Terry Fidgett, Director of Concordia Technologies explores the challenge of retaining the quality and safety of new cabling products in today’s challenging economic times and how these requirements cannot be underestimated
The cabling market today is fast moving. The issues through the supply chain of economy, speed and quality have never been more important. With networking systems becoming more complex comes the need for clear planning, and the need for management of the system, especially where voice, data and security are being brought together.
To add to the challenge, everyone involved in the supply chain wants products quickly, at reasonable cost and with ease of installation.
These days, making sure the product arrives on time and getting it installed is crucial. But contractors demand a choice of relevant quality products – and accessories – for their project.
It is therefore important to provide a range of structured cabling products, and to explain their relative merits in doing so. This means that the wholesaler, contractor and end user all know precisely what they are buying, and importantly, why.
All products have their different merits and meet different needs. However, they should all have the capability to ‘speak’ to each other rather than meet only Channel or Link level needs.
For higher end applications such as data, it is recommended that customers consider drawing up a checklist and design guide to ensure there is clarity about what the system will look like. This will allow other products and accessories to be added easily should they be required in one holistic system.
This means there are time-savings in trying to identify what already exists in the system and what best fits.
Quite often, clear labelling of products above and beyond manufacturers’ markings can also clarify what is already working and save time further down the line should there be issues or the need to extend the system.
Dealing with non-approved cabling & miss-selling
Meanwhile, the issues of non-approved cabling coming onto the market and the mis-selling of cabling also continue to compound difficulties for the industry at a time when economics are high on everyone’s list.
Any temptation to cut corners and use cheap imports is simply not worth it. The costs of ripping out, retrofitting and purchasing the products again can be prohibitive.
Installers can avoid non-compliance by being vigilant. They must check documentation associated with a product’s purchase including invoices and product data sheets to ensure what they have purchased is compliant.
They should also check that what they have ordered is what is delivered to site. If there are problems found with, or questions are raised about a cable, don’t automatically strip out the cable, but seek advice. If necessary get the cable tested by a recognised body such as the British Approvals Service for Cables (BASEC) who can provide advice in such circumstances.
Unfortunately, current legislation – some of European origin – allows cable to be sold with few checks. It is assumed that all cables are made to British, European or international standards and that these standards ensure cables are safe to use.
The cabling industry is supporting the Approved Cabling Initiative (ACI) in its attempts to rid the market of these non-approved products.
The ACI is working with government departments to help them understand the seriousness of the situation and to work with them to agree on the most appropriate enforcement action deemed necessary.
The technical specification requirements for cables are set out clearly in standards at British, European and international level, supplemented in many cases by industry, application or company specifications.
In addition to the construction and materials requirements – for example the types of plastic to use – these specification documents also specify the testing that needs to be applied in order to demonstrate and verify compliance. Most cables require between 30 and 60 different tests and examinations.
Typical tests for cables will be carried out for conductor resistance, smoke, fire performance, tensile strength and heat and cold in extreme environments and conditions.
These processes described here help to assure everyone in the supply chain that quality products are offered across the board.
From manufacture to supply, delivery and installation, there is a need for confidence in the industry in these worrying times of non-approved cabling being introduced into the market place, the mis-selling of cable and the import of cheap products.
Ignoring advice and some simple procedures can mean a price to pay.