Using packaging as a tool to simplify cable installation

Nexans Blog Oct 1, 2021

An often overlooked yet important component when it comes to cable selection for a project is cable packaging. While it may seem trivial on the surface, cable packaging can be much more than just a way to store and transport cable – it can reduce project costs by making installation much easier, irrespective of the type of cable. Equally important, the right packaging also contributes to a more sustainable planet. Nexans Buildings & Territories’ Julien Brin, Design Lab Manager South & Central Europe, and Jenny Nyström, Design Lab Manager Nordics, explain what to consider when it comes to cable packaging.

The first thing to highlight is that not all cables are created equal, making some packaging types less suited than others. It is a question of selecting the ideal packaging to suit the cable. In some cases, corrugated cardboard boxes will work well. But in others, something more robust might be required.  

Packaging serves multiple purposes along its journey from factory to warehouse to the final destination. Apart from offering protection, it enables safe handling and storage and allows easy audit and identification. These are the standard features of most cable packaging, so to differentiate ourselves, we focused on using packaging as a tool. A good example is our patented Mobiway™ plastic drum and unwinding system, which provides an easier handling and installation process.

Packaging for greater project efficiency

Cable packaging not designed to be fit for purpose can result in project delays, increased costs, and even damaged products. That’s why installers should take a close look at the packaging when selecting cable for a new project.   

Packaging requirements differ from country to country – culture, habits, economics, and climate are some of the factors that impact cable packaging. In addition, corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies and preferences also play a significant role. For example, cardboard boxes have been used for many years in the Nordic countries and Spain because of their recycling properties, whereas France and Italy prefer wooden drums or plastic coils.

In Sweden, we’ve always had three product variants – 100m coil in a box such as our Cable Guy™ product and Easy™ range, in-between lengths of 250-300m on plastic reels, and 500m drums. However, in France, the short lengths and 500m drums are in greater demand, which was one of the main reasons for launching Mobiway™. Today, Mobiway™ is also available in Belgium, Netherlands, Spain, Greece, Portugal, Morocco, Turkey and will be launch before the end of the year in Lebanon, New Zealand, Australia, Chile and Colombia.

Launched in 2008, Cable Guy™ is particularly popular with smaller installation teams who use shorter lengths at a time. As an alternative to bobbins and rings, it offers easy, stable, and fast transportation without the annoying rolling around in a service vehicle. Handles make carrying easy, while the cables are meter-marked to quickly see how much cable is left in the box. This helps to limit the wastage – and hidden cost – often associated with smaller pack sizes. When the cable is finished, the box can be recycled as ordinary carton waste.

Price is another factor when it comes to packaging. In some countries, larger customers don’t view cabling as a premium product, so the lowest price per meter will get preference above added value and total cost. However, smaller installers are often prepared to pay a little more if it will save them time and effort, but only on cables.

Since we understand our markets, our focus at Nexans isn’t so much on cost-based pricing but rather on added value. We know what the market is willing to pay, so we view value-added packaging as a way to make our clients’ lives easier and to strengthen our brand simultaneously.

Easier installation equals better ROI

Price acceptance for Mobiway™, launched in France just over three years ago, had been outstanding, both in volume and retention. We’ve seen 70 to 75 percent of first-time buyers coming back for repeat purchases. To put it in context, the standard rate for return buying is around 35-40 percent, even in the food industry.

In 2020, Nexans sold around 100 000 Mobiway™ drums through the wholesaler network. End of March 2021, we noticed an increase of around 30% vs 2020.

Corporate social responsibility

The recycling of products and packaging plays an essential role in our corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy but poses a logistical challenge in terms of packaging. Just as there are different packaging requirements, each country also has different cable standards, specifically building and utility cables. It would, therefore, not be possible for us to, for example, send cable produced at our Grimsås plant in Sweden to the packaging facility in France. In Sweden, we only use halogen-free cables, which currently isn’t the case in the southern parts of Europe. The only cabling that uses common packaging is harmonized cables.

Again, using Mobiway™ as an example, it is produced in France but is fast gaining popularity outside the country’s borders. Since it’s made of polypropylene, the reels and flanges are 100% recyclable, but there are no official channels (yet) to regulate and control the recycling of this material in France. That’s precisely why Nexans is working on a collecting  system where a client would deliver empty Mobiway™s to a local wholesaler and Nexans will collect it from there and take it to a specific factory where it will be recycled and reused.

As recycling regulations differ country to country we will have to take that into consideration when Mobiway is produced locally.

The road ahead for packaging

The growing amount of solid waste being added to landfills from product packaging is an environmental concern for all manufacturers. That’s why the recycling of products and packaging is growing in importance. Approaches will vary from country to country and be influenced by each country’s environmental policies and regulations. It is also important to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of cardboard versus plastic. For example, cardboard has an advantage in terms of breaking down but requires more energy to produce.

Packaging innovation is a particularly strong focus for Nexans, that’s why we will keep developing solutions that can bring efficiency and reliability to our customers as well as low environmental impact. That’s our focus and commitment.

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