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Komax Digital Lean Wiring: Turbo for Data Preparation at Niehoff

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When Thomas Linder discovered our Digital Lean Wiring (DLW), the die was cast. As head of control cabinet production at Maschinenfabrik Niehoff, he was keen to get started with automated wiring. You can find out the reasons for this in our discussion with him and his employee Manuel Epple, who is responsible for data preparation, pre-assembly and wire assembly.

Key insights

  • For Niehoff, data preparation with Komax DLW was the deciding factor for the automation of its wire assembly.

  • Preparation now takes an average of 40 seconds rather than 72 seconds. This pays dividends when you have 250 wires per control cabinet.

  • This upgrade helps our customer cope with rapidly increasing demand despite a shortage of skilled workers.

Practically and efficiently, our DLW software supports qualified electricians with the preparation of assembly data for the automated prefabrication of wires, even from a batch size of 1. DLW provides several interfaces for data import and data preparation, for example. If you want to avoid the cost-intensive maintenance of a component database of commercially available ECAD systems, for virtual wiring you can also use 2D drawings or high-resolution images of the mounting plate. Based on these 2D graphics, the specialist can route and connect the wires virtually on the screen. On that basis, DLW calculates the wire lengths of each connection, generates the assembly data from that and loads it onto the wire assembly machine.

Niehoff: world-leading manufacturer of production machines for the wire and cable industry

Maschinenfabrik Niehoff GmbH & Co. KG, based in Schwabach near Nuremberg, develops and produces machines for the wire industry. Essentially, these are wire drawing machines, bunching machines, wire stranding machines and braiding machines that manufacture shielding braids for cables and electroplating plants. Niehoff is a global technology leader in this area, and its high quality and fast service speak for themselves around the world. The company's high level of vertical integration is also essential. This applies in particular to the control cabinets for its own systems, which it manufactures in Plant 2 in Marktoberdorf. Positive experiences have been particularly evident in recent years, in the face of poor or disrupted supply chains with many missing parts.

Enthusiastic about DLW: Thomas Linder, Head of control cabinet production at Niehoff (r.) and Manuel Epple, responsible for data preparation, pre-assembly and wire harnessing. In the background, a typical control cabinet from Niehoff.

How did you organize your wiring prior to automation?

TL: Traditionally, the electrician first identified each individual wire according to a paper circuit diagram. To which class does the wire belong? Is it a power or control circuit? The electrician accordingly selected the color and cross section and consulted the plan to determine which components were to be connected. According to the intended laying path, the electrician measured the wire in the control cabinet, cut it to that length, inserted the wire ends into the automated machine, which stripped it and pressed on the sleeve. As a final step, the ends were connected to the components.

What were the main disadvantages of this previous procedure?

TL: It was mainly the time factor; the throughput times were too long. For one thing, we had to bring the corresponding 100 m wire reels from the kanban shelf to the wiring station for all wires. Then we had to laboriously prepare the wire list for production, because our ECAD only generated a connection list from the system.

Was it the costs that made automation necessary?

TL: No, that was not a priority. The major challenge was the enormous increase in order volumes, which still continues. Our customers are beating a path to our door. More cables and wires are needed. Not just in electric cars. Just think of the charging infrastructure in cities and regions. For this purpose, a large number of cables with large cross-sections need to be laid. Secondly, the tight situation in the labor market. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find qualified personnel. Every automation step brings a bit of relief.

In our experience, data preparation is a crucial step in automated wire prefabrication.

How did you come up with the current solution with DLW and the Zeta 630 fully automatic wire processing machine?

TL: It was in 2018 at the SPS IPC Drives trade fair in Nuremberg. I was specifically looking for a solution to improve time-consuming wiring tasks and was provided with information about the Zeta model series at the Komax booth. There I discovered DLW. That was the decisive moment. I immediately realized: OK, so we can now also use a fully automatic wire processing machine with an ECAD that exports only little data. In our experience, data preparation is a crucial step in automated wire prefabrication.

How do things work now with DLW?

ME: We export a wire list from ECAD with the “start-end” designation and import it into Excel. There we specify the wire color and cross section and import the list into DLW. DLW generates the bundle sequence according to internal specifications. The wire end treatment is defined – ferrule or half stripping. Each wire on the list is routed completely by hand in DLW. There’s no more back and forth with the wire reels, because now the Zeta 630 delivers the wires to the assembly location in a box, with the wires arranged in a wiring-optimized sequence and ready for assembly.

Why don't you use our tablet-based DLW viewer, which guides the installer through the wiring path when laying the finished wires?

ME: Thanks to our experience, we have put together simple production rules in the wiring team. I prepare the wire sequence in DLW in a component-optimized manner. The Zeta 630 assembles the wires exactly according to these specifications, then labels and bundles them. All of this simplifies and speeds up installation enormously.

Group routing is a significant step forward, as it offers the greatest time advantage.

Meanwhile, you are working with the latest DLW version 21.x. What’s better about it?

ME: In the previous version, I still had to route each individual wire virtually. Now I can route several wires semi-automatically at the same time. “Group routing” is a major step forward, as it offers the greatest time advantage. For example, I can mark all twenty wire ends in a wire bundle, place them on a potential terminal and wire them virtually with just a few clicks. There are also significant improvements in the filter options. Thanks to these, I can find the component names and their terminals – i.e., connections – much faster. What’s more, I can sort all of this better.

The improvement is 40 - 60 %.

With DLW, Manuel Epple prepares the wire production data for a control cabinet.

By how much were you able reduce preparation time thanks to DLW?

ME: Let’s put it this way: On average, a control cabinet has 250 wires. Depending on the size, the processing time is now 2 - 3 hours. This means 40 instead of 72 seconds per wire. We were able to reduce the proportion for data processing per wire from 72 seconds to 40 seconds. In other words, the improvement is 40 - 60 %. That's very gratifying.

For whom is it worthwhile to switch to DLW?

Some readers will now wonder what this means for them. Switch to DLW for data preparation? Or like Niehoff: Automate the wiring with one of our Zeta 6xx machines in combination with DLW? The best thing to do is to get in touch with your contact person at a Komax branch office or agency. They will be happy to analyze your needs and submit a proposal.

The author will also be happy to answer your questions and suggestions.

With the data prepared in the DLW, the Zeta 630 fully automatically produces the finished wires.


René LehnApplication Specialist Data2Wire

René has been with Komax since 1990. He has worked as a digital workflow expert for automated wire prefabrication in the industrial division and as a development project manager for digital lean wiring.

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