How You Can Gain A Competitive Edge With Smart Control Panels?


In order to improve the competitive effectiveness, global demands, and reduced time-to-market challenge, manufacturers follow lean concepts and use innovations. Recent technical developments to modernize traditional control panels’ wiring are changing the design, installation, commissioning, and maintenance of control panels. Each year the bar for the competition is increased. New technology, developments, and more dynamic production processes drive higher productivity levels.

And how do engineering managers translate these instructions to drive efficiency and competitiveness? It is important to instill a wider view of projects and look at the overall cost of ownership over the investment period, rather than the initial project cost. It also helps to drive consistency and quality wherever possible.

But how would business further strengthen their foothold and achieve a competitive advantage? Decreasing time-to-market and getting early input on product designs from customers/end users are the key factors in creating and retaining a first-mover advantage.

For instance, the U.S. automotive industry is undergoing a phase of growth. It faces critical complications related to lowering time-to-market for new vehicle plan. What would usually account for forty-eight to sixty months from the date of the plan’s initiation to the production function’s launch is squeezed down to nearly 50% lower time, resulting in the delivery being between twenty-four and thirty months.

Improving Productivity

The first step in growing efficiency for control panel building operations is understanding the importance of structural design, advanced engineering, quality material, effective assembly, careful documentation, expert control testing, and enabling commissioning costs.

Material costs can vary from 35% to 65%, while manufacturing, testing, and assembly costs make a difference. Besides, the costs of on-site installation and commissioning for device integration or turnkey service must be addressed.

Furthermore, frequently neglected and rarely reported operating costs are being absorbed—although they may apply to particular projects. Some of these costs apply to pre-engineering, preliminary design, and post-order assistance or troubleshooting at the customer’s request.

Discovering Cost-Reduction Prospects

But what is to be done after negotiating the best part price and establishing the smallest footprint and enclosure size? The traditional hardwired control panels limit further cost-reduction opportunities. The real possibilities for cost savings occur in minimizing control panel manufacturing, testing, and production time, with material costs a relative constant.

Creating a standardized interface or replacing hardwired pushbuttons on a control network with a touchscreen can reduce engineering time. For example, in designs with ten or more pushbuttons, it is usually preferable to use a touchscreen. Also, wiring time can be decreased by around 15 percent by using spring-cage terminals instead of traditional screw terminations.

Improving Control Panels’ Link Techniques

How will efficiency be impacted by decreasing the amount of point-to-point wires in a control panels’ cabinet? Less wiring means less assembly time, fewer risks of making errors, less time required to check and test cable connections, less time needed to build a cable schedule, and more space available for the control cabinet. Do you recall when the control panels’ links were hardwired before industrial control networks or field buses?

Remember when the wiring to the main controller and I/O modules between control panels consisted of home-run wiring? Fieldbuses and remote I/O replaced home-run cabling, which marked a significant improvement in on-site control cabling and system implementations in terms of efficiency. Remember to explore options in control panels with wiring methods that can:

  • Connect/link basic motor-control components
  • Remove complex hardwiring
  • Boost engineering
  • Improve assembly
  • Enhance testing and commissioning procedures
  • Lower control panels’ cabinet space requirements

Whether connecting to dedicated/discrete controllers or PLC networks, solutions that can enhance control panel engineering, design, testing, and commissioning are now possible. Finally, there is a device-level wiring system/network that optimizes the wiring control panel as fieldbuses revolutionized the industry almost two decades ago.

Modern equipment such as device-level wiring systems has made engineers’ and designers’ lives easier by enabling them to reinvent traditional control panel configurations, thus facilitating them to design and develop modular, more accessible, and compact control systems. Besides, such systems also offer advanced user diagnostics for commission functions and maintenance purposes. So, before you make any decisions regarding smart control panels, it is advised that you talk to an electrical expert first!

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