Discussing the significance of safety-critical installations in the electrical and power sector, leading wires and cable providers explored various aspects to alter the safety outlook by promoting fire-retardant and halogen-free cables.

Wires and cables are critical components of an electrical installation that protect against short circuits and fires. This underscores the need for stringent and regressive actions to enforce standards, certifications, and quality-specific norms in wires and cables used in industrial electrical applications.

Modern trends in the cables and wires business

India’s power distribution companies and electrical grids must undergo reforms to support the country’s transition to sustainable forms of renewable energy. For many years, renewable energy has been driven by using systems such as photovoltaics. “Modern PVs used in today’s systems necessitate strong cables and components.” To support this, the wires and cables used in these systems must be made of durable and high-quality material. “They should be rodent-proof and weatherproof against heat, wind, and frost to ensure reliable and long-lasting operation,” says Gary Bateman, Managing Director, LAPP India.

The photovoltaic industry’s needs for cabling solutions range from large, robust underground cables for power plants to filigree connection technology for flexible organic photovoltaic modules (OPV). Cable and wire manufacturers must understand these changing requirements and develop products accordingly.

However, for the past year, the prices of raw materials used to manufacture cables, primarily copper and PVC, have been at an all-time high, and the trend has been upward. This has impacted the production plan because it is difficult to predict demand in the face of rising costs.

Coping with transformations in the electrical sector

The industry is already converting overhead distribution lines to underground cable networks to meet the demand for a safe and efficient power supply. According to Manjit Singh, Executive Director – Cables at KEC International Ltd., the industry is also increasing awareness about using fire-retardant and fire-resistant cables. KEC also provides various cable products to these segments, including FR, FRLS, and Fire Survival cables.”

In India, the market for fire-resistant and flame retardant cables is thriving. According to Arvind Agrawal, Vice President, Havells India, India is one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. With more advanced vertical building concepts and newer technologies, this growth brings significant changes to the country’s infrastructure. These evolving infrastructures and technological advancements are powered by electricity, so the quality of wires and cables has become critical.

Effective supply chain management and improved logistics are the best ways to manage the transformations and challenges. “With our goal of ‘zero quality cost’ and ‘zero failures,’ we have strengthened our capacity for quality and prioritised customer trust. Another factor is having best-in-class machinery, which can help avoid waste and ensure that the products are both cost-effective and of high quality, “Gary explains.

Addressing safety aspects through green and sustainable cables

Arvind states that “consumer safety has always been our top priority.” And hence, Havells is actively promoting halogen-free flame retardant (HFFR) insulated wires. The low-intensity visible white smoke HFFR is more effective during fire outbreaks because it reduces the amount and density of smoke, making it easier for occupants to exit space and increasing the safety of firefighting operations during any fire accident.

Regarding the environment, Lapp India follows trailblasing European guidelines such as the EU Green Deal and material-related regulations such as REACH/RoHS. “In the event of a fire, our cable and accessory programme includes halogen-free products, which are safer options for people and the environment.” “Our production operations largely re-use cable production waste and all synthetic waste,” Gary India explains.

Manjit believes more work is needed to promote green and sustainable cables in India. He goes on to say that the insulation used in green wires is made of eco-friendly materials with properties such as better fire resistance, low toxicity, recyclable, and free of carcinogenic substances. The insulation also provides high-temperature stability.

Challenges impacting the wires and cables business

Metal prices, such as copper and aluminium, have been volatile recently, causing pricing uncertainty in cable products. Manjit points out that the recent increase in crude oil prices has resulted in a massive increase in petroleum products such as polyethene resin and PVC, pushing up the cost of XLPE compound by more than 40 percent in the last year. “Regarding price increases, the same can be said for fibre. These factors impact cable companies’ margins and profitability, as well as consumer confidence “, Manjit adds.

“Wire and cable manufacturers faced a difficult period following the lockdown due to high raw material prices coupled with a shortage in their supply, all while attempting to restore business to its original pace,” says Gary. To address this situation, cable manufacturers used a variety of strategies, including monthly average raw material procurement, variable pricing, and short-term price validity. Regarding the strategy, we employ at Lapp, we closely monitor price forecasts and ensure that we stock copper ahead of time. Our raw material purchases are based on thoroughly examining historical data and market insights.

Arvind agrees that raising consumer awareness is a long term challenge. He is also concerned that wires and cables are frequently neglected after installation and are only revisited when they need to be replaced or repaired. It is worth noting that most buildings use PVC cables, which contain chlorine and make the buildings more prone to fire outbreaks.

Need for standardising quality for wires and cables

Today, most wires and cables in India have PVC insulation that meets Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) specifications and codes as outlined in the National Building Code of India. To phase out PVC cables, the cable industry collaborated with the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) to develop a new standard, IS 17048:2018, for halogen-free flame retardant (HFFR) cables with working voltages up to and including 1100 volts.

Substandard cables constitute a significant safety concern. The importance of fire-retardant and fire-resistant cables is gradually becoming more widely recognised in India. Striking a balance between price and quality has long been a challenge for cable and wire companies in India, says Manjit.

On the other hand, Gary believes we should promote green and sustainable cables globally. This can be accomplished by sensitising individuals and organisations to environmental hazards. Also, explain the advantages of using sustainable components in their electrical equipment and products.

The right product for the right application is a factor that needs to be improved in India. Another critical factor is the proper termination of all electrical circuits. As a layman, you may not understand all of the technical details of the electrical system, so it’s critical to rely on an experienced professional for wiring, rewiring, and maintenance work.

The switch to environment friendly options should no longer be treated like a choice and has become necessary. Gary Bateman, Managing Director, LAPP India

Striking a balance between price and quality is one of the challenges that cable and wire companies in India have been facing for quite some time. Manjit Singh, Executive Director, Cables, KEC International Ltd.

The evolving infrastructures and technological growth are powered by electricity, so the quality of wire and cables becomes very important. Arvind Agrawal, Vice President, Havells India

Source: EPR Magazine