Custom Integrator Streamlines Panel Building

May 22, 2024
Using Weidmuller’s Configurator, Blue Collar Automation simplified its control panel design process by using the software platform to select components, lay out panel designs, generate bills of materials and order parts.

Blue Collar Automation is a boutique system integrator that seizes every opportunity to take on big challenges. Founded three years ago by Brennen Dugger, the western Tennessee firm provides a range of automation and control technologies to clients in a variety of industries.

The integrator specializes in services such as PLC programming, robotic integration, electrical engineering and control panel fabrication. No job is too small or too complex for this ambitious integrator. "We're a rapidly growing integrator equipped to undertake complex and unique projects, and we have a wide range of industry experience and capabilities,” said Dugger. 

Recently, one of Blue Collar's clients came to them with a substantial project: designing and building 34 control panels. For a company of Blue Collar's size, an undertaking of this magnitude could have been daunting. However, Dugger had help through a newly forged relationship with industrial connectivity specialist Weidmuller USA

Streamlining the design and ordering process

The control panel project for Blue Collar’s customer presented several challenges. The job required designing, specifying components and building 30 small identical panels and four large identical panels.

Traditionally, this process would involve a significant amount of manual work. Blue Collar would need to determine the necessary quantities of each component, select appropriate parts from a variety of vendors and compile a comprehensive bill of materials to send to their distributor. In addition to being time-consuming, this traditional approach left room for errors and inefficiencies.

Blue Collar knew that to deliver this project on time and budget, they needed to streamline the configuration, component selection and ordering process. The integrator needed technologies that would allow them to efficiently configure the panels, automatically generate accurate bills of materials and seamlessly order the necessary components.

A visit from Weidmuller's WOW (Weidmuller on Wheels) van—a mobile demo vehicle that features an array of Weidmuller’s products—proved to be a turning point for Blue Collar. 

During the demonstration in the WOW Van, Blue Collar was introduced to the Weidmuller Configurator, a software tool designed to simplify the control panel design process. This configuration platform allows users to select components, lay out panel designs, generate bills of materials and order necessary parts. Using the configurator eliminates manual work and ensures efficiency, accuracy and consistency across complex panel building projects.

For Blue Collar, the Weidmuller Configurator stood out for its ability to streamline the integrator’s entire workflow—from component selection to panel layout and ordering—and significantly reduce the time and effort required to complete the 34-panel project. Training on the configurator To ensure the success of the project, Weidmuller provided comprehensive training and support to Blue Collar Automation. 

"We had a two- or three-hour Teams call with one of the technical engineers," explains Dugger. "He walked us through how to use the Weidmuller printer software, how to set up the offsets, how to do everything we needed to do in the software. And he also showed us how to specify a lot of the media and figure out what works with what."

The training session was tailored to Blue Collar's specific needs, ensuring that the system integrator could leverage the full potential of the Weidmuller Configurator in their workflow. 

"When I had a couple of additional questions about the configurator, they didn't hesitate to bring in another expert from Weidmuller,” says Dugger. “And all of them went over the configurator for another hour or so after that on the same call."

The configuration and ordering process

Armed with the knowledge and skills gained from Weidmuller's training, Blue Collar set out to tackle the configuration and ordering process for the 34 control panels. Using the configurator, Blue Collar efficiently laid out and configured all 34 panels. 

One of the standout features of the configurator for Blue Collar is its ability to automatically generate a detailed bill of materials (BOM) based on the panel configurations. This ability eliminated the need for manual calculations and reduced the risk of errors. The BOM included all necessary components, thereby ensuring a complete and accurate list of required parts.

The configurator also allowed Blue Collar to specify precise panel dimensions, guaranteeing a perfect fit for each control panel. This level of customization and attention to detail was crucial in meeting the specific requirements of their client's project.

Once the panel configurations were finalized, the Weidmuller Configurator simplified the ordering process. Here, Blue Collar sends the automatically generated BOM directly to their distributor, H.H. Barnum. This streamlined approach eliminated the need for manual order entry and minimized the chances of miscommunication or errors. 

"It all worked really well," said Dugger. "We designed it all in the software and then built it and then wired it all to print. We got everything we needed on the first order. Everything was so smooth." 

With the precise layouts generated by the configurator, Blue Collar's team was able to build the control panels efficiently and accurately. The software's detailed instructions and visual representations served as a reliable guide, ensuring that the panels were constructed according to the exact specifications.

"The panels look great and the customer was very pleased," said Dugger. 

Casey Kinney is automation sales engineer and Jeff Joyner is southeast district manager at Weidmuller USA.

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