Control panels: Fed up with standards? Don’t be!

Standards are often very helpful, but sometimes they can be quite a nuisance, too. Staying up to date with the latest technological developments can be overwhelming – and requires time and effort. In an interview with the Siemens expert Gerhard Flierl, he explains how control panel manufacturers can stay up to date – despite new guidelines – without getting bogged down in details.

Standards are complex – like control panels. Building a control panel not only requires skilled craftsmanship and a great deal of ­creativity, but also in-depth knowledge of planning, engineering, testing, and documentation of mostly customized solutions. Furthermore, it is important to understand and adhere to the safety regulations and standards of the particular target market and of the specific area of application.

For example, eight revised guidelines have been in force in the European Union (EU) since last year, some of which apply to control panel building. Furthermore, the IEC 60204-1 on the electrical equipment of machines – a very important standard – has been revised and reissued. This standard is expected to be adopted as a uniform, European-wide standard in the fall of 2017. The latest requirements of the standard must be implemented in plants and control panels by this time, following a transition period usually lasting two years.


Mr. Flierl, can you tell us what impact the revised standard will have on control panel manufacturers?


Flierl: Numerous amendments and adjustments have been made to meet the market require­ments and conditions regarding control panel building. For electrical drive systems, there are detailed instructions on how to test the protective measure that automatically disconnects the power supply. The requirements concerning electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) are now more specific as well. Furthermore, the options for determining the electrical equipment’s resistance to short-circuiting have been described in more detail. There has also been an additional safety-related amendment: sockets with a rated current of up to 20 A must now use a residual current protective circuit breaker. The ­requirements regarding documentation have also changed considerably. We have summarized the key changes in technical articles and have explained these in more detail in comprehensive reports in a way that is easy to understand and apply by the user. These resources are available on our website.

Staying ahead in an increasingly competitive marketplace means getting a grip on new technologies and, more importantly, exploring the possibilities digitalization has to offer.
Gerhard Flierl, Sales and Marketing, DF CP Division, Siemens AG

Due to their complexity, getting a grip on standards and managing the documentation can be very time-intensive. Is there a simpler way?


Flierl: Well, you can at least try to make it easier for yourself. Siemens helps manufacturers develop the necessary skills and offers them a wide range of software and data solutions for planning and operations as well as product and system solutions for applications. This makes it easier for manufacturers to implement the requirements specified in the standards and guidelines. With Integrated Control Panels, we cater to specific electrical engineering and control panel building requirements.

So it isn’t necessary for every manufacturer to work through the entire standard?


Flierl:  Well, let me put it this way: due to rising cost and time pressures, medium-sized companies in particular often have limited capabilities when it comes to getting a grip on new standards and their changing requirements – let alone studying them in detail. The key is to focus on what is relevant to you and how it affects your own plant. This is where we, the experts, come into play. Not only do we offer advice on standards, we also support manufacturers with our product portfolio to enable them to address specific requirements and meet quality standards.

How can electrical designers and control panel manufacturers stay up to date with the latest ­t­echnology, especially in an age of increasing digitalization?


Flierl:  Staying ahead in an increasingly competitive marketplace means getting to grips with new tech­nologies such as changes in industrial controls, drive, and automation technology and, more importantly, ­exploring the possibilities digitalization has to offer. Integrated Control Panels is our holistic approach to panel building, allowing us to provide tailored support to electrical enginers in the design of control panels.


We also work closely with our sales departments in gaining an in-depth understanding of our customers and their individual needs. This allows us to give customers specific tailor-made advice while taking into account the entire value chain to achieve low-main­tenance operation. Furthermore, we offer worldwide seminars as well as web-based training to help our customers stay up to date. 

What potential does digitalization offer control panel manufacturers?


Flierl: To some extent, the potential of digitalization is already being widely exploited, for example in electrical engineering. This reduces time to market and enhances flexibility and efficiency, resulting in higher quality and increased cost savings. Furthermore, the increasing demands on documentation are considerably easier to manage thanks to digitalized processes.

Picture credits: Siemens AG

Gerhard Flierl is head of the Technical Consulting department in the Control Products business unit. He is responsible for the comprehensive and holistic approach known as "Integrated Control Panels", which focuses on technical know-how, data, and software for electrical engineering as well as the benefits of a tailored product and system portfolio for control panel building. His department also helps the Siemens sales teams all over the world provide customer support, events, and on-site technical seminars.

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