(Click here to view article in digital edition)
Rittal’s implementation of digitalisation was explored in the November issue of PBSI, but with the release of the VX25 at Hannover Messe last month, a full digital workflow has now been realised – from online configuration and engineering to assembly, automation and tracking. Alistair Hookway, PBSI Editor, was given a preview of the VX25, including how it fits into Rittal’s Industry 4.0 processes, and also sat down with the Rittal CEO, Dr. Karl-Ulrich Köhler to find out more.
The VX25 large enclosure system
The VX25 consists of all the key features of the TS 8, but with a number of improvements. The key attribute is highlighted within the name itself – the ‘25’ standing for the 25mm pitch pattern on all vertical and horizontal sides that provides complete symmetry and simplicity. The frame of the VX25 provides accessibility from all four sides with the outer two mounting levels able to be populated from the outside. Only two tools are required to complete the entire enclosure while the new snap-on door handle requires no tools at all and can be installed with just a few manual operations.
The base/plinth has also been completely rethought. It combines all the functions of the TS and the Flex-Block base/plinth systems in one solution, but all the usual enclosure accessories can now also be installed in the base/plinth. It’s often difficult to install heavy mounting plates due to the awkwardness of lifting them with a crane and the subsequent installation. With the VX25 however, new protective slides ensure that the mounting plate can be easily positioned and screwed in place after it has been lowered down by the crane.
A number of innovations have also been implemented when it comes down to joining up enclosures in bayed suites. The new baying system needs far fewer parts with only four baying clamps being required compared to the previous fourteen. Since all the screws are mounted in the direction of the bay, assembly is also simplified. A new baying seal, which is simply snapped on and easily positioned, ensures that the enclosure’s degree of protection is retained when baying.
The 25mm pitch pattern continues through into adjacent bayed enclosures which allows for rails to be mounted over multiple enclosures. These and other baying options can now be implemented with a 40 percent smaller range of punched sections with or without mounting flanges. This way, inventories and logistics outlay can also be substantially reduced. Rittal says that the price level for the VX25 will be similar to that of the TS 8, but for a superior product.
The development of VX25 was undertaken by Rittal on its own accord and not as a market request or requirement to replace the previous TS 8. This was certainly a confident move, but Rittal CEO Dr. Karl-Ulrich Köhler said that Rittal strongly believes its products can always be improved and saw an opportunity to move enclosures into the realm of Industry 4.0. As the Fourth Industrial Revolution continues to take shape across industry, evolving from buzzword into reality, the time to develop new products and processes is very much now.
To coincide with the release of VX25, a recent €500mil investment has helped realign Rittal’s worldwide production facilities towards Industry 4.0 and thus helped digitise its whole value chain. The key to digitalisation is the digital twin – a virtual replica that utilises data to simulate the life cycle of an asset for preventative maintenance – not just for a single product, but for a whole system or process. The connection of design, production, machining, delivery and service has helped Rittal realise significant cost savings and efficiency gains not just for itself, but also for its customers who make use of the data being made available to them.
Through talking to its customers, Rittal found that by using integrated software in panel building, efficiency gains of up to 43% were able to be achieved. Similarly, 55% of time can be saved for mechanical processing when utilising digital engineering drawings. Machines and systems may have been producing data for years now, but it is the utilisation of the data which is the key part of Industry 4.0. This is further shown by how 17 hours are lost to reading documents for 500 wires per enclosure, but with a virtual 3D CAD/CAE drawing, enclosure builders become 81% faster in completing the task. Programs with integrated assistance that process data to offer the optimal sequence of how to build an enclosure are bringing significant efficiency gains and developing what Rittal calls ‘enclosure engineering 4.0’.
The release of the VX25 is the culmination of Rittal merging physical and virtual workflows. What makes a box Industry 4.0 compatible? Access of data. Therefore, data is consistently made available through electrical planning, mechanical design, purchasing, cost calculation, and manufacturing. Rittal’s sister company EPLAN boasts both Pro Panel, a CAE software solution for the 3D engineering and verification of control cabinets, as well as a data portal that contains component data from an array of manufacturers. Both solutions provide vital data and enable access to a digital twin that minimises risk by validating the positioning of components in real-time. In addition, Rittal has simplified the ordering processes with an online shop, as well as a web-based conversion tool for changeover from the TS 8 to the VX25. Finally, VX25 panels are equipped with a QR code making it possible to associate components with a specific order or customer project so that they can be tracked through the complete workflow, assigned to the correct editing programs and for processing times to be recorded.
Digitalisation for all
In order to produce the VX25, a product that was conceived with digitalisation in mind, Rittal is gearing up its own production to be Industry 4.0 viable by constructing new manufacturing lines in its Rittershausen plant. The high-tech production lines are being installed while other lines continue to function in order to minimise downtime. By incorporating automation and gathering data within the production facility, Rittal will not just be able to conduct predictive maintenance, it will also be able to predict which stock is required before it has even been ordered.
However, Rittal is not just adopting Industry 4.0 practices for itself, it is also offering direct routes to data for its customers so that they may also begin or continue their own Industry 4.0 transformations. Rittal CEO Dr. Köhler sees unlimited opportunities in Industry 4.0 for companies of all sizes. He believes that to encourage smaller companies to take their first steps towards Industry 4.0 and reap its rewards, larger companies such as Rittal must systematically talk to customers and enable them to achieve the efficiency gains possible.
For smaller companies, the idea of investing time and money into digitalisation may not seem as appealing or even possible when simply trying to fulfil the next order and staying on top of current demand. However, Dr. Köhler suggests that even small steps towards Industry 4.0 is enough to whet your appetite for it and realise the savings that are achievable not just in the short-term, but for many years to come. Cost savings are as vital as ever in UK manufacturing with the increasing competition of cheaper foreign alternatives on top of the impending outcome of Brexit in March 2019. Dr. Köhler is unsure of how Brexit will affect the industry, but one thing he is sure of is that a weaker UK is bad for everyone. One way he believes that companies can prosper in the face of such adversities is by adopting state-of-the-art processes and continuing to improve efficiency – both of which are achievable through digitalisation.
Print this page | E-mail this page
Discover the future of engineering today
Download a copy of our digital magazine