Collecting enquiries, researching data and materials, creating drafts and offers and finally the practical implementation: a complete engineering process is time-consuming and includes numerous steps. Switchgear planners are under increasing pressure: because just as the regulatory requirements have grown more and more in recent years, the time span in which results must be delivered has also shortened. This can hardly be guaranteed without software support. But what features must a CAE system (Computer Aided Engineering) have in order to meet today’s requirements?
On-premise or cloud-based, paid or free, tailored to corporations or SMEs: software solutions to support the engineering process are widespread. Of course, they still exist: planners who do their job with traditional means, i.e. pen and paper. Their current competitiveness may still be debatable today, because depending on the complexity of a project and the time available, technical support is not necessarily needed in individual cases. But one thing is certain: the future does not belong to this way of working.
Modern companies rely on CAE software to increase efficiency and avoid errors. Not least against the backdrop of Industry 4.0, a digitalised engineering process makes sense, as projects can be implemented in this way without media discontinuity right from the start. This enables the greatest possible automation of processes from conceptual design to the finished product. But what should companies look out for when planning the introduction of CAE software or a change of provider?
It is important to proceed carefully when choosing a solution. The market-leading product is not always the most suitable one. Depending on the requirements, even a free solution may be sufficient to achieve acceptable results. Normally, however, it is advisable to purchase a professional solution. This is because they offer much more than just facilitation in electrical documentation.
Important features of CAE solutions
The following features must be present in CAE software that is to offer users real added value:
- Interface openness
- Processing of different data formats
- Intuitive operability
- Performance even when dealing with mass data sets
- Support of the entire engineering process
In addition, consulting services, training offers and the service provided must be taken into account when choosing a provider.
Modern CAE software has interfaces for both internal and external systems. The connection to further processing companies, such as wire fabricators, contributes to a noticeable acceleration of the switch board construction. The link to the ERP also offers the possibility of increasing efficiency: order lists, for example, do not have to be transferred manually, which can lead to errors. Instead, they can be transferred from the CAE software and used directly in the procurement process.
For smooth processes, it is also necessary to be able to read in and process all common data formats. Catalogue standards such as BMECat play a role here, as do product data standards such as ETIM or ECLASS. When selecting a solution, care should be taken to ensure that information can be used in the form in which it is provided by manufacturers. Powerful CAE applications can convert the product information directly into the required schematic symbol.
Simple and intuitive operability of the CAE software is another important aspect when it comes to finding a suitable provider. Only if the process steps are linked in a sensible and comprehensible way and are also easy to implement, will there be a real benefit for the user. To ensure that data, components or projects can be found and made available quickly, user-friendly systems have search functions that support research for project attributes, key texts, plan texts, symbol names and material attributes. The simple transfer of information via drag & drop or easy switching between projects are also part of the user-friendliness.
Computer Aided Engineering: mass data processing
Data is the basis for Industry 4.0, but the daily increase in the volume of available data presents its users with a new challenge: the high-performance handling of mass data. This also applies to applications from the CAE sector. The processing of large amounts of data is therefore another important criterion when it comes to purchasing software. Meanwhile, manufacturers and software providers are working on solutions to this problem. For example, we have participated in the development of ItemDataRetrieval, a web service for the targeted and demand-oriented retrieval of product data. The ability to use services like this and to connect to the cloud are among the future requirements for CAE solutions.
In a globalised world, projects across national borders are the norm. For this reason, but also for the sake of user-friendliness, the possibility to switch languages is mandatory. When working with partners abroad, it is an important advantage if projects can be translated into any language.
Leading CAE solutions not only support the standard-compliant creation of circuit diagrams and electrical documentation, but also contribute to a completely integrated engineering process. This already begins with material data management, the configuration of switchgear and component systems and continues with costing and quotation preparation. Providing proof of the thermal calculation of a switchgear according to DIN EN 61439-1 or the subsequent wiring routing are also tasks that modern digital systems take care of.
Service and advice round off the overall package
Even if the optimal software has been found, answers to questions that arise, support in case of problems and goal-oriented training are still needed. Working with a provider who offers a correspondingly high quality of service pays off for users. Here the manufacturers of CAE software differ, sometimes considerably. AmpereSoft customers, for example, appreciate support from real technicians who are noticeably interested in solving problems. Individual change requests and suggestions for improvement are also dealt with promptly and in a solution-oriented manner. The resulting innovations, which bring universal advantages for all users of the AmpereSoft ToolSystem, are considered in regular updates. Expert advice and comprehensive services are an essential part of the overall package that a good CAE product should offer.