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Panel builder boosts design efficiency with CAE software

Panel builder boosts design efficiency with CAE software

When Pete Walton and his associates founded PNE Controls 18 months ago, their vision was to launch a modern, dynamic panel building company that would stand out from the rest. As Pete had already used EPLAN CAE software in previous jobs, he knew that adopting the system would be an excellent way of giving his business a large competitive advantage. And he was absolutely right, as EPLAN enabled them to increase productivity by 70%.

Based in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, PNE Controls was founded by Neil Cockings and Pete Walton who have worked together at several companies over the last 25 years. PNE Controls offers design, installation and testing of electrical control panels and systems, and has extensive experience in systems across a wide range of industries ranging from conveying and handling to dairy, process and food industries.

As they had previously used EPLAN, and knew of the benefits it could bring to their business, the company therefore invested in EPLAN Electric P8, providing access to an electrical engineering design software package that offers a 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 easily be made at any stage, and are fully tracked.

Accurate and reliable production and maintenance documentation is automatically generated. The user simply has to tailor the reports to suit individual projects, but 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. In fact, the PNE Controls team found that EPLAN Electric P8 could 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’d 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,” said Walton, lead design engineer and company director. “We met with one of their sales managers, Deep Nandhray, who took the time to get to know our business and what we’re trying to achieve. He suggested EPLAN Electric P8 Select Start, supported by training that would 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.

“We have always had excellent relationships with our customers,” said Walton, “but there’s no doubt that using EPLAN is helping us to cement even closer ties with some of them, such as mechanical handling specialist Asmech Systems, and industrial solar and battery systems developer Evo Energy.”

He continued: “We can create templates to suit their specific requirements and thus we are able to complete designs quickly and efficiently, and export high quality drawings in a fraction of the time it used to take. 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 too find these features beneficial as they make it easy to visualise the finished panel. The system offers more transparency for the customer and increases their engagement so it’s win-win for us and for them.”

Looking to the future, PNE Controls is in the process of joining the 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. In addition, PNE Controls is working toward ISO9001 approval, and the revision control features offered by EPLAN will be a big help as they make it possible for the designers to constantly assess the quality of their work.

“EPLAN Electric P8 is very intuitive and easy to use thanks in particular to its customised macros for electrical design. Features like automatic cable numbering capabilities of the software also help speed up the design process and, as there are far fewer errors, we also save a lot of time on building and testing the panels,” said Walton.

Alongside EPLAN Electric P8, PNE Controls also uses the EPLAN Data Portal, which is a web-based platform with major suppliers of electrical, mechanical, fluidic and pneumatic components which contains over 761,000 components from over 206 manufacturers such as Mitsubishi Electric, Omron, Phoenix Contact, Rittal, and many others. PNE Controls makes great use of the EPLAN Data Portal and, over time, has learned to streamline their designs by simply making sure the parts they use are already included in the EPLAN Data Portal.

The team has also been using the Global Support portal from EPLAN: “The EPLAN Global Support team offers very prompt responses and I’ve never had a problem that hasn’t been quickly solved,” said Walton. “We are tremendously impressed with the efficiencies we have achieved so far thanks to both EPLAN software and support, and we’re looking forward to acquiring EPLAN Pro Panel Professional and also upgrading our existing EPLAN Electric P8 license.”

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