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PII Oct-Nov 2013

Improve workflow and quality with computer aided engineering At the heart of the new computer aided engineering (CAE) systems is a database which can connect all the different engineering disciplines that are contributing to a project – from process engineering to fluid and electrical engineering - enabling colleagues to work simultaneously instead of sequentially and providing transparent, easily understood documentation throughout the design process. Streamlining workflow This means that the highly varied and diverse tasks involved in planning process plant projects can be streamlined to accelerate the entire process. CAE provides a seamless, enterprise-wide workflow and improves accuracy by eliminating the possibility of human error that exists when manually exchanging data. As a project progresses, changes are documented and updated instantly and can be seen by everyone involved - all engineers, all departments, the customer and, eventually, even the maintenance team. Crucially in today’s global marketplace, CAE software can effortlessly convert project documentation to a language convenient for customers, vendors and subcontractors, and export it in one of many common file formats including intelligent PDFs and DWG. Using these accessible formats to import and export mark-ups can tighten up the sometimes lengthy process of obtaining and applying customer revisions and gaining approvals. Once a decision is finalised, the CAE tool can automatically generate a complete building package for manufacturing that includes all diagrams, lists and component IDs. If desired, automated setups for Numerical Control (NC) machining and wire processing can be exported as well. Once a project has been completed, CAE systems allow all modified data to be shared with service technicians who can access files on a laptop for quick and mobile troubleshooting. They can even click on a specific part to view its data sheet within the PDF. Automating design Many projects require a significant amount of recurrent information to be entered. With traditional CAD tools, this tedious task was not only time-intensive, but also prone to error. In contrast, CAE systems allow this information to be inserted into a project with a single keystroke and also automate other time-consuming processes such as device tagging and wire numbering. During the design process, engineers are able to import component data directly from vendor catalogues which saves time, improves accuracy and enables costs to be assessed quickly and a bill of materials (BOM) to be produced. Some CAE systems allow intelligent macros to be created thanks to a powerful database which can contain every type of component from the IEC symbol library, from a simple fuse to information about a PLC. This enables common sub-assemblies like motor drives to be inserted into projects within seconds, generating all wire and terminal numbering. Used at the earliest stages of design, CAE tools enable engineers to be more creative and explore more design concepts than before by merging data with 3D modelling software. These virtual prototypes are invaluable in proving a design before manufacture and also enable faster, more informed decisions to be made as schemes progress through the design cycle. In practice Fischcon PV, the Dutch-based manufacturer of custom hydraulic packs and firefighting systems used in oil and gas exploration, found that installing a CAE system to optimise parts management accelerated order completions, reduced risk of errors and reduced time spent fulfilling orders by up to 20%. The database was originally stored in the mechanical PDM system used by its mechanical engineers and available only to them. However, because Fischcon´s electrical engineers now work in EPLAN CAE, they were able to establish a bidirectional link so that the database could be accessed by everyone. The benefits of centralised component management include significant financial savings for the company. For one of its larger systems, it has reduced time spent fulfilling orders by about 500 hours per unit, a 20% improvement that translates into annual savings of about A150,000. Similarly, Advanced Machine & Tool Corporation (AMT) switched from a previous provider three years ago and reports that projects are consequently completed in approximately a third of the time. AMT specialises in the building of coiling and winding equipment and other machines used in the production of electric motors, generators, alternators and other devices for the automotive and other industries, much of it for OEMs (original equipment manufacturers). For AMT the engineering phase of fulfilling an order can take as little as three days, or as much as 60 weeks for the most elaborate projects, but a typical order involves a customer wanting a single machine to produce a new motor or for augmenting or streamlining current production. “It might be as simple as adding a machine similar to one they have now, or showing us a product they want to produce and asking ‘How do we manufacture it?’”, says ATM electrical engineer Mark Lohrman. “Using the customer’s prints, mechanical engineering will design the machine, after which the electrical engineers get involved developing the control system.” AMT initially took a conservative approach to implementing the new system, and benchmarked projects to verify productivity gains against time. They found that the automation of many essential, timeconsuming tasks allowed for savings of 23 – 28 hours in a project that would have taken two weeks using their previous supplier. This has been achieved in four main areas: • Device tagging and wire numbering has been automated along with the generation of the actual device tags, wire numbers and terminal tags. AMT engineers use CAE’s internal functionality to set up the printers by transmitting an Excel spreadsheet with all the data, saving four to five hours. • Error-free terminal diagrams and BOMs are automatically generated, saving five hours. • Standard circuitry is archived and re-used from project to project, saving eight to twelve hours. • Fluid schematics have been integrated into the overall project, eliminating errors with device naming and missed components, saving six hours. “Automatic numbering is a big thing for us, as is parts management,” says Lohrman. “I can go to the parts list and pick out a part and, if there is a macro associated with it, I am set”. AMT engineers are also able to download component data sets from leading suppliers. “It’s a major time saver not having to go through all the pages of documentation to find out measurements,” says Lohrman. Selection criteria Not all CAE systems offer the same benefits and companies should consider their future needs when investing. They should also consider the advantages of adopting a modular system which allows further specialist products such as fluid power engineering or piping and instrumentation diagrams to be added on so that businesses can tailor their software to match their developing requirements. The new generation of CAE is revolutionising electrical engineering design by accelerating turnaround times, improving accuracy and allowing engineers to understand, predict and improve product performance at the earliest stages of design. Companies embracing the new technology are well placed to compete in the marketplace. Computer aided engineering is, without doubt, the future of electrical design. EPLAN Software & Services Rotherham, South Yorkshire Can be contacted on: Tel: 01709 704 100 E-mail: info@eplan.co.uk Web: www.eplan.co.uk A powerful new generation of software is revolutionising electrical engineering design and process engineers are well placed to benefit, says Ken Christie, director of EPLAN UK. Process Industry Inforem r October-November 2013 39


PII Oct-Nov 2013
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