ABB: Trouble-free software implementation with competent project support

The quotation process for medium-voltage frequency converters requires both technical knowledge and extensive user know-how. With the configuration software “DriveSmart 5”, ABB Switzerland combines customised, technically correct configuration with a more comfortable quoting process in a single solution. The functional, user-friendly solution replaces several outdated sales tools at the same time and has additional practical features and interfaces.

Customer benefits at a glance:

encoway helped ABB Switzerland as project manager through the demanding process analysis and optimisation stage, and developed the new offer solution. The software DriveSmart 5 integrates product configuration and dimensioning, cost accounting, pricing and the generation of offers and technical documentation. In addition to those already implemented, additional series can be integrated into the new software in the future.

Customer information

ABB Ltd. is the world’s largest supplier of industrial motors and drives, generators for wind turbines and electricity networks. The listed group, with its headquarters in Zurich, has approximately 40,000 employees in around 100 countries, some 7000 of these in Switzerland. In Turgi, in the canton of Aargau, is the headquarters of the ABB Power Electronics and Medium Voltage Drives division.

Complex technical area of application

In Turgi, ABB Switzerland produces medium-voltage frequency converters for the regulation of standard motors that typically drive pumps, fans, compressors, mixers, mills and conveying systems. Four frequency converter series are suitable for engines with a capacity of 250 kW to 36 MW. The drives have to be customised for their intended purpose. To do this, complex technical application know-how is required.

The production of the ACS-series medium-voltage frequency converter in Turgi is an important pillar of ABB Switzerland

Around the turn of the millennium, ABB had introduced separate interpretation programmes for four frequency converter series. These had been repeatedly expanded and enhanced for project management and order generation. “Over the years, a gradual transformation into a sales tool took place, which allowed us recommend our customers the appropriate configurations for their requirements” recalls Christoph Eichler, Team Leader System Design for the Drives & Controls division. However, the individual solutions proved to be increasingly impractical: “After what was practically organic growth for more than twelve years, the current versions of the four programmes were proving more and more complex. The maintenance and data management were very expensive”. Therefore in 2012, the Swiss company decided to replace the existing tools with an integrated comprehensive solution.

Considerable demands on the new solution

The new software had to fulfil a whole range of exacting requirements. The functionality had to be fully intact, the weaknesses had to be ironed out and new features introduced. Above all, improvements had to be made regarding the usability, data consistency, and the maintenance and expandability of the system. ABB was looking for a reliable forward-looking and expandable solution. And they found this at encoway, the specialist for product configuration and variant management.

“We have greatly benefitted from encoways technology, and their experience from other projects”.

External lead management by encoway

encoway was entrusted with the project management as an external partner – a result of ABB having great confidence in the company, and the open, collegial communication. Before the project began, encoway analysed various usage scenarios, user roles and data flows in the offer process and then developed improvement proposals. „Einerseits musste geordnet werden, was sich über die zwölf Jahre angesammelt hatte – in der Informatik stellt dies immerhin eine gewaltige Zeitspanne dar. Andererseits galt es, die Produkte zu harmonisieren und die Bedürfnisse der globalen Produktionsstandorte zu berücksichtigen“, betont Naef. “We have greatly benefited from encoway‘s technology and experience from other projects”.

encoway provided intensive consulting throughout the project to ensure that the functions, roles, and user interfaces were developed in a structured way. For easier software maintenance, the product data were kept separate from the programme algorithms. New features can thus always be used for all products and product data tables in Excel are easier to maintain.

Matthias Näf (left) and Christoph Eichler in front of an ACS6000, which can be configured for customer offers using the new programme DriveSmart 5

Trouble-free software implementation

The new configuration software DriveSmart 5 was introduced by encoway in summer 2014 and has passed the practical test with flying colours. The Project Manager and Application Owner for DriveSmart at ABB, Matthias Näf explains: “The implementation of the software was even easier than we expected. The intuitive software, which is easily accessible via a web browser, can generate an offer in next to no time. “You only have to define the ten most important variables – which include the type and nominal frequency of the motor, the type of application and the input voltage. Then, for everything else, the programme uses default values to generate initial proposals – including prices”.

“The implementation of the software was even easier than we expected”.

DriveSmart 5 allows you to switch between the series at any time and also handles the data input. The solutions available can thus be compared with a high degree of flexibility and clearly presented to the customer. Often, technical or sales details have to be clarified with colleagues from other departments. However, because you are provided with the complete data for processing, the stored defaults can easily be individually specified – directly in the system. The centrally maintained solution, which is available online, ensures internationally uniform sales communications.

The programme supports the creation of offers with clear diagrams and generates excellent images of the virtually compiled frequency converters. Engineers both at ABB and the customers make use of these images thanks to their high quality.

As soon as the order has been placed, Project Management and Engineering also use DriveSmart 5 with its complete, structured project data. An SAP interface is available for the subsequent handover to Production.

The easy-to-operate user interface of DriveSmart 5 simplifies the configuration of medium-voltage frequency converters

Users are impressed by the software

The introduction of the new software was a resounding success with the project managers. Normally it is difficult to impress experienced powertrain engineers who have successfully worked using an established application for years, with an entirely new solution. However, with the DriveSmart 5, ABB and encoway were able to achieve precisely that. The software has thus passed the practical test. The maintenance and expansion of the tool will be carried out by ABB and encoway in close cooperation.

The successful cooperation was extended to two more projects within which a configurator for excitation systems is now also in operation. Thanks to encoway’s universal, expandable platform, common functionalities such as interfaces only need to be developed once.