Bespoke design software electrifies cost, time savings

EPLAN P8 and Ecodesign’s ESG software open the door for more efficient electrical and control designs across heavy industries such as mining.

When developing a mining project, there is much more to an electrical and control design than just keeping the lights on.

CAD-designed electrical systems have been heavily reliant on manual inputs in the past, but as technology has evolved, the level of automation possible has increased.

The onset of these advanced solutions has brought forth New Zealand-based company, Ecodesign.

Since its inception, Ecodesign has provided its electrical design software to multiple industries and completed more than 300 projects, ranging from the simple designed to fully-fledged auto-designed electrical and control design solutions.

Its base EPLAN P8 software can automate the production of schematics of electrical designs by creating macros (reusable circuits) with specific items that change, such as device tags, cable tags, motor and sensor circuit components.

The company’s Excel-based Eco Schematic Generator (ESG) tool can then automatically sort through the data, using customised VBA code and interface into EPLAN P8 to automatically generate schematic drawings and reports for electrical designs.

If done manually, these drawings can waste valuable time during the design process. However, Ecodesign director and design engineer Sagren Govender says the EPLAN P8 and ESG solution can generate hundreds of drawings in minutes.

“The efficiencies in workflow are definitely something that the mining industry can benefit from,” Govender tells Australian Mining.

“Generally, there’s a lot of design work that can go into a mine. If you can bring efficiencies to those designs, it will definitely save them a lot and that’s where we come from – finding efficient ways to design a control system and efficient ways to work to improve them.”

Govender says Ecodesign has focussed on creating the next step in its development with ESG.

“EPLAN P8 will always be the base package but it still means copying and pasting and manually inserting macros,” he says. “But we have now created an interface into Excel with ESG and it can make changes within Excel and export the changes into EPLAN P8 to autonomously create the schematic drawings.

“We’re taking the sorted information out of Excel and placing it into those macros to then generate those drawings into EPLAN P8.”

Ecodesign offers bespoke solutions if more specific data and drawings are needed from clients, enabling limitless possibilities to fit unique requirements for various environments.

“In most cases, the clients would have that information on a spreadsheet so we can use the client’s information and auto-populate those variables within a macro and then generate those drawings,” Govender says.

By providing an automatic solution for wiring diagrams, Ecodesign can prevent unexpected mistakes that are subject to human error.

The electrical designs of mining operations tend to have hundreds of separate components with one error potentially resulting in an entire rework.

“If you do something manually and accidentally copy and paste and type the wrong information, that could impact on the electrical design,” Govender says. “That has been a huge cost to companies we have worked with, who have previously had to go back and fix these things – it always costs a lot more to do the rework than the original design.

“One of the biggest benefits apart of the efficiency generated with our software is the accuracy. We have taken away human error with automation and that’s drastically reduced the errors that we have come across.”

For Govender, Ecodesign’s software can save on time and simplify the process of electrical design.

Ecodesign also allows clients to outsource their projects through its design and drafting service, who can create the electrical designs in-house, rather than having to use the EPLAN P8 and ESG software themselves.

As more heavy industry companies shift to automated technologies, EPLAN P8 and ESG can reduce labour costs and utilise automated alternatives, Govender says.

“People want to move away from drafting and they want to focus on the design,” he says.

“So, my key phrase is ‘stop drafting and start designing’ – let the manual work take care of itself. Let’s automate to spend more time on the design and less on the drafting itself.”

This article also appears in the February issue of Australian Mining.

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