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So, what's special about the cable management industry?

06 March 2013

On the face of it, cable management may not seem the most exciting or dynamic of industries, but in the UK alone it is worth millions of pounds annually and is as competitive and innovative as any within the electrical and construction market place. With the intention of gaining more of an insight into the sector, DPA visited Legrand - a leading player in this market - to interview the company's marketing manager, Nigel Leaver.

DPA: Can you sum up the cable management sector at the moment? Also how competitive is it?
Nigel Leaver: The economic problems we’ve been saddled with for the last few years have made the sector more competitive than it’s ever been. This can be partly accounted for by an increase in manufacturers seeking to diversify their product portfolio in difficult times, but it’s also being driven by contractors and specifiers who are seeking better value for money. 

As the long standing market leader we have risen to this challenge by investing heavily in product development and redevelopment, with the aim of ensuring our offering ticks all the boxes in terms of speed, cost and ease of installation and maintenance. 

DPA: What has been the end result of this focus on product development and redevelopment?
NL: Innovation is key to staying ahead in this sector and over the last 18-months it has driven our new product development strategy more than ever before. In fact, during that time alone we have launched three innovative new solutions that have had an immediate impact on the market.  

Our Salamandre distribution trunking was redesigned from the bottom up in order to deliver across the board benefits in terms of installation and lifetime costs. Meanwhile, our Swifts cable tray universal bracket was a double award winner at last year’s Electrical Industry Awards – being named Best Commercial/Industrial Innovation and Overall Innovative Product of the Year. This simple tool for our Swifts perforated cable tray has the flexibility to replicate thousands of different traditional tray fittings and has become a firm industry favourite in less than a year. 

Finally, our Salamandre IP4X distribution trunking was developed and launched to coincide with an amendment to the wiring regulations that stipulated the need for trunking to deliver IPXXD or IP4X protection when used with single insulated (non-sheathed) cables. At the time, we were the first to react to the change, a move that meant we were the only manufacturer in the country with a cable management solution that met the newly amended regulations. 

DPA: What should be the key criteria for electrical contractors when selecting a cable management system?
NL: The first question that always needs to be addressed is the type and size of containment, which is very much dependent on the location of the installation, and the type, number and weight of cables required. Once determined, there are then a wide number of other criteria that need to be considered, which cover all aspects of installation (speed, cost, ease, safety); the compatibility of the system to the installation’s components and location; its quality and mechanical strength; ease and cost of maintenance; its flexibility, especially in terms of future proofing; sustainability; and, of course, its meeting of all relevant regulations and standards.

DPA: What is the difference between low cost and good value when it comes to cable management?
NL: Low cost solutions tend to be viewed as the most basic. Yes, they’ll handle the job they are designed for, but won’t boast any of the elements that would transform them into good value products. 

In contrast, a good value product will not only handle the project it has been specified for, but will feature an array of benefits, most notably those that aid speed and ease of installation and the cost and ease with which the solution can be maintained once installed. 

These elements may not have an immediately visible cost, or even be easy to calculate, but smart specifiers will always consider the total installed cost as opposed to unit cost before making a decision. It is in the total installed cost that true value will be found. 

DPA: Have any standards and regulations had an impact on how cable management products are specified and installed over the last couple of years?
NL: BS 7671: 2008 – Amendment No. 1: 2011 came into force for all new designs on January 1 2012, with Section 521.10.1 stipulating the need for trunking to deliver IPXXD or IP4X protection when used with single insulated (non-sheathed) cables – something that standard IP30 rated systems do not deliver. 

This seemingly minor change meant that the vast majority of metallic cable trunking systems were no longer suitable for use with single insulated (non-sheathed) cables.

Over a year down the line, the need for IP4X protection is still hotly contested but in the heat of the argument one thing seems to have been forgotten – as things currently stand, cable trunking has to deliver IPXXD or IP4X protection when used with single insulated (non-sheathed) cables otherwise it does not meet the Wiring Regulations. Our Salamandre IP4X range is still the only system on the market that delivers products to this standard. 

The other area of note has to be the rise of building information modelling (BIM) and 3D modelling design packages, which are changing the entire way in which systems are designed and how manufacturers market their products - this can only be good for the industry as ultimately it will drive down design and site costs and help deliver better value products and systems. 

Legrand is a world leader in cable management. In the UK it also incorporates a wiring device division that delivers everything from standard switches and sockets through to cutting edge smart technology, and a power distribution division that features Electrak and Zucchini as its leading brands. 

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