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30 October 2012

Legacy CAD systems, while once effective, are no longer the most efficient electrical design options available says Ken Christie, EPLAN UK director

Legacy CAD systems have, since their introduction over 25 years ago, been well accepted by businesses worldwide, with each successive generation of CAD software empowering users to be more productive. However, with the emergence of modern computer aided engineering (CAE) solutions, these legacy systems are becoming obsolete.

In fact, CAE software has become an essential tool for today’s electrical engineers and designers – it has been shown to deliver significant cost savings as well as significant improvements in productivity, design integrity and project turnaround times.


 A key driver for the latest generation of CAE software is that it is supported by a powerful database that can support a suite of complementary products for engineers. With the unrivalled storage capabilities of a database the scope of device data and components that can be accessed is extensive and includes macros of sub-circuits, assembly drawings, function templates for an intelligent device selection, international designations, preview images and entire manuals. Vast amounts of recurrent content can be re-used which shortens turnaround times, maximises productivity and ultimately ensures error-free projects.

Another key feature of modern CAE software is the ability to automate the creation of recurrent content, which effectively negates the need for the time-consuming creation of master data and provides integrated data for intelligent design, precisely fitting assemblies, virtual wiring and sustainably shortened product development and production cycles. Add to that the software’s automatic error-checking features, which make it virtually impossible for errors to slip into project build packages, and the time consuming error checks necessary with legacy systems is also largely eliminated.

One company that is benefiting from making the switch from CAD to CAE is Henrob, a world leader in self-piercing riveting (SPR), which uses EPLAN Electric P8 for the design of its extensive range of products.

When Henrob first switched to EPLAN (version 5.4) in 2003 the impact on productivity was immense; efficiency increased by 100% as design time was reduced from 4 weeks to 2 weeks. The migration to the EPLAN Electric P8 followed in 2011 and, again, the company saw an increase in productivity of 10%.

Henrob’s Advanced Engineering team leader Antony Evans explains: "While the benefits are continuing to accrue, a key takeaway from the switchover – first to EPLAN 5.4, then P8 – has been a dramatically reduced design time and increased productivity.” According to Evans the switch has also led to improved and more consistent documentation. "Since switching to EPLAN, product and project quality has improved. By using one common application to generate documentation there is less ambiguous information and all changes and corrections, wherever they occur, are reflected. The result is time savings and greater accuracy without the need to manually adjust data to eliminate inconsist encies, because there aren’t any.”


 While legacy design tools function as standalone aids for a specific engineering discipline, modern CAE tools facilitate unprecedented integration, allowing engineering disciplines to work concurrently and collabor atively rather than separately. It also allows data to be cross-referenced within and across disciplines, so electrical, fluid and process control engineers can share data with their colleagues locally or remotely.

In addition, CAE software can effortlessly convert project documentation in minutes to the language that customers, vendors and subcontractors require, and export it in one of many common file formats. This high level of integration is one of the main reasons that advanced CAE products are proving to be a catalyst in the relationship between electrical engineering and other project stakeholders.

"EPLAN has encouraged best practices in our company and improvements have been made in a number of areas,” says Evans.

"Thanks to the high level of integration we are able to offer faster, more accurate project quotes as well as generate more reliable documentation. We are also benefiting from faster integration of data corrections and customerspecific changes.” The benefits associated with modern CAE software are undeniable: it significantly eliminates costly rework by enhancing quality, provides uniformity through standardisation, offers a high degree of flexibility, and goes beyond just the design capability by generating important data for use in other functional business areas such as purchasing and manufacturing. When will you be making the switch?

Key Points

• CAE software is supported by a powerful database that can support a suite of complementary products for engineers

• Modern CAE software has the ability to automate the creation of recurrent content, effectively negating the need for the timeconsuming creation of master data