Britannia rules

Apr 20, 2012 | Cables and Accessories

Far from being a mere bout of patriotism, Tim Creedon, sales and marketing director for Flexicon, claims that using a British manufacturer to meet your cable protection needs is just good commercial sense.

Electrical cables can be at risk from a number of dangers such as mechanical damage, water or dust ingress, UV degradation, heat, abrasion and chemical attack, and it’s the job of flexible conduit to provide those cables with protection – with the type of system used dependent upon the type of hazard faced.

Because there is such a variety of hazards, so too will there need to be a wide selection of conduits available. What’s more, the different types of conduit need to be readily available – it’s no good if they’re on a slow boat from China. Therefore, a British manufacturer is best placed to respond to this need rapidly.

In addition, a customer may well need a non-standard solution, which places even greater emphasis on the need to have a specialist local manufacturer to reduce development and lead times.

Having technical advice on the ground and by telephone for such products alongside locally manufactured flexible conduit, makes the argument even more compelling.

The argument against

Obviously cost has traditionally been the main factor against buying British. However, on closer examination of the facts, it is often found that this is a fallacy.

The rapidly rising cost of raw materials, such as oil and steel, has become a dominant factor in the costing of most conduit systems.

Cheap labour is also not so much of a factor because labour rates are rising abroad and also because these costs are often offset by extra transportation. An article in The Economist highlighted that the end of ‘cheap China’ is at hand with blue collar labour costs in Guandong and other coastal hubs rising at double digit rates for a decade.

In addition, British manufacturing has not stood still, but has improved its efficiency to maintain its competitiveness. Manufacturers have invested in efficient, automated manufacturing equipment. 

Manufacturing pedigree

It is easy to forget that the UK remains one of the top manufacturers by output in the world and is still a leading exporter of higher value goods.  Indeed, the EEF is predicting growth in manufacturing and many are calling for manufacturing to lead us out of the tough times we find ourselves in.

This is certainly true for flexible conduit – Flexicon for instance is now a global business that sells its ‘Made in Britain’ products to over 45 countries including China and India.

Reduction in quality

So, with the rising costs of raw materials and labour costs from offshore manufacturing, how can cheaper products still be available?  Unfortunately the answer is often quality – sometimes you simply cannot get the same from less.

For flexible conduit, which has the job of protecting vital cabling, this is a potentially serious issue.  Substandard product is a risk to both the continuity of electrical supply or data and also to people.

Providing adequate protection for the cabling is essential, and while some technical advice may be needed to achieve this, the specifier must also be confident that the flexible conduit is up to the job.

Unfortunately, conduit that simply claims to be up to scratch with the relevant standard does little to ensure this. In fact, some unscrupulous suppliers could actually use the standard to muddy the waters. If you think about it, how can a product that by necessity varies according to what hazards it faces, possibly have a single product standard?

In fact, this is not what the standard is intended to do. EN 61386 specifies tests and performance criteria to classify a conduit system according to 12 different features. These include key product characteristics such as mechanical strength, temperature, electrical properties, resistance to ingress of solids and water, corrosion resistance and fire performance. Each of these features is then classified in up to seven performance levels.

I’d challenge anybody to remember all of that! Even if you could, the standard has been designed for classification of performance, not as a minimum standard to be attained.


Therefore, having the right product available combined with sound technical advice, is essential to help select flexible conduit and it’s fitting.  Flexible conduit really is a value added product and it pays to buy British.

In a speech to the EEF, Ed Miliband said, “British firms can and do compete with the best in the world. There are three words we don’t hear enough, or see enough. Those three words are ‘Made in Britain’.” I couldn’t agree more with this sentiment.

Ensuring that you give the correct flexible conduit solution for the job requires specialist manufacturing. To ensure quality, speed of response and excellent service then buying British makes sound commercial sense.


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