Paul Humphrey from Schneider Electric explains how the proper investment in training can keep today’s panel builders ahead of the game

The panel building industry is in continual evolution. The introduction of the IEC 61439 legislation for low voltage switchgear and control gear assemblies in 2009 brought with it a number of major changes.

One of these changes that surprised many in the industry was the removal of the terms ‘type tested assembly’ which has been replaced by ‘design verification’ with seven type tests increasing to 12 design verification characteristics. The consequences of this for the panel builder is that the validation process becomes far more rigorous.

Also, an added responsibility has been placed on the original manufacturer, panel builder and specifier, as the standard now requires a more logical approach to the design of an assembly. Part of this is the pressure to choose the most efficient products which effectively work as part of the energy system and optimise the use of natural resources.

To achieve this it means that the modern day panel builder must go beyond standard practice. It is imperative to integrate monitoring and control capabilities, and focus on reducing the size of the panels through the utilisation of compact solutions, environmental considerations and subsequently ongoing maintenance and safety.

Where to begin?

Prior to the specification process, panel builders must first widen their knowledge remit in terms of the newest technologies and practices.

To achieve this there is help available in the form of dedicated resources to develop specialist training for the sector. For example, Schneider Electric has recently launched a series of regional training days specifically for panel builders wanting to know more about the latest generation of products and technology advances.

These sessions provide knowledge on how an electrical network in a location can be made more efficient with improved power quality, reliability and intelligence, and so stand out from the standard approach to building panels.

The first recommended step is to look at measurement and monitoring of an installation which can be greatly improved by incorporated remote two-way communication and data gathering. This makes the measuring of energy usage possible in order to identify where savings can be made.

As a consequence, panel builders who invest in training to better understand measuring technologies are better placed to advise and build a monitoring and measurement system that provides optimum use of its clients energy consumption, which can be easily installed into panels.

For example, Schneider Electric’s range of air circuit breakers and moulded case circuit breakers include measurement capabilities with the ability to be remotely interrogated.

What’s next?

The next step in the process is the design of a communications system utilising the correct protocol. This requires the panel builder to fully understand and possibly programme software which operates as a gateway server, so enabling the end user to view data from measurement and monitoring devices online via a web browser. Data is displayed in real time and trends can be plotted while storing historical information from multiple locations.

Any measure which a panel builder can introduce to help keep costs down is always going to be welcome. Plug and play solutions present such a possibility. Devices such as moulded case circuit breakers now have built-in current transformers so require minimal wiring (for example to a display meter on a panel door), thus providing a time efficient and cost effective solution.

With rent for commercial space on the rise, companies are keen to reduce the amount of space panelboards occupy. After all, a switchroom does not make money for a company and uses up space. Therefore, panel builders who offer flexible and compact solutions are more likely to be providing solutions that appeal to their customers.

By utilising a modular assembly there is the potential to be able to easily extend the panel in the future, and training on how to utilise a flexible modular assembly to reduce initial capital costs while allowing any future additional capacity to be easily accommodated, is a much better option than a rigid welded panel with over capacity already having to be incorporated at the initial build stage.


Panel builders have a huge role to play in ensuring optimum sustainable practice for the nation’s energy use. For the shrewd panel builder then, it is critical to invest time undertaking ongoing training to ensure they stay at the forefront of emerging technologies and practices in order to build a successful and sustainable future for themselves and their customers.

Schneider Electric

T: 0870 608 8608