In most case studies of automation technology application, the story typically revolves around the selection of a new technology to solve a production or cost issue. But as supply chains grow increasingly connected through use of specific technologies, it has become more common for manufacturers to switch technologies at the request of a customer.
Advanced Machine & Tool Corporation (AMT) of Fort Wayne, Ind., recently experienced this in its switch to EPlan CAD software. AMT specializes 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. The engineering phase of fulfilling an order at AMT can range from as little as three days to as much as 60 weeks for the most elaborate projects. Typical orders involve a customer wanting a single machine to produce a new motor or to augment or streamline current production.
The company was satisfied with its legacy CAD software, but then a major auto industry customer stipulated that it wanted EPlan electrical drawings for the machines it orders from AMT. This customer required AMT to make the switch to expedite the production of documentation and improve documentation accuracy between the companies’ systems.
Though AMT made the switch at the behest of a customer convinced of the new software’s superiority to AMT’s legacy application, AMT still took a conservative approach to implementing EPlan. Projects were benchmarked to verify productivity gains and, as a result, more and more AMT projects were done in Eplan. “Now we are at a point where regardless of what is being released, we do it in EPlan,” says AMT electrical engineer Mark Lohrman. “Switching to EPlan has made it possible to generate accurate and well-structured documentation faster than previously possible.”
Explaining the advantages AMT found with EPlan, Lorhman says that an assignment that would have taken two weeks working in AMT’s legacy CAD system, AMT was able to shave about 23-28 work hours from four areas using EPlan:
• Device tagging and wire numbering used to be a manual task with the legacy system. Now it has been automated along with the generation of the actual device tags, wire numbers and terminal tags. AMT engineers use the internal functionality of EPlan to set up the printers by transmitting an Excel spreadsheet with all the data, saving 4-5 hours. “Automatic numbering is a big thing for us,” says Lohrman. “I can go to the parts list and pick out a part. If there is a macro associated with it, I am set.”
• Error-free terminal diagrams and BOMs are automatically generated saving five hours of time.
• Standard circuitry is archived and re-used from project to project saving 8-12 hours. Lohrman says the benefits of archiving and re-using standard content are growing with the amount of items stored as EPlan macros now include more than 300 processes and over 500 components.
• Fluid schematics have been integrated into the overall project, eliminating errors with device naming and missed components, saving six hours.
“Drawings are archived and can be easily found,” says Lohrman. “I can bring up a complete set of drawings in just a few minutes. I don’t have to go back into paper files. While the vast majority of our machines are custom, there are a few we repeat with minor adjustments. With Eplan, we can pull up the drawings, make minor adjustments quickly, and spit out a set of plans for it.”
AMT engineers also use another source of parts data: EPlan Data Portal. They use it to download component data sets including Allen-Bradley and Wago. Lohrman says, “Data Portal is a major time saver because we don’t have to go through all the pages of documentation to find measurements. If I want a new part, I always go to Data Portal first.”
Moving beyond its initial use with EPlan, AMT says it is likely to adopt closer integration of electrical and fluid design as more engineers are trained in EPlan Fluid. Using this application, the two disciplines can work side by side to accelerate projects and optimize outcomes. Other future steps might include adopting EEC One–the new EPlan Engineering Center One—to begin designing machines mechatronically in functional units.