Their observations on the new enclosure are notably around improved operational efficiencies and increased productivity. These offer interesting insights for other operators, and indeed anyone who has the final say on enclosure technology.
Sometimes, it's the smallest things that make all the difference. For Eugen Franzen, the team leader for mechanical installation at Controller Steuerungstechnik GmbH, part of the Schaper Group, it was an almost nondescript detail that won him over. He says: "The hole counting on the new frame sections means we can now pinpoint precisely where enclosure mounting parts should go."
This tiny, time-saving addition means operators can mount support rails or cable clamp rails at identical heights across all their enclosures, easily and with confidence. Eugene says: "Previously, we often had to revisit such details, which always involved extra work that we no longer have to worry about."
It's a welcome productivity improvement for Schaper Group teams, who like many in the sector, juggle fit-to-burst order books and high time/cost pressures, with the ever-present lack of specialist workers.
Nils Mentrup, technical manager at Schaper Steuerungstechnik GmbH explains: "All in all, we currently have seven vacancies in the manufacturing department alone and could hire trained applicants on the spot." Automated solutions that deliver a higher output with fewer trained staff offer Nils some relief. But clearly new components and systems that save time during assembly also boost efficiency in manufacturing operations. At the company's cutting-edge manufacturing plant in Herford, Germany, everything is state of the art, meticulously planned and perfectly organised.
The facility, which features numbered wiring areas, was built in 2009 more than doubled in size in the last year. Seventy workers manufacture control and switchgear systems of various sizes at the site. Nils explains: "Thanks to the facility's expansion, we now have enough space to produce several large systems 30 to 40 metres in length at once."
They have just completed their first control systems using Rittal's new VX25 enclosure. Nils recalls: "Its predecessor, TS 8, was a flawless enclosure. That's why we were pleasantly surprised that Rittal had evidently put a lot of thought into many different potential improvements when it devised the VX25."
His attention has been on the reduced number of mounting parts and the positive impact this has had in terms of storage. He says: "You see it straight away because storage is less of an issue now - both in our central warehouse and the parts warehouses for the individual projects that we set up directly at our workstations."
The stability of the VX25 also meets the team's approval. Eugene says: "The enclosure itself is more stable now - that's one of its major benefits." This is particularly apparent in the new gland plates.
When fitters are expanding enclosures they have to repeatedly go inside them. Eugene remembers: "In the past, the gland plates were often somewhat bent as a result, meaning we had to carry out reworking." This is now a thing of the past, which of course adds to the overall time saving. Added to which, there is the enclosure flooring's design. He adds: "The frame is now designed so that there is no space between it and the gland plate. Back in the day, we often had problems with a screw falling down the gap."
The new hinges allow the team to remove the enclosure doors without levering any hinge pins. Eugene advises: "Even if we don't plan to carry out machining on one of our Perforex machining centres, we usually take the enclosure doors off because it makes wiring so much easier."
This particularly applies to larger switchgear, where wires need to be installed across multiple enclosures. Eugene ads: "The time saved in assembly and dismantling can be anything up to one minute or more for each enclosure. We also no longer have to wonder which rail goes where because with the VX25, the rails fit on both the vertical and horizontal frame parts and can be fitted from the side or the rear." This means the team can now screw on a rail from the back, even if the mounting plate has already been fitted in the enclosure.
Eugene continues: "In the past, if we ever forgot about the rail - which is an absolute must for some switchgear built to UL - we had to take the mounting plate apart or at least tip it forwards." This is no longer the case, making life a lot easier for the team, and extends to fitting mounting components or side/rear panels.
"During assembly work, we always used to have two cordless screwdrivers that were equipped with the appropriate screw bits - now we only need one." The principle of one-person assembly has also won the team leader over: "I can simply attach the rear panel at the top and it stays securely in position until I've tightened the screws."
For any team, switching to new technology or products can create issues. A delighted Nils says: "At the start, most people are sceptical whenever things change, but we found the switchover to be quick and seamless."
This smooth transition is helped by the VX25 conversion assistant - a web-based tool that enables customers to simply convert parts lists from projects planned using the TS 8 into parts lists for the VX25. Teams simply drag and drop their old parts lists onto the designated site, upload them as Excel files, and download the new parts lists once converted.
Even 3D engineering plans generated by Eplan Pro Panel can be converted without virtually no manual intervention. Nils says: "Now that the first two large systems with the new enclosure are nearly finished, we have a good handle on how the conversion works."
There are other time-saving aspects to dealing with Rittal: for example, the company's 24-hour delivery service.
Nils says: "Nowadays, most units that we use in our systems take a relatively long time to deliver - that's not the case with Rittal enclosures, which are always delivered the day after we place the order. We're going to spread the word among our customers and we're certain that they'll soon see the benefits, too."
Follow the link for more information about Rittal's new VX25 enclosure.