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Article Date: 27th May 2016

Unitrunk - Solutions-Driven Approach Drives Innovation at Automotive Electronics Plant

Automotive Electronics - Cable Management - Service Rafts- Cable Ladder

Unitrunk - ZF TRW Plant

Tim Brown from cable management specialist, Unitrunk, discusses how an innovative change of specification at a car parts factory in Sunderland not only answered the need for a clean manufacturing environment but also reduced the man hours required during installation by at least 60 per cent and delivered significant cost savings.

Whatever make or model of car you drive, the chances are that somewhere within your vehicle there is a part manufactured by ZF TRW. A global developer and producer of active and passive safety systems, the company serves all major vehicle manufacturers worldwide. Its operations include production facilities in more than 20 countries, along with 22 technical centres and 13 test tracks in key motor manufacturing markets.

Amongst the company’s UK operations is a manufacturing facility in Houghton-Le-Spring close to the City of Sunderland. Here, the company produces the complex electric power steering motors to work with the intelligent safety systems designed for modern vehicles.

It’s a pioneering manufacturing environment and a key market for TRW, which led the company to extend its existing production facility with an additional plant funded by Sunderland City Council. The new building has been highly specified to create a more clinical factory for both the intricate products coming off the production line and the sensitive equipment needed to manufacture them.

This advanced industrial setting called for careful consideration of the electrical services design to minimise the potential for dust and contaminants. The fast pace of change and advancing technology also meant that the cable management infrastructure had to be future proofed to enable additional equipment to be added at a later date. Indeed, final decisions on the exact equipment to be fitted and the locations of each machine were still being finalised when the installation was already underway!

Against this backdrop, timings were also business critical, with electrical contractor, McNally & Thompson, under pressure to complete the services installation within a very tight timeframe. This combination of demanding project requirements, future proofing and a challenging programme led McNally & Thompson to work closely with Unitrunk to re-engineer the original specification from conventional channel brackets to using cable management solutions from the Unitrunk Rapid Installation Systems (RIS) range.

Unitrunk - ZF TRW PlantService Rafts
The new ZF TRW production facility is a building of significant proportions. The 90m x 45m footprint has 5m elevations on all side and the pitched roof rises to 8m at its highest point. McNally & Thompson was tasked with extending the existing HV supply on site to the new facility and installing a new transformer with new switch panels, new LV distribution and LED lighting throughout.

Inside the building there are two small offices in the production area and a number of offices and welfare facilities on the ground floor, positioned underneath the first floor plant room. Here the conventional layout allowed a relatively straightforward installation of conduit and trunking for local distribution connected to a new switch panel.

The remainder of the facility, however, was a huge open plan area with no defined layout of equipment and workflows to inform the cable management design at the time of installation. General purpose sockets were installed around the perimeter of the production area, along with a fork lift truck charging system and electrical supply for the building’s automated shutter doors. The strategy for the remainder of the building’s power, lighting, data and pneumatic pipework requirements was to install service rafts to which new equipment and power outlets could be added at a future date.

Ladder Innovation
The original design for the service rafts called for a total of 18 rafts, in a layout that ran down the perimeter of the building and then along grid lines to ensure that every grid on the plan could be served with power and light. In total, 18 service rafts were specified and these were to be supported by a channel framework. The channel was to be constructed to support the rafts at high level with the light fittings suspended from each raft at a lower level to ensure the required lux level was available in the work areas.

While this plan addressed the future flexibility requirements of the project and would deliver a robust production environment, the time required to custom-manufacture the channel and install it was not available within the programme. McNally & Thompson approached Unitrunk to discuss whether cable ladder could be used as an alternative to channel and, after close collaboration between the two companies to re-engineer the design it was approved by the architects and the consultants.

Time and Cost Savings
While Unitrunk manufactured some bends to order, the majority of the installation was constructed using 3m lengths of 1200mm galvanised ladder. A standard galvanised finish was sufficient for the installation as the specification included cladding of the service rafts.

Unitrunk - Cable LadderBy calculating the amount of ladder that would be required, the team was able to ensure that the materials needed for the installation were built into production schedules at Unitrunk’s Vantrunk manufacturing plant in Warrington and the cable ladder was then delivered direct to site.

The cable ladder channel infrastructure took just four weeks to erect on site; less than half the ten weeks calculated as the installation time for conventional channel. What’s more, the savings were not just about time; McNally & Thompson reduced their labour costs for this part of the installation by 60-70 per cent and the cost of materials was also significantly lower.

The original plans for the channel installation had involved suspending the service rafts from the ceiling using steel rods, but this element of the specification was also changed as part of the re-engineering process. Instead, G-clamps were connected to the roof steels and used to suspend the service rafts from the ceiling by suspension wire; a solution that provided more installation time and cost savings.

Neat and Dust Free
With the channel service raft infrastructure fabricated from cable ladder, McNally & Thompson set about installing the secondary containment.

Additional cable ladder was installed as risers to contain the heavy sub mains cabling, but the majority of the distribution network was installed within the service modules.

More than 2000 metres of Unitrunk was used for the installation, in sizes ranging from 50mm to 300mm. Unitrunk’s Basket, re-engineered as part of Unitrunk’s RIS programme, requires no screw connectors, with quick fix couplers adding to the ease and speed of installation.

The basket was used for all data and fire alarm cabling with additional capacity built in for future provision. To speed up the installation further and reduce material costs, Unitrunk’s Jonathan Rush, who had worked on the re-engineering of the cable management scheme with the McNally & Thompson team, suggested that a single run of Basket should be used with a divider, rather than installing two separate runs for power and data cabling. The divider simply clips into place and this solution saved time and provided space saving advantages on the service rafts.

For the 6491B power cabling, McNally & Thompson installed Unitrunk 50mm x 50mm trunking, ensuring that there was sufficient capacity for future equipment supplies.

Busbar for the lighting installation completed the service rafts, with two primary runs down each side of the building feeding lighting busbar on each of the rafts. Thanks to the revised fixing method for the rafts, the lighting units could be fixed directly to the underside of each service raft and no longer had to be suspended beneath to deliver the required luminosity.

Finally, all eighteen rafts were clad with aluminium to aid a cleaner manufacturing environment and a minimalist aesthetic, with no surfaces on which dust can rest. However, the services remain accessible should changes need to be made at a later date to adapt them to meet the changing needs of equipment or processes.

Unitrunk - Cable LadderSuccessful Collaboration
With the cable management and service rafts in place, the McNally & Thompson team were left to complete the services installation with ventilation, heating and energy monitoring, all connected to a sophisticated Building Management System (BMS). The company also installed a fully-addressable fire alarm system and a door access system, along with services to the office areas.

The scheme demonstrates the advantages of working with suppliers to troubleshoot issues such as installation times and develop innovative new solutions together.

As Dave Wealleans from McNally & Thompson Contractors commented: “The consultant’s approach to designing the service rafts was very practical in terms of answering the needs of a specialist manufacturing environment and futureproofing the building for further expansion and advances in technology.

"In terms of installation within the allotted programme, however, it was not viable for us because of the amount of skilled people we would have needed on site to complete the installation within the time available.

"By working with Unitrunk to re-think the approach and re-engineer the same design using products that have been designed for faster and easier installation, we slashed the number of man hours required, making the programme deliverable and reducing our material costs while completing a robust installation that met the brief."

The ZF TRW plant is now fully operational, using the most advanced cable management to support production of the most advanced electronic car safety systems.

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