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Data driven design

Data driven design Computer aided engineering (CAE) software is now an essential tool for today's electrical engineers and designers, and something that software solution providers, EPLAN continue to develop and refine. The company has revealed some striking figures about their latest tool, the EPLAN Data Portal, designed to complement their existing CAE software package and products.  With customers based in every corner of the world, EPLAN aims to provide professional CAD/CAE solutions that optimise the processes of companies from a wide range of industries and enable them to meet the challenges of the future.

As forerunners in the development of next generation CAE systems, it's no surprise that EPLAN's Data Portal software may have been ahead of its time, but it is now revolutionising many company's engineering and design process. It provides users with access to a sophisticated and comprehensive database of the latest, tested devices date from a wide range of recognised and trusted suppliers and manufactures. The portal's list of component manufactures continues to grow and now has a total of 40 which includes the likes of ABB, Festo, Phoenix Contact, Rockwell Automation, Weidmüller and Siemens. In addition to these known greats in the automation sector even mid-sized companies like Dehn + Söhne, Lütze, and Unex have identified it as a profitable investment and subsequently joined.

The Portal aims to simplify the entire design process, by giving users unprecedented access to pre designed schematic drawings, parts documentation and order numbers. The company recently revealed that in the relatively short time that the portal has been available the integrated data for more than 180,000 components has been accessed no fewer than 8.8 million times and the number of registered users has increased to 35,000. These impressive figures prove that the software is a popular and valuable tool to the end users.

It doesn't matter if the data consists of order numbers for procurement, technical part drawings for creating schematics, function templates for intelligent device selection or assembly macros for equipping 3D mounting layouts, any of these can be transferred simply and effectively by dragging and dropping them from the EPLAN Data Portal into the CAE project, or into the central data management system. This effectively negates the need for time-consuming creation of your own master data. For engineering practices this means integrated data for intelligent design, precise fitting assemblies, virtual wiring and sustainably shortened product development and production cycles from project planning to commissioning.

The portal is controlled by means of a server-client software that makes an additional navigator available locally in the user interface. The desired components can thus be inserted directly from the server into the project or system environment. Thanks to the web-based technology users can also receive instantaneous access to up to date device information or changes to part documentation. EPLAN has a long history of working closely with its customers and manufacturers. The input and success of these customers, or rather partners, ultimately plays an important role in the future of the manufacturing, design, and engineering industry. The portal genuinely creates a win-win situation for the designers, engineers, manufacturers and EPLAN alike.

Portal product placement
While the biggest beneficiaries of the portal are undoubtedly the users, component manufacturers can also benefit. As more and more recognise the opportunity in making their items and devices available in the EPLAN Data Portal, the tool will feature more prevalently in the design and manufacturing process. A manufacturer can offer practical support for quick, efficient design to their users as well as get in-depth knowledge of the businesses that use their products. And, since EPLAN Software & Service not only certifies the data, but also creates them on request, component manufacturers receive the exact support they require. On the one hand they can use the IT infrastructure of the EPLAN Data Portal to emphasise the quality of their data, while new features can be scheduled and published instantly to the growing number of portal users.

Companies like Lapp Kabel, Schneider Electric and SEW EURODRIVE were well advised when they decided to integrate their data in the portal early on. And recently, EPLAN's parent company Rittal has also linked 'Rittal Therm', the configuration and layout software for climate control solutions, directly to the Data Portal system. But when you consider that these manufacturers can gain access to more than 95,000 users in 50 countries worldwide allowing them to build and maintain strategic partnerships and open up potential new revenue streams, it makes sense.

Engineering ease - designed for designers  
Through a simple, user-friendly system and interface, component selection is simplified for the designer who can rapidly choose a device without having to page tediously through bulky catalogues. Designers are also able to benefit from automated part suggestions and the most relevant and up-to-date data with correct manufacturer descriptions and order numbers, complete with clear communications if parts have been discontinued or replaced. Moreover, the portal has been shown to deliver significant cost savings as well as improvements in productivity, design integrity, and project turnaround times.

One of EPLAN's most recent customers, 4PE Systems, switched to these engineering software tools in a bid to save time and streamline the design processes and have been extremely impressed by the impact that the data portal has had. John Thorp, owner of 4PE Systems, said: "I have been particularly impressed with the effectiveness of the EPLAN Data Portal. Being able to drag and drop components from the data portal backed up with comprehensive documentation has allowed us to accelerate design time by nearly 40%. The engineering staff identified the data portal as the most useful of EPLAN's tools in helping them to do their job better."

The data portal has already allowed the company to reduce its engineering cost and will continue to do so the more it is used, particularly when modifications need to be made during and after builds. It has also allowed 4PE to provide its own customers with faster, more accurate project quotes, reduce errors and production delays, and employ more reliable purchasing practices.

There is no reason to suggest that these benefits could not be replicated by all companies that choose to incorporate the data portal into their design processes. This method of including manufacturers, designers, suppliers, and end customers in the development of their tools and software has leant itself to the success of the EPLAN Data Portal, which will continue to grow as a result.
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