But recognising the need for process optimisation is very different from being able to put it into practice. The heart of the problem is that it takes a lot of resources to investigate which processes need improving, and to work out the details of how they should be improved. And in the present-day lean manufacturing environment, these resources simply aren’t available to most businesses. This seems like an insoluble conundrum – your business won’t thrive unless your processes are optimised, but you can’t afford to optimise your processes!
The problem is particularly acute in the area of connectivity because this is a key part of every automation and machine-building project, yet very few companies have interconnection specialists on their payroll. It’s easy to see why. Interconnection sounds trivial – surely, it’s just about cutting wires to length, crimping connections and wiring terminals. What is there to optimise?
Actually, today’s interconnection requirements are much wider than this and are getting ever wider as Industry 4.0 creates a growing need for both vertical and horizontal integration. But even if interconnection were limited to just terminals and crimping, it would still be worth looking at closely, because these activities represent a significant fraction of the time spent on building machines and control panels.
With all of this in mind, one enlightened and innovative supplier of automation components has developed a solution to the process optimisation conundrum. This solution is connectivity consulting. In essence, this means that the company will use its own time and expertise to analyse the connectivity issues that are holding back your business and suggest solutions. If you decide to adopt those solutions – and the choice is always yours – the company will work with you to implement them and to make sure that they deliver the gains that are expected of them.
The connectivity consulting service we’re discussing in this article genuinely is different. It’s primarily about providing comprehensive solutions that will deliver both immediate and long-term benefits for your business rather than simply specifying which components you should use. The support doesn’t stop when you’ve placed your order – it’s there for you to call on for as long as you need it.
So what sort of areas can you expect the connectivity consulting service to look at? Possibly one of the most obvious is panel wiring, where the consultant will analyse your needs and advise whether you could make significant productivity gains by, for example, switching from manual cutting and crimping tools to automatic tools or even by investing in machines that will take data from your engineering design software and use it to automatically cut and prepare every wire needed in a control panel.
It’s worth noting that even simple changes can help you to boost efficiency and product quality. Changing to power screwdrivers, for example, not only speeds up assembly and wiring but also helps to ensure that every screw is tightened to the correct torque.
Then there are the terminals themselves. Screw-clamp terminals are still very popular and are undoubtedly a well-proven solution, but push-in spring-clamp types are arguably even more reliable, especially in applications where they will be subjected to high levels of vibration, and they cut wiring time dramatically. In many applications, the latest push-in terminals, can deliver even bigger time and cost savings, with absolutely no sacrifice in performance or reliability.
Maybe you could simplify and speed up the design and assembly of your terminal rails. If it’s appropriate for you, the connectivity consulting service will introduce you to an on-line configurator that uses selection wizards to aid terminal rail design and to make sure that you never forget or incorrectly specify a component. In addition, if you use the configurator, you can, with just a few mouse clicks, order a terminal rail manufactured to your design rather than assembling it in house.
Of course, the connectivity consultancy service goes much further than simply advising you about terminals and wiring. It can also look at things like ways in which you might be able to reduce the size of the control cabinets you use and whether multipole connectors might be a better option for your application than conventional terminals. It can even provide advice on technical topics like improving the EMC performance of your products.
If, by now, connectivity consulting is starting to sound as if it might be useful for your business, you’ll probably be wondering how it works. In practice, making use of the service is very easy. You can either formulate specific issues you’d like to address or identify areas of your business where you’d like to make improvements. The next step is to contact Weidmuller and an experienced engineer will contact you to arrange a visit to your manufacturing site.
During that visit, engineers will look in depth at your existing processes and gather detailed information about them. Subsequently, they’ll work with this information to develop proposals that could help your business. They will arrange to visit you again to discuss their proposals and, wherever possible, demonstrate them in action so you can accurately judge for yourself how beneficial they would be and whether you want to adopt them.
If you decide to go ahead with any or all of the suggestions, Weidmuller will guide you through implementation, and will continue to be available to you to monitor progress, deal with queries and to spot opportunities for further improvements. Connectivity consulting isn’t a one-shot service – it’s a partnership that continues for as long as you want it to.
For more information visit the Weidmuller web page or you can call on 0845 096 2007.