Contrary to popular belief, hardwiring does not always minimize wire installation expenses. Hardwiring is a popular concept for those who regularly design and build industrial machines. People perceive it as one of the most common ways of saving installation costs when bringing power and signal to the machine. However, when the full range of wiring costs are factored in, these cost savings really seem just as a mirage does.
Installation costs typically involve time and materials, including the cost of the wire, cables, accessories and labor. However, if you look closely, there are less obvious hidden installation costs as well. These have individual considerations for labor and time-to-market.
For example, consider machines that need to be disassembled for shipping and then reassembled before startup. That means parts in the machine will have to be hardwired twice – once while testing and then again after shipping. Additionally, errors while wiring in the field are quite common, mostly when local electricians unfamiliar with the machine are handling the wiring. If you are lucky, such errors may only cause a delay in commissioning the machine. However, there can be worst-case scenarios, and faulty wiring may even damage the machine leading to expensive repairs. Along with such cost of errors, hardwired systems can be complex and expensive to test, so the cost of testing goes up as well.
As a rule of thumb, you can expect the hidden costs to go up exponentially with the number of connection points the machine has. Fortunately, use of connectors can help avoid all these hidden costs. Of course, connector components do add an upfront investment, but this money will be recouped and then some as connectors enable lower-cost machines, the machines can ship faster, they can be commissioned more quickly and offer ongoing savings.
Using connectors, engineers can build modular machines faster and with lower expenses. This approach to machine design allows engineers to pre-build common subsystems and components, and test and stock them for installation. Reusable modules lead to many machines being designed with common control panels, junction boxes, motor assemblies and populated cable tracks.
Connectors are a real advantage for shipping new and large machines, especially if these machines have to undergo some level of disassembly also. Disassembly usually involves unplugging cables from the bulkhead connectors of the panel, while connections and routing internal to the panel remain undisturbed. The process holds true for sensors and data cables, motor assemblies and junction boxes also.
At the destination, the machine requires all disconnected wires to be reconnected once again. A local electrician helped with a set of wiring schematics can simply perform this. Even if the electrician knows very little about the machine and the way it works, there is little chance of them making costly mistakes and adding to startup delays. Most modern connector systems are designed to disallow simple wiring errors. Where large, complex machines are to be installed and commissioned, connectors can reduce the time to a matter of days in place of the several weeks that hardwiring would have taken.