company to discuss product options and licensing arrangements,” explained Pete Walton, lead design engineer and company director. “EPLAN suggested the use of its AN Electric P8 Select Start, supported by training to help us to maximise our engineering potential”.

As an interim measure, the PNE Controls designers had been using a general purpose CAD package. On switching to EPLAN Electric P8, they found that their productivity increased by no less than 70%, largely because of high level of automation offered by the software.

Now the designers simply set up a template for a particular client and then all they have to do for subsequent projects with similar requirements is to tweak the template and add new values or parts.

“There is no doubt that using EPLAN is helping us to cement closer ties with customers, such as mechanical handling specialist Asmech Systems, and industrial solar and battery systems developer Evo Energy. We can create templates to suit specific requirements and so are able to complete designs quickly and efficiently, and export high quality drawings in a fraction of the time it would traditionally have taken. What’s more, we’ve found that our customers are very impressed with features such as the pictorial representations of items in panels. Our engineers also find these features beneficial as they make it easy to visualise the finished panel.”

PNE Controls is currently in the process of joining the ECA (Electrical Contractors Association) and to help with meeting the stringent requirements of this trade association the company is looking to adopt EPLAN Pro Panel, which will enable it to design and construct control cabinets, switchboards and flexible power distribution systems in 3D. PNE Controls is also working toward ISO9001 approval, and the revision control features offered by EPLAN will be helpful here as they make it possible for the designers to constantly assess the quality of their work.

Alongside EPLAN Electric P8, PNE Controls now also uses the EPLAN Data Portal, which is a web-based platform with major suppliers of electrical, mechanical, fluidic and pneumatic components. It contains over 761,000 components from over 206 manufacturers. PNE Controls makes great use of this tool and, over time, has learned to streamline its designs by making sure the parts chosen are already included in the EPLAN Data Portal.

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