Pepperl+Fuchs, a Mannheim-based company, is known amongst other things for its high-quality explosion protection products. However, through its global network of Solution Engineering Centres (SEC), the Process Automation Division also offers engineering and customised system solutions for clients all over the world, designing, manufacturing and delivering about 25,000 of these enclosure and system solutions every year.
The example of the south German town of Bühl offers a good insight into the centres’ working methods. In the last five years, this particular Centre has worked intensively on standardising and optimising processes. Each week, around 60 projects are handled by the SEC with tight time schedules. It was therefore necessary, amongst other things, to optimise the lead times in manufacturing and switch from parallel production to the one-piece flow principle. The introduction of Eplan Pro Panel as a scalable 3D system was one such stand- ardisation measure. Thanks to this decision, the complex and time-consuming construction of prototypes can now be omitted. Me- chanical discrepancies are detected early on when planning the switch cabinets and can be rectified easily. Furthermore, all processes at the centres are constantly scrutinised and adjusted so that they are optimally tailored to customer needs. And since this standardisation is performed in close interaction with all sites, the workload can be efficiently distributed and balanced between the SECs.
Yet which precise steps are necessary if the customer wants a bespoke solution? The SEC works closely with sales in the quotation phase – that is from the request, feasibility study and project calculation through to the solution offer. Once the contract is awarded, the entire project responsibility and execution passes to the SEC. This includes everything from the production drawings, procurement, assembly and wiring to the final acceptance test by the customer. Finally, the SEC is responsible for certification in accordance with relevant national and international explosion protection stand-ards, extensive project documentation and handling the logistics of delivering the ready-to-use system to the user’s site.
Certification plays a crucial role with these tailored solutions. Exactly how crucial is demonstrated by the Houston SEC in the U.S. State of Texas. As at other locations around the world, customers there are offered solutions that meet all applicable safety requirements and easily obtain the necessary local, regional or international approvals. This service in particular sets Pepperl+Fuchs apart from many other companies. Although clients may be able to build such solutions themselves and have them certified, this is extremely expensive in view of the huge number of authorisation standards and certification bodies. These include, for instance, Atex, IECEx, ISO, UL, Customs Union (formerly GOST), CCOE, Nepsi, CSA, Inmetro and many more.
Owing to this abundance of regulations, it is much easier for customers to outsource responsibility for obtaining and maintaining certifications – especially in times when there is a clear trend towards streamlining corporate structures. Amongst other things, purchasing bespoke, fully certified solutions helps reduce the time to commissioning. At the same time, the fact that a company’s employees can concentrate on their core business also increases efficiency and saves significant costs. And since this service is available from all SECs worldwide, this is a huge benefit for firms with international projects. Tasks such as engineering, parts procurement and plant construction are often executed at different locations in such large-scale projects. Pepperl+Fuchs can offer optimum on-site support throughout each phase.
The right basis for each solution
Around 5000 miles from Houston on the other side of the Atlantic, the big aim is to leverage synergy effects and produce components cost-effectively for all SECs. Both of these sites manufacture empty enclosures that will be used later by the other SECs as a basis for individual solutions. For example, the SEC in Wednesbury near Birmingham manufactures enclosures made from stainless steel sheet metal or glass fibre reinforced polyester for the Ex e, Ex i, and Ex p protection types. The metal enclosures are punched from flat sheets, bent into shape and processed using a special welding robot. What makes them really special is that their design allows them to be processed without adding any welding consumables.. This is a great advantage for customers because they acquire a enclosure completely made from corrosion-free and seawater-resistant material (AISI 316L).
The SEC in Burago, near Milan, makes enclosures for the Ex d type of protection. These are fabricated from saltwater-resistant, copper-free aluminium or high-grade stainless steel. The raw enclosures are manufactured at a foundry specifically for Pepperl+Fuchs. The raw parts are subsequently processed in modern CNC processing centres in accordance with explosion protection requirements and other safety standards, and then prepared for customer-specific finishing. Finally, the enclosures are shipped from Wednesbury or Burago to SECs around the world, where they are made into bespoke, turnkey solutions that help customers to minimise downtimes and concentrate fully on their core business.
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