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16 November, 2019

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Small enclosures will be built in €250m Industry 4.0 factory

01 April, 2019

At the 2019 Hannover Fair, Rittal has unveiled a new generation of the world’s best-selling range of small and compact enclosures, designed to meet the needs of the digital era. The new AX (compact) and KX (small) enclosures are being built in a brand-new €250m factory – the biggest investment in Rittal’s history – that will operate on Industry 4.0 principles, allowing the company to deliver custom-built enclosures to German customers within 24 hours of them placing an order. Elsewhere in Europe, it will take 48 hours.

The new factory, located in the town of Haiger, about 100km north of Frankfurt, covers 24,000m2 of floor space across two levels. When fully operational later this summer, it will be able to produce around 9,000 of the new enclosures every day.

A large part of the massive investment has gone on more than 100 high-tech production machines and 60 robots, designed to adapt their operations flexibly to match incoming orders. The plant is expected to process 25,000 tonnes of steel every year to produce enclosures in around 150 standard configurations and sizes. Some €50m of the investment has been devoted to a new automated global distribution centre (GDC) located nearby.

In the past, the individual steps needed to create small electrical enclosures – such as cutting to size, edging, welding and painting – were performed sequentially, and independently of each other. In the new plant, all of the machines, as well as the materials and people, will be integrated under a single manufacturing execution system (MES).

The new enclosures have been designed to make assembly and the installation of components faster and simpler. They can handle the increasing numbers of sensors and actuators needed in digitalised factories, with a modular design, improved cutouts, and larger gland plates, combining to  offer a third more space for cables than previous-generation boxes.

The new generation of small enclosures follows last year’s launch of a new generation of large enclosures – the VX25. These already account for around 80% of Rittal’s large-enclosure sales, a far quicker take-up than the company had expected. When combined with its Blue e+ cooling systems, 70% of Rittal’s products are now being made on lines that are less than four years old.

“All of our core products have been entirely redesigned, and are fit for Industry 4.0,” says Uwe Scharf, managing director of Rittal’s businesses and marketing operation.

There is also a some overlap between the new products. For example, the rails in the new small enclosures use the same 25mm spacing as the VX25, allowing the same accessories – such as terminal blocks and lighting – to be used in both, cutting inventory costs and avoiding the need for machining.

Teams of robots weld small enclosures on Rittal’s automated production lines. It takes just seven seconds to weld each box.
Photo: Rittal

Rittal claims that the new enclosures will reduce mounting times by about 30%. For example, panels can be removed individually, without the usual disassembly work. Doors and cam locks can be installed without tools, and wall-mounting brackets can be screwed into place from the outside, without affecting IP ratings.

The new range consists of about 150 different models, allowing users to pick the ideal size for their application. The AX versions will span sizes from 300 x 300mm to 1,000 x 1,400mm, with depths from 210–400mm. The KX versions will range from 150 x 150mm to 800 x 400mm, with depths from 80–120mm. Both will be available in sheet or stainless steel, with protection up to IP66.

Every new enclosure will carry an unique QR code, allowing it to be identified and tracked. Dedicated software will allow fast, simple configuration of the enclosures, accessories and modifications, and will check for errors. The results can be transferred to Rittal’s online shop or uploaded to Eplan engineering software.

Since Rittal launched its AE range in 1961, it has sold more than 35 million small and compact enclosures.

Rittal says that its new small and compact enclosures will much easier and quicker to assemble and install



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