Malcolm Duncan of Super Rod discusses how sharing information can only enhance the cable installation process
If I were to ask: “What is the most important part of the cable installation process?” I feel certain there would be numerous different answers because as a general rule we all do things differently. However, because we all do things differently then perhaps sharing experience and knowledge should be imperative because it is only by sharing this information that we can enhance the installation process and the way in which we go about our everyday tasks.
Keeping up to date with everything that you need to know is one of the biggest challenges faced by contractors on a daily basis. Whether it is the latest requirements of Part L or Part F of the Building Regulations or the requirements of Amendment 3 of the Wiring Regulations.
There are of course numerous training courses on offer, which cover everything from LED technology and how to get the most from it, to energy management and meeting the latest requirements of a whole raft of industry legislation. But while there may be information available about where to install the latest LED technology and how efficient it will be in operation –how often do you see tips and advice which covers how to navigate your way through a wall or ceiling to install these LEDs?
Unfortunately this is one area where most people draw a blank but it is also the area that is perhaps the most important because it is only by keeping up to date with the latest installation techniques that you can ensure that you are carrying out the best installation every time.
Focus on the method
So why is it so important to focus on the methodology which is needed for cable installation? The simple answer is that it allows you to save time.
This may sound like a very simplistic view but essentially that is exactly what cable installation is about because everyone’s greatest concern is that of time or more importantly how to carry out a professional cable installation quicker. The key here is the word professional – because it is very easy to cut corners and do the job in half the time, but that isn’t what professional contractors want to achieve.
Over the past few years we have seen some excellent developments in cable management and many of them have been from UK companies. The one thing that they all have in common is that they are aimed at saving time at the point of installation – so it is definitely a theme that runs throughout the industry.
Sharing knowledge and information is therefore something which will change the way that the industry operates and ensure that contractors both old and new are constantly improving the way they operate. There is an old Chinese proverb that says: “Give a man a fish and you will feed him for a day. If you teach him how to fish, you will feed him for the rest of his life.” This is exactly the type of approach which we need to take as an industry because information which is shared either by a wholesaler, another contractor or direct from the manufacturer can last for a lifetime.
In 2008 Super Rod was awarded the Queens Award for Industry for saving over nine million labour hours in a single year – and that was all from reducing the time it takes to install cable.
Since then word has continued to spread and contractors have continued to share their tips and advice. What this demonstrates is that training isn’t just about sitting in a classroom and learning because as far as cable management is concerned there isn’t necessarily a rule book. What we do have is a lot of people with a lot of knowledge and sharing this knowledge and advice is an important process which is changing the way that we work.
Many successful companies, including Apple, were built by a number of individuals who worked together. Whilst some of these relationships were born out of long standing friendships, others were not necessarily amicable partnerships – despite their success. One thing they did all have in common, was that each person in the relationship recognised their individual limitations and respected what other people could bring to the partnership.
This is something which we can all learn from and which should sit at the heart of new product development. A good example of this was the development of our cable routing products almost 15 years ago. Every contractor we spoke to shared their frustration about how much time was lost when routing cables as a result of encounters with unknown obstacles.
Although a variety of contraptions were fashioned from wire coat hangers and trunking lid none were really suitable and they certainly didn’t speed up the process to the extent that the contractors required. By working with the people in the industry who used the products we were able to develop our cable rod sets which were not only fit for purpose but also genuinely saved time and as a result matched the requirements of the contractors.
If we fast forward to today the story hasn’t really changed because constant dialogue with the industry allowed us to understand the ever more complex nature of installations which required the contractor to pull more and more cables through more challenging terrains. As a result we focussed on the design of our AXM fittings. These have now been granted a patent and the combination of our Adoxim 5 rod formula and the mechanically crimped AXM fittings produces a system that offers an overall tensile strength of over 250kg (2500N) which is far more in keeping with the requirements of the industry today.
Putting it into practice
Many people will question whether such a relationship is really essential and whether it really does enable the contractor to carry out a better, more professional cable installation; but I think the answer has to be yes, it is and yes it most certainly does.
January 2015 for example saw the introduction of Amendment No. 3 to BS 7671:2008 (IET Wiring Regulations 17th Edition) and with it a number of significant changes were introduced which electrical contractors and installers will now have to understand and integrate into their working practices. There is a six month transition period where contractors can install to Amendment 2 or Amendment 3 but from 1 July 2015 all installations designed and tested will have to comply with the changes.
For many contractors there will be a fairly steep learning curve but the same can also be said for manufacturers like ourselves. For a start we need to understand if the requirements of our customers has changed and if they now need different products to carry out installations.
It is only through this continued dialogue with contractors that we can understand how the new regulations have affected the way that they work so that the products we develop continue to meet a genuine need within the industry.
If there is one great failing for many manufacturers it is that they spend too much time trying to figure out what their customers want and not enough time asking them. For me the ability to communicate will always be key because it is the only way to create a sustainable and successful business relationship which promotes professionalism, delivers value and ultimately increases the skills of the people in our industry