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The Work Bench Configurator – ergonomics and safety in record time

Looking for an efficient way to create custom work benches? With the Work Bench Configurator from item, you can design ergonomic solutions intuitively and directly in your browser. 

It didn’t take long before item began developing innovative online tools that make it easier for customers to design and configure tailored solutions. Now, the company has completely revamped its configurator for creating ergonomic and modular assembly work benches. The recent upgrade factors in both the vast expertise item has built up in this area and customer feedback in equal measure. The new Work Bench Configurator offers a 3D view, intuitive drag-and-drop controls and functions such as visualising the electrostatic protected area (EPA), including collision warnings. In the following interview, Christian Thiel (product manager and item expert for digitalisation and engineering) and Marius Geibel (product manager and expert for ergonomic work bench systems at item) explain the finer details.



Christian Thiel, item expert for                    Marius Geibel, item Expert for
digitalisation and engineering                     ergonomic work bench systems

Configure industrial work benches online

Discover what the new Work Bench Configurator with its 3D view and smart functions can do – especially for ESD safety. Put together your very own manual production work bench without leaving your browser.

3D visualisation and drag-and-drop controls in the Work Bench Configurator

What are the key updates in the new Work Bench Configurator?

Christian Thiel: What instantly catches your eye is, of course, the fact that the Work Bench Configurator now has a 3D view much like the item Engineeringtool. Within the working area, you can zoom in and out, move around freely and drag and drop components. And you can immediately see in 3D what you’ve configured. There are now also filters that are centred entirely around the customer, who no longer needs to know the product names. Instead, users are directly asked what they need. That might be, for example, whether they’re interested in the maximum load-carrying capacity or would like an electric or manual height-adjustment system.

What’s more, the red info points give users additional information to help them with technical matters. The comprehensive documentation provided is also similar to the documentation generated by the item Engineeringtool and contains all the information the customer needs about their project and configured design. In addition, users can export CAD data and use it in other planning systems, such as those for planning production areas.

Marius Geibel: When developing this solution, it was really important to us to ensure what you see is what you get – right down to the smallest detail. The user sees a precise three-dimensional visualisation of what they will get. This is vital, particularly when it comes to designing ergonomic work benches.

The Work Bench Configurator allows me to quickly and easily kit out my ergonomic work bench from top to bottom.

Christian Thiel: Precisely. If I’m using the new Work Bench Configurator and want, say, a Strut Set, I just drag it onto the work area – and the tool shows me where I can place it, directly in the right position and the right width. I can also adjust the height and add accessory components, such as those from our ergologistic® portfolio, which combines ergonomics with intralogistics. I can therefore quickly and easily kit out my ergonomic work bench from top to bottom.

The Work Bench Configurator is also smart and saves planning staff a lot of work thanks to its intelligent automatic processes. It even ensures the bench is exceptionally stable by automatically adapting the profile cross-sections to the size of the design.

New functions save time and money

What’s the situation with accessory components? Has anything changed there?

Christian Thiel: Besides being able to place selected components directly where they are to be used, you can also decide whether you’d like to have the accessory you’ve precisely planned in the configurator delivered already fitted. That means the entire solution can be put to use even more quickly and safely.

Necessary fastening elements are added automatically as well. Another key advantage of the new Work Bench Configurator is that users are not limited to standard sizes for the width of their bench. This is handy because there are definitely times when someone realises during the planning process that, instead of a standard size like 1500 mm, they only have 1480 mm to play with.

How has the Work Bench Configuartor solved that issue?

Christian Thiel: Since we are intently focused on the benefits to the customer and eager to get the most out of digitalisation, you can now choose between a standard size or a custom bench width. The bench can be steplessly adjusted to exactly how you want it.

This means work benches in custom sizes are available in batch sizes as small as one. From a customer’s perspective, there’s no difference between requesting a standard-size bench or ordering one in exactly the right size because, thanks to digitalisation, we have managed to optimise our processes to ensure our customers always benefit from the fastest delivery time.

We offer our customers the best delivery times for all benches, even custom-made solutions.

In other words, there is no downside for the customer. They save time and money because they no longer need any additional engineering services to customise the bench width. We offer our customers the best delivery times for all benches, even custom-made solutions.

Marius Geibel: We also realised that there is a strong trend towards fully configuring customised benches. In response to this trend and to make work easier for users, we incorporated relevant functions. Everything has been very much standardised – although the outcome is a rules-based, custom-made solution.

Christian Thiel: Personally, I always say that digitalisation must never be an end in itself, but rather a win-win situation for everyone involved. You can quite clearly see that’s the case here. Our customers have a clear advantage because they receive a solution that is tailored to them. In-house economies of scale mean we offer extremely short delivery times, too. By consistently reducing outlay in this way, both parties save time and money.

One-of-a-kind tool functions for ESD safety at the work bench

When it comes to work benches, ESD safety is a major issue. Are there any innovations in this respect, too?

Christian Thiel: Certainly. We are deliberately focusing our attention on every aspect of this matter. The Work Bench Configurator asks users at the start whether or not their work bench requires ESD safety features. They have to give an answer here as well, otherwise the “Next” button won’t appear. Those who want to learn more about ESD can click a link to head straight to the learning module on ESD featured in the item Academy.

Marius Geibel: Of course, clicking “No” at that point cuts out the following steps. The whole thing isn’t overloaded with features for those who don’t need them. And those who do need ESD safety are carefully guided through the process, but still have enough scope to find exactly what they need. It’s very much centred around the user.

What are the other ESD functions in the Work Bench Configurator like?

Christian Thiel: Just like in the item Engineeringtool, a component at risk of accidental collisions is highlighted in red. In addition to this, a yellow warning now appears if a part that isn’t ESD-safe is placed inside the EPA. Users can precisely specify where their work bench requires ESD safety and where such protection is not needed.

Visualising the EPA in the Work Bench Configurator satisfies a pressing customer need. No other online tool is currently able to do this.

We talked to customers a lot while developing the new Work Bench Configurator and found that visualising the EPA – an option we now offer – satisfies a pressing customer need. This is a genuine unique selling point. No other online tool is currently able to do this.”

The ability to define the EPA gives users the flexibility to satisfy their specific requirements.

And what happens if I add products that are not ESD-safe? 

Christian Thiel: If I click “Next”, the Work Bench Configurator tells me that non-dissipative articles have been placed in my project’s EPA. I can then move, delete or tolerate these articles as appropriate. A Parts Container with a large surface area poses a far greater risk of damaging electronic components than a small holder. This is also factored into the documentation, which shows the measured EPA. If a project contains non-dissipative products, this is also stated in the ESD documentation. Just to make it even clearer.

The Work Bench Configurator – flexible from start to finish

Say requirements change halfway through the process and someone needs an ESD bench even though they have already configured their bench differently. What do they have to do?

Christian Thiel: In lots of other systems, it would take a great deal of effort to change it again. In the Work Bench Configurator, however, it’s entirely straightforward. With just one click, you can bring the bench properties back in line with ESD safety requirements and all mechanisms are reactivated. Even the work area is automatically given an ESD-safe design.

We also have ESD measurement points. Our production team uses these as points of reference and performs measurements that are later listed in the ESD measurement log. Customers receive a separate ESD measurement log for every one of their ESD benches. This log proves to our customers that the bench in question is ESD-safe.

The implemented rules save the user a great deal of effort. You cannot go wrong in the Work Bench Configurator.

Marius Geibel: The ESD safety features offer the customer clear advantages. We can now ensure a far higher level of safety. In the past, this always involved manual work. Now, it is systematically taken into account and mapped in line with the relevant standards. In this way, we give our customers maximum reassurance that they can design ESD-safe solutions with us.

The implemented rules save the user a great deal of effort. You cannot go wrong in the Work Bench Configurator. Essentially, it’s like a digital form of Poka Yoke.

What are the next steps for the Work Bench Configurator?

Christian Thiel: Although the Work Bench Configurator looks, feels and works much like the tried-and-tested item Engineeringtool, it’s not actually integrated into the Engineeringtool. This means users can focus entirely on work benches, as they are conveniently guided through the process. Our goal is to ensure the Work Bench Configurator can later hand over its results to the item Engineeringtool. When we get to that point, I’ll then have a custom work bench and be able to combine it with my own constructions.

In the future, that could mean someone planning a virtual work bench in the Work Bench Configurator and then integrating it into a virtual-reality simulation of their production facility. During this simulation, the actual users can make sure that their requirements for ergonomics, material supply and tool stowage have been met – without any need to cut up and stick together cardboard mock-ups beforehand. This practice is also known as virtual cardboard engineering. Modifications and corrections can be made considerably faster and cheaper as a result.

We are always interested in hearing feedback and requests for new functions. It goes without saying that our development work will continue to focus on customer needs. That’s extremely important to us. The more feedback we receive, the better. Last but not least, we still have lots of ideas up our sleeve and are keen to see them help our customers.

Got an interesting idea? Get in touch with us directly! Drop us an email at [email protected]

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