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WSCAD has been developing electrical CAD solutions for almost three decades and offers three core product lines: the WSCAD Suite, WSCAD Universe, and an Augmented Reality App. The WSCAD Suite is an electrical CAD solution based on one core platform that covers six engineering disciplines: electrical engineering, cabinet engineering, piping and instrumentation, fluid engineering, building automation and electrical installation.
WSCAD Universe is an electrical CAD data library (www.wscaduniverse.com) which is available for free and offers data on over 1.4 million parts from more than 280 manufacturers.
The WSCAD Augmented Reality app is for maintenance engineers and service personnel. The app is ideal for scenarios where an engineer is faced with a legacy cabinet or machine which has recently begun causing problems. To resolve the issue, the engineer would first need to find the schematics for the cabinet. However, they are unlikely to be located where the cabinet is which means the engineer must first identify the faulty part and then go searching for the specific schematic which is probably filed away in paper form at another location.
Figure 1 - The WSCAD app can be used to scan components within a cabinet which then provides access to schematics, device tags, part data, 3D representations, and even the original data sheets.
To simplify a maintenance task such as this, the WSCAD app can be used to scan components within a cabinet which then provides access to schematics, device tags, part data, 3D representations, and even the original data sheets or an exact website where technical information can be found. Alternatively, if the component has been discontinued, the app will show whether a successor product is available. Downloadable for free on any smartphone or tablet, the app also gives the option to send product information to the purchasing department if a spare part is required or to the engineering department if something needs to be changed.
The app is an example of the recent development of Industry 4.0 technologies that make use of data to improve working processes. However, Axel believes that some of these technologies can be both a burden and a solution. The latest Industry 4.0 technologies are certainly innovative with engineers able to use virtual reality (VR) headsets to explore a cabinet’s virtual twin and interact with its digital components before making any real-world decisions. However, Axel believes these types of Industry 4.0 technologies are simply not feasible yet. Engineers are unlikely to go into the field carrying several high-tech gadgets, such as a Microsoft HoloLens. Instead, WSCAD looked at what an engineer already has on them; a smartphone. In Axel’s view, technology can be a burden if the product hasn’t been designed with the user in mind which is why WSCAD developed an app to provide key information on a device that almost every engineer has on them already.
For Axel, there are two opportunities for improving the capabilities of electrical CAD systems to make them invaluable in an Industry 4.0 setting. The first is artificial intelligence (AI) which has two approaches to adoption. The simple approach, which isn’t new, is rule-based where during the design of a cabinet, the software systematically checks certain criteria to ensure components are in the correct place and compatible. The second approach is a software engine capable of learning by itself. Axel’s vision is for a CAD system which can propose a meaningful next step at every stage of the design process. The emphasis is on the step being meaningful and not just a simple confirmation that what the user is doing is correct. Instead the system can learn and understand what the user wants to do and automatically find the most efficient and optimal way of doing that. CAD software is not yet at this stage, but as Industry 4.0 continues to develop at a remarkable rate, it is unlikely to be far away.
The advent of Industry 4.0 technologies also has its disadvantages, however. Some engineers struggle with the complexities that come with every new generation of products. The design process of a cabinet can already be difficult without the added complexity of new devices needing to be accounted for. An issue that almost all cabinet manufacturers face is project time, but a project doesn’t allow for an extra six months just because a new product is released. This means CAD software must be easy to use and able to understand and implement new devices without adding complexity.
Some companies may find themselves adopting new technology just to keep up with industry rather than for the actual benefits it could bring. Exhibitions and marketing videos tend to demonstrate virtual worlds and the latest innovative devices which can give a company the impression that it’s lagging behind. It may seem like the rest of the industry is far more technologically advanced when in reality it’s not. The key to adopting any new technology is looking at where the benefits are for your company; is anything running faster, is it cheaper, are fewer mistakes being made? If the answer is no, then Axel feels there’s no need to change anything. Many use cases surrounding Industry 4.0 may look ‘cool’ to look at and try, but there are still major question marks over these technologies for most panel builders.
Figure 2 - There is also an option to send product information straight to the purchasing department if a spare part is required or to the engineering department if something needs changing.
The second opportunity is business intelligence. With vast quantities of data being produced, there needs to be ways of digesting it and gaining meaningful insights to improve efficiency and productivity. For example, a panel builder designing a cabinet is faced with a variety of devices from a number of companies such as Schneider, ABB, Rockwell, Siemens etc. and they must decide on which device is best to use for the application at hand. With so much data available, the panel builder can be inundated with technical specifications and a range of criteria to consider. This is where electrical CAD systems can and should help according to Axel, making product selection easier and simpler while helping the panel builder make more informed, meaningful decisions during the design process.
Business intelligence in the form of CAD software can also make an impact in helping to alleviate some of the challenges posed by the skills gap. There is currently a generational switch occurring as older, experienced engineers retire and less experienced engineers come in and replace them. A less experienced generation of engineers means technology is required to help negate the effects of losing the valuable experience of retiring engineers. Axel explains that the WSCAD Suite was designed with functionality in mind and is therefore able to help in this regard. An experienced user of electrical CAD systems who has spent many hours using them is likely to know all the intricacies that the software has to offer. However, 90% of users are inexperienced, casual users who are unlikely to know or remember the ins and outs of the software. If the user is struggling to operate the system, then the efficiency and productivity gains that are meant to be made when using CAD are thrown out the window.
Axel explains that WSCAD Suite caters for this through the use of macros, or templates. Similar to how Microsoft Word offers pre-made templates depending on whether you are writing a letter, a CV, an article and so on, CAD solutions use the same principle. Users can define their own templates with their own variables which means rather than spending three weeks designing a schematic, it can be done in a minute with software. By using CAD to automate parts of the cabinet design process, the engineer isn’t required to remember each step that needs to be made. This will eventually become part of Axel’s dream scenario of a system which can predict what the engineer wants to do and then help deliver what they want to achieve.
Technology will continue to become more complex and the skills gap will continue to exist so unless a CAD system is easy to use and able to meaningfully help, then panel builders will continue to face difficulties. Today’s engineers are not working for eight hours a day on CAD systems as their time on the software is limited by meetings with suppliers and customers, production planning, and a host of other tasks. If an engineer can’t remember how to do something because it’s hidden away amongst several sub-menus and settings, then there is little chance of being productive. This is the challenge facing CAD suppliers, Axel says, and a reason for the continuing development and push towards simpler and smarter computer-aided design.
For more information, visit https://www.wscad.com/en/
About Dr. Axel Zein:
Axel grew up in Germany near Stuttgart and gained a master’s degree in economics and computer science at the University of Stuttgart. Before joining WSCAD, he worked for IBM and EPLAN. Axel has been CEO of WSCAD since July 2014.
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