A couple weeks ago I was in a meeting with a client who uses a large amount of temporary power cable for a variety of big jobs and applications. This company recently started buying from a variety of manufacturers, not wanting to do too much with one vendor. After all, the buyer said, “cable is cable”. Being the President of an electrical distributor that prides itself in selling the highest quality products available, I nearly fell out of my chair. All cable is not created equal I said, and proceeded to passionately discuss how choosing the right cable could make his company 50% more revenue while spending less than 5% more. Here is what I said:
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Cross linked polyethylene, or XLPE happens during the cable extrusion process, and creates a strong molecular bond called thermoset. The process is a chemical reaction, meaning it can not be undone. Unlike how wax can melt and be reformed (wax is thermoplastic), cross linked molecules that are thermoset are permanent and much stronger than thermoplastic. The benefits include increased abrasion resistant and higher melting points. Thermoset material used in the jacket of cables has several trade names including General Cables Super Vu-tron and Nexans Tiger Brand. Thermoset jacket material is sometimes referred to as rubber. The thermoset process during cable extrusion requires equipment that takes up much more room and is more expensive than the equipment used for thermoplastic cable. That is why many of the smaller cable manufacturers can only make cable with thermoplastic jackets.
If you burn it, it will melt
As I sat across from the customer, I told the story of how several years ago, we purchased some thermoplastic cable in order to run some tests to see how it would compare to our thermoset (rubber) jacketed cable. Temporary power cable can be in extreme conditions including heat and abrasion and we aimed to mimic those conditions. The first test involved holding a torch to both cables for 30 seconds. The cable with the thermoset jacket smoked, but did not catch fire and definitely did not melt. The thermoplastic cable on the other hand, smoked profusely, caught fire and melted. A catastrophic failure that made the cable unusable.
Why tires are made of rubber and not plastic
The next test, I explained, involved rubbing the cable repeatedly against a cinder block for 30 seconds which simulated cable being dragged along concrete. The rubber jacketed cable showed some scrapes but remained usable and retained all it’s electrical insulating properties. The thermoplastic jacketed cable had a large indentation that went all the way through the jacket, insulator, and exposed the conductor. The insulating properties were ruined which would cause a short circuit in the field. Short circuits are the primary cause of injuries and death from electrocution.
The videos of the test can be found here.
Like a warm knife through butter
At this point I had my customers attention, and I still had one more test to explain. In this last test, we heated a nail until it was red hot and placed it firmly against the jacket of both cable types. The rubber jacketed cable smoked, but remained largely undamaged. The hot nail on the jacket of the thermoplastic cable (by now you probably have guessed the result) burned all the way through the jacket and insulation like a warm knife through butter.
Rental companies typically rent cable by the week, and an extra week of rental revenue can be worth hundreds of dollars. A typical 50’ 4/0 cable assembly commonly used by generator rental companies can cost $300.00 and rent for $50 a week. If this cable lasted just 7 weeks longer, the extra cable rental time would pay for the original purchase price plus $50!
I believe helping our customers be more profitable by providing quality products and services is the best part of sales. Often times as sales people, we forget to take the time to teach our customers about product differences proper applications. The long term effects on the relationship will inevitably pay dividends.