Pepperl+Fuchs is known for its high-quality explosion protection products. With its Solution Engineering Centers (SECs), the Process Automation division offers engineering and tailor-made system solutions for customers all over the world.
"The go-ahead for the construction of the first Solution Engineering Center was given at Pepperl+Fuchs back in 2006, in response to customer requirements. Today, customers want complete system solutions from a single source, including documentation and certification. Or, to put it another way: a one-stop shop," explains Hermann Best, Director of the Systems+Solutions business unit. "The advantage for customers is clear. They can reduce the extent to which they engineer system units themselves, allowing them to significantly save costs and have only a single supplier as a point of contact."
Pepperl+Fuchs has taken account of the great demand for system units with explosion protection certification and has since opened SECs around the world: from Buehl in Germany, Wednesbury in the UK, and Burago in Italy, to Houston in the USA, Beijing, Melbourne, Bangalore and other locations. "This approach gives us the ideal basis to not only respond to local conditions and market requirements, but also to manage international projects locally across each phase and execute them in close collaboration with our customers," says Best.
The portfolio of solutions offered in the SECs has grown enormously and covers different technologies:
A trip to the SEC in Buehl, southern Germany, provides some insight into how the centers work. This site has worked hard over the last five years to standardize and optimize processes. "As we handle around 60 projects a week with very tight schedules, we needed to optimize processing times in production, for example, and switch from parallel production to the one-piece flow principle," explains Markus Hertel, Head of the SEC in Buehl. The introduction of the scalable 3D system EPLAN Pro Panel was one such standardization measure. This system ensures that complex prototypes no longer need to be constructed physically. Additionally, mechanical collisions during planning of the cabinets are identified at an early stage and can be easily fixed.
"Overall, we scrutinize our processes continuously and adjust them so that they are aligned in the most effective way with the customer's needs," emphasizes Hertel. "And as standardization of processes is completed in close collaboration with the other locations, we have the opportunity to distribute and balance our workload across the SECs."
In many of these tailor-made solutions, certification plays a crucial role. A look at the SEC in Houston in the USA state of Texas shows just how important it is. "As is the case at the other locations around the world, we offer our customers solutions that meet all applicable safety requirements and already have the necessary local, regional, or international certification," explains David Hohenstein, Business Manager SECs America, before adding: "This allows us to offer a service that sets us apart from many other companies." Of course, customers can always build solutions and have them certified themselves, but this is time consuming as the number of approval standards and certification bodies is enormous:
"Given the abundance of provisions, it takes a lot of work off of our customers if they no longer need to acquire or maintain certification themselves, especially at a time when there is a clear tendency toward streamlining organizational structures," says Hohenstein. "Our tailor-made, fully certified solutions not only help to shorten the time taken to commission a system; the fact that the customer's staff can focus on their actual core business also increases efficiency and saves the company money."
Pepperl+Fuchs holds accreditations for all major degrees of protection, as well as approval to manufacture certified solutions for applications in Zone 1 and 2 or Division 1 and 2 in accordance with regional specifications. "For companies with an international project business, the fact that we offer our service in all SECs worldwide represents a major advantage," emphasizes Hohenstein. "In these projects, tasks such as engineering, procurement, or construction are often carried out at different locations. Where this is the case, Pepperl+Fuchs can provide optimal support for each project phase."
Around 8000 kilometers from Houston, the sites in Wednesbury in the UK and Burago in Italy are working to utilize synergy effects and produce highly cost-effective components for all SECs at one site. Both of these sites manufacture empty enclosures that will be used later in the other SECs as a basis for individual solutions.
The SEC in Wednesbury near Birmingham produces emclosures made from stainless steel sheets or glass fiber reinforced polyester for the types of protection increased safety Ex e, intrinsic safety Ex i, or purge and pressurization Ex p. The metal enclosures are punched from flat sheet metal before being shaped and processed using a special welding robot. What's really special about these stainless steel enclosures from Pepperl+Fuchs is that their design allows them to be processed without adding any weld seams. This is a great advantage for customers, who receive an enclosure made entirely from corrosion-free and salt water-resistant materials (AISI 316L).
The SEC in Burago near Milan produces enclosures for the type of protection flameproof Ex d in salt water-resistant (copper-free) aluminum or stainless steel. The raw materials are manufactured in a foundry specifically for Pepperl+Fuchs. At the state-of-the-art CNC processing center, the raw parts are then processed according to explosion protection requirements and prepared for further customer-specific processing.