Successful control panel design lies in the detail

Successful control panel design lies in the detail

In this blog we’re going to take a close look at what goes into making a well-designed control panel. Industrial control panels are used to manage software and hardware systems; consisting of a number of settings which are used to manage the display, user interface and much more. As a result, the importance of ensuring good control panel design is not something which can be underestimated. To ensure optimum performance, every single component must be put together correctly and then optimised. Having a close look at a control panel is a simple way to check whether it has been put together and organised correctly, or whether it would benefit from a few adjustments. This offers an effective way to prevent an engineer who is working on it from having to search the system to find the correct switches, motor controls, relays, circuit protection devices or disconnects.

The placement and layout of components

It is an essential requirement that all of the components and component groups inside a control panel have been organised in a way that is both logical and functional. Components which have a high voltage rating, for example, must be located at the top of the panel. This is because in the majority of control panels, the main incoming power disconnect switch is situated towards the top right. Power components which have a lower voltage level will be located further down the panel.

To ensure that diagnosing problems is as simple as possible, power distribution components should be situated with the relevant power breaker on the left, and followed by fuses, distribution breakers, terminals and fuses. Arranging components in this way ensures consistency, whilst also reflecting the schematics’ hierarchy. Sufficient space also needs to be left between groups of components to facilitate easy expansion if required.

The I/O terminals and PLC racks should be situated below the power distribution components. Because the components at the top of the panel have a higher voltage they give out more heat. As a result, any delicate or heat sensitive components should be located towards the bottom of the panel. Placing components in this way enables most of the heat to be released around the top of the control panel. In addition, it’s also a good idea to keep components such as these at the bottom; this is because the field instrument I/O wiring is often integrated into the panel at the bottom end.

The importance of labeling

Yet another essential aspect of a well-designed control panel is correct labelling. Labels should be fixed to each wire during the wiring process. In addition, if power distribution writing is connected to a power distribution terminal, each wire should be labelled according to the number of the terminal. For non-PLC I/O wiring, labelling should correspond to the schematics line number. Furthermore, wiring which connects to PLC inputs and outputs must be labelled with a structure corresponding to the PLC address. Panel components such as breakers and power supplies are usually labelled using abbreviated prefixes. The prefix AC120, for example, would be used to label 120VAC power distribution, with a ‘DI’ for digital input. A number would then be added in order to name the terminal group.

Panel size is important

When industrial control panels are designed, sufficient horizontal and vertical space is allowed in between components. Horizontal space enables the addition of components such as distribution breakers, additional terminals, PLC racks, to name but a few. Placing components too close together increases heat which can lead to problems, whilst vertical space can be used to house wiring.

Don’t forget wireway design

To ensure that a control panel is well designed, it’s important that there is a sufficient quantity of the correct type and amount of wireway. By ensuring this, you’ll ensure that field I/O wiring and panel wiring have enough room to be routed to I/O terminals.

Get in touch with DualTEC

DualTEC are specialist electrical engineers and control panel builders based in Keighley, West Yorkshire. If you would like to find out more about our services, please get in touch by calling 01535 609314 or email

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