Advanced Machine & Tool in Fort Wayne, Ind., designs and builds manufacturing automation systems, especially coiling and winding equipment that make it possible to manufacture electric motors, generators, automotive alternators, and comparable machines. By adopting a new plant automation system, AMT has achieved considerable improvements in its own manufacturing productivity.
The change involved implementing EPlan solutions in place of AutoCAD Electrical project planning, to develop strategies for time-consuming product development steps, like device tagging, wire numbering, and machine design standardization. The changes also included archiving and re-using recurrent content, and the switch has not only simplified manufacturing efforts, but accelerated them, too.
EPlan Software & Service designs engineering programs that speed up product development and data integration. It develops customer-specific PDM and PLM concepts and provides comprehensive services like customizing programs, consulting, and training, too. It estimates it supports 30,000 customers with 90,000 installations, worldwide.
AMT adopted EPlan three years ago had an unusual origin. Most companies switch to EPlan after recognizing their existing CAD software isn’t sufficient for their current or future requirements. AMT engineers, working in AutoCAD Electrical, didn’t sense they were lacking anything until one of their important customers, an automotive manufacturer, stipulated it wanted EPlan electrical drawings for the machines it orders, to expedite the production of documentation and to improve their accuracy.
This set AMT engineers researching whether EPlan would be a better option than their current CAD program. Determining that it would be, AMT began a gradual process of switching all electrical and fluid power assignments to the EPlan Platform. Now, the engineers are pleased to have recommended the switch. “I thought we were comfortable with our old CAD system, but I sure wouldn’t go back to it now,” stated electrical engineer Mark Lohrman.
AMT specializes at manufacturing coiling and winding equipment, and other machines used in the production of electric motors, generators, alternators, and other devices for automotive and other industries, much of it for OEMs. The engineering phase of fulfilling an order may take as little as three days, or as much as 60 weeks for the most elaborate projects, but a typical order involves a customer that wants a single machine to produce a new motor or to augment or streamline 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?“ said Lohrman.
Automate most time-consuming tasks
Beyond the single automotive customer that required EPlan documentation, AMT took a conservative approach to implementing EPlan. Projects were benchmarked to verify productivity gains and, over time, more and more projects were executed in EPlan. “Now we are at a point where regardless of what is being released, we do it in EPlan,” according to Lohrman. Switching to EPlan has made it possible to generate accurate and well-structured documentation faster than previously possible.
For an assignment that might have taken two weeks of working in AutoCAD, the biggest savings using EPlan — about 23-28 work hours — were achieved in four areas.
- Device tagging and wire numbering used to be a manual task. Now, this step 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. The change saves 4-5 hours of working time, they estimate.
- Error-free terminal diagrams and BOMs are automatically generated... saving five more hours.
- Standard circuitry is archived, and re-used from project to project, saving another 8-12 hours.
- Fluid schematics is integrated now into the overall project, eliminating errors with device-naming and missed components, saving six hours of process and production time.
For larger projects, the savings are proportionately greater.
Archiving of macros continues to expand “Automatic numbering is a big thing for us,” Lohrman said. “I can go to the parts list and pick out a part. If there is a macro associated with it, I am set.” The benefits of archiving and re-using standard content are expanding along with the amount of content items stored as EPlan macros: now over 300 processes and over 500 components.
“Drawing are archived and can be found easily,” he noted. “I can bring up a complete set of drawing in just a few minutes; I don’t have to go back into paper files.
Engineering, production now more integrated
“While the vast majority of our machines are customized designs, there are a few that we repeat with minor adjustments,” Lohrman elaborated. “With EPlan, we can pull up the drawings, make minor adjustments quickly and easily, 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, WAGO, and other information. “Data Portal is easy to use,” according to Lohrman. “It’s a major time saver, not having to go through all the pages of documentation to find out measurements. If I want a new part, I always go to Data Portal first.”
For AMT, EPlan’s support has ensured a smooth transition. “We get a quick turnaround when we make a request,” according to Lohrman. “Usually, within the day. An EPlan support technician can go online and see my screen, he can see the problem, which makes trouble-shooting so much easier.”
AMT’s future plans with EPlan are likely to include closer integration of electrical and fluid design, as more engineers are trained in EPlan Fluid. That way, two disciplines could work side by side to accelerate projects and optimize outcomes. Other steps may include adopting EEC One - the new EPlan Engineering Center One, to begin designing machines mechatronically, in functional units.