Case Study: Electrical Panel Integrator Cuts Installation Time

By Consulting Specifying Engineer Staff January 19, 2006

Indiana-based BDI Engineering offers electrical panel construction, installation and start-up services for process control, industrial refrigeration, power management, and food processing applications. Founded in 1998, BDI started as a simple panel-build shop that has today expanded into a turnkey solutions provider capable of designing complex panels for clients such as 3M, Coca-Cola, Dean Foods, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Johnson & Johnson Nestle and PepsiCo.

“The integrated expertise of industrial, electrical and mechanical engineering professionals enables us to zero in on the complete solution to a given problem,” said Brad Johnson, president and founder of BDI. “Having this capability allows our customers to deal with one small company for any control project, knowing that we have years of experience in the associated field of need.”

But to compete with larger, more established system integrators, BDI needed to outperform its competitors in cost, quality and delivery time. The traditional approach to building panels was inefficient for BDI, particularly when it mounted and wired the components into the panel. And as panels became more complex, the installation time also increased, resulting in higher labor costs.

Because traditional wiring of panels was inefficient, it often resulted in wiring errors that affected delivery schedules. Panel upgrades and maintenance also were costly and time consuming. Often, the machines were required to shut down for an extensive amount of time for a simple upgrade or routine maintenance, resulting in lost productivity. Additionally, it was difficult to find local service and support for hard-wired panels. And, because BDI works on a deadline-driven schedule, the specified components and documentation needed to be delivered on time, every time.

BDI identified two prime areas to improve the panel integration process: (1) reduce installation time, and (2) decrease labor costs. Because the end-users’ panel requirements constantly change, BDI needed to build panels that easily accommodated future upgrades.

The solution was to engage a vendor to provide a comprehensive portfolio of complete panel solutions. One of the key products BDI implemented was a busbar mounting system that offered BDI the advantages it was looking for over traditional mounting approaches. These advantages included:

  • Installation — The system almost eliminates the need for drilling and tapping holes because power distribution is reduced to a single feed for multiple automation components. Using pluggable modules, BDI can simply snap motor starters onto the busbar and wire only motor load connections.

  • Reliability — Using the mounting system, BDI has increased the reliability in its panels. The system offers superior reliability of busbar contacts, and it extends “Type 2” coordination to starters mounted onto the busbar.

  • Flexibility — In the past, maintenance and upgrades were difficult and time consuming. Now BDI is able to perform upgrades considerably faster than with the traditional, hard-wired mounting systems.

“When building a panel, the mounting system allows us to leave spare slots for future upgrades and expansions as needed,” Johnson said. “When a customer wants to expand or service a panel, we can simply snap in additional starters by isolating key areas through busbar-mounted isolation circuit breakers rather than disabling the entire system.”

The result was reduced installation time, by up to 30%, because the company no longer needs to assemble starters, drill or tap holes, mount components onto the DIN rail or wire all components individually. With the new products, starters are pre-wired and can be easily mounted onto the busbar. The mounting system does not require any holes to be drilled for individual starters, which saves BDI valuable installation time and labor costs.

BDI also noticed significant savings in panel space using the mounting system. The panels featuring busbar mounting systems are more compact than traditional mounting solutions as a direct result of reduced wiring.

For additional information regarding Rockwell Automation products applied in this solution, click here .