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Credit Crunch Protection

In the face of the credit crunch all costs are closely examined.  Sometimes you can cut costs without affecting performance, but to do so you may need to challenge some traditional rules of thumb argues Jim Parkinson, sales director for Flexicon.



There is a serious danger that in seeking out the cheapest solution, products will be specified that are simply not up to the job.   In our industry that is potentially dangerous.


Take flexible conduit for instance.  It protects cabling from hazards so you cannot afford to take shortcuts.  The trick is to specify product that is capable of doing the job but does not needlessly add cost.


With this in mind it pays to look closely at what you are specifying and then asking yourself and possibly your customer some questions.  Often specifications for buildings are based on out of date rules of thumb, or specification requirements that date back to the 1970s!


One big area that I come across time and time again is the use of metallic flexible conduit where a non-metallic option is more than capable of fulfilling the specification.



Sometimes the reason is nothing more than tradition.  “We have always used metallic conduit, it does the job”,  is a refrain that I hear surprisingly often.  In London metallic conduit is often detailed in the specification because people still use the old London building regulations dating back to the times of the GLC.  Most of the time it is not necessary.


Metallic conduit has an inherent toughness and is crush resistant, but the technology of non-metallic conduits means that they can sometimes offer an equally tough solution often at a fraction of the price.



But specifying conduit based on one property is a mistake.  As with any protective product the first step is to analyse what you are protecting the cabling from, this list may be any one of 20 plus hazards including compression, impact, water, fire performance or anti tamper.


Even if compression or impact resistance is important there are nylon, PVC or uPVC conduits that provide good performance.  Our metallic systems for instance provide a compression strength of between 45 to 500 kg/100mm.  Non-metallic systems range from 35 to 150 kg/100mm.   



At face value some may opt for the metallic option, but take a look at the installation.  Even where compression strength might be an issue, in all but the most extreme cases 120kg/100mm is more than adequate. 


Often mechanical performance is not even an issue, so why specify a needlessly expensive option?


Cost control


Having dealt with the hazard analysis, which should be the first consideration for any conduit specification, lets take a look at costs.


The material costs of a similar specification steel system to a top of the range nylon system might be 10% more expensive.  Depending on the results of your hazard analysis you might find that the cost of using a steel option is four times more expensive than a polypropylene equivalent and almost twice as expensive as a nylon system.


Remember this analysis is just the material costs.  Often a far more significant expense for the specifier is labour.  Talking to installers we believe that a steel system takes about six times as long to install as a non-metallic system.


Consider briefly what needs to be done.  For a metallic system you should use a bandsaw to cut the conduit to size.  Next you need to fit a ferule and finally attached the fitting.  Contract this with a plastic system, here you can cut the conduit to size using a handheld cutter and then you simply push on the fitting, the whole process may take 5 seconds. 




In reality of course the installer may use a hacksaw to cut metallic systems, which will take longer.  This hacksaw should have a fine blade, which increases the cutting time, or you will risk adding metal swarf, which could damage the insulation on the cabling that the conduit should be protecting!


Breaking with tradition


I am not arguing against metallic systems.  Sometimes you will need them.  If you need a very high compression or pull off strength they should still be specified.


There is however a false belief on some specifications that metal is best.  Challenge this assumption, take a close look at what you need the conduit for, often you will find that non-metallic is best.


In Europe the ratio of non-metallic to metallic conduit used is about 90/10.  Contrast this with the UK where the ration is 50/50.   In too many cases this is adding unnecessary cost to an installation.  Can you afford to do so in the credit crunch?


A final thought - talk to your conduit manufacturer for advice; it might just win you that extra bit of work or cut the cost of the installation.


For further information please contact:  Flexicon Ltd, Roman Way, Coleshill, Birmingham, B46 1HG.  Telephone 01675 466900.  Fax:  01675 466901.  Email:  sales@flexicon.uk.com.  Web:  www.flexicon.uk.com

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