Three Steps to Control Panel Design

Electrical engineers designing a control panel

Generally speaking, if a control panel has been designed correctly, the finished product can be summed up in one word: tidiness. A neat and tidy control panel speaks of proficient design, and whilst the goal of the panel is obviously to carry out its major function efficiently, tidiness goes a long way toward ensuring easy maintenance and overall longevity.

Tidiness is an inherent part of the design and build process of our control panels, but in truth, a neat control panel is really the result of three steps within the design process. Combined, they are what make good control panel design, great.

Electrical engineers designing a control panel

A thoughtful layout

All control panels need an incoming power line and a corresponding main-power switch, which is normally – but not always – located in the top right hand corner of the panel. However, for the purposes of this example let’s say that it is. The first components to consider are those that have the highest voltage ratings, they should be placed next to the main power switch at the top of the panel.

This ensures the current reaches those components with the highest amperage demand first, but also means that any heat generated from such components doesn’t interfere with more sensitive electronics located further down the panel, such as PLCs and input / output wiring.

After higher-voltage components are in place, power can then be evenly distributed to those of a lower rating. Each group of components should consist of a main breaker to the left of the panel, followed by fuses, terminals and distribution breakers. Ensuring that each group of components are separate from one another, making testing and diagnosing faults simpler.

Considered labelling

When labelling the wiring and components within a control panel, there is a widely accepted set of criteria to follow that are essential for ease of operation and maintenance. They are:

  • Label every wire and component within the panel
  • Decide on and adhere to a specific convention for abbreviation
  • Label wires at the end of the wire
  • Label distribution wiring with its associated terminal number
  • Label PLC I/O wiring with the syntax that corresponds with the specific PLC address
  • Label components such as circuit breakers and power supplies with its corresponding line number and an abbreviation for the type of component

Adequate size

Whilst space in industrial and manufacturing environments is often at a premium, adequate size for internal components should always be a priority in control panel design. There should be ample space for all components and wiring to fit and be easily discernible from one another, whilst providing room for future expansion as additional components may need to be added at a later date.

Additionally, assessment of heat output for each component should be made during the early stages, this can then inform decisions on the size of the panel from the perspective of heat exchange. If enough height can be achieved then the need for air conditioning units may be eliminated, though this would be ultimately governed by the size of the intended space for the panel.

A final word on wireway design

Providing enough space for channelling wires should also be of high priority in your design. Wireways should provide ample room for field I/O and all internal wiring, so that each grouping can be easily accessed for inspection, maintenance and termination. There should be sufficient room so that labelling can be carried out and easily read, along with space for future expansion of internal wiring to new components.

Considered, quality control panel design from DualTEC

Our design expertise is expansive, with over fifteen years in operation, our team has the collective experience to meet all requirements for your project. Utilising the latest in electrical EPLAN design software, we create detailed and precise schematics that inform our control panel manufacture from our base of operations in West Yorkshire. If you would like more information about our control panel design capabilities, or have any control panel queries generally – then please get in touch with one of our engineers on 01535 609314 or email

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