It can be a time consuming and often-costly process, when faced with a wide choice of products of seemingly equal class, to undertake the hard work of identifying the real quality item. However, in the case of copper energy and datacoms cable this task can be a vitally important one and well worth the investment. This is because superficially, there appears to be very little difference between an inadequate, potentially dangerous cable and a good quality compliant cable.
A key point to remember is that the critical differences between compliant and non-compliant cable only become apparent when the non-compliant cable fails - and that, more often than not, is when it’s too late. A cable’s capacity to perform is, however, significantly influenced by quality issues relating to the manufacturing processes employed and the raw materials used - information that is not readily accessible to individual buyers looking to make informed purchasing decisions.
So, the question arises: Is there a simple device that cable specifiers and buyers can rely on to shorten the product evaluation/selection process and which will help them to identify dependable, conforming product? The answer, quite simply, is yes - the independent BASEC certification mark.
For over 30 years BASEC (the British Approvals Service for Cables) has been the guardian of quality in the cable manufacturing industry. BASEC is entirely independent, government nominated and non-profit making. It is also accredited by UKAS (the United Kingdom Accreditation Service). Nobody knows more about cable quality, because BASEC focuses exclusively on cable making and only employs staff with specific cable making experience. BASEC is not an organisation that will certify a chemical process one day, a nuclear installation the next and a cable manufacturer the day after that - BASEC only works with cable related manufacturers.
There are two key words here to note: independent and accredited. An independent product certification is the cable specifier’s assurance of a totally unbiased confirmation of quality. Accreditation indicates that the body issuing the certification operates to well established, published standards, as laid down by government, and that this is regularly checked by UKAS, the government’s authorised agency. Within the marketplace therefore the independent, accredited certification body effectively works on behalf of the cable buyer/specifier.
Among the certification services provided by BASEC to the cable-manufacturing sector are management system certification, in accordance with BASEC standard BA2250, and individual product certification. Management system certification to BA2250 is a certification developed by BASEC based on the principles of ISO9001, but specifically tailored to cable manufacturing. This certification is the customer’s assurance that a cable producer operates a controlled and well-organised management system as a means of ensuring that products meet customer requirements. In addition it also looks at the rigour of the manufacturing processes and testing system, it dictates the number and frequency of samples checked and it evaluates the equipment used in the testing process to make sure it’s correctly calibrated and capable of accurately performing the required tests.
Individual products are certified under a BASEC product certification scheme that verifies conformity with all the requirements of relevant national or international Standards. The verification covers requirements such the cable’s electrical and mechanical functions, as well as vital properties such as final dimensions and the method and quality of construction. As an example: the product Standard will specify the amount of copper required in the conductor, the quality of the copper, the amount and quality of the insulation surrounding the conductor, and the type and frequency of the product-testing regime that must be followed both during and after manufacture. BASEC product certification schemes address all such Standard requirements in a thorough and methodical process, designed to deliver a quality assurance that specifiers and buyers can rely on.
It is also worth recalling two important facts. Firstly, cable manufacturers themselves are allowed to declare their product’s conformance with a BS specification, and secondly, they are not obliged to have this claim confirmed by any independent third party. In the event of a difficulty therefore, it probably shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to discover that a failed non-compliant cable might have been produced in a ‘less than well managed’ manufacturing environment, and possibly using substandard quality raw materials and poor manufacturing and quality systems. On the other hand an independent certification of product compliance delivers the assurance that, providing the cable is correctly specified for the application, it should give many years of safe, dependable service and peace of mind.
It is generally appreciated that quality assured product can sometimes cost a little more than non-assured product. However, specifiers and installers need to focus on the significant costs of reworking a job if cable has to subsequently be stripped out and replaced. Equally, good quality, compliant material, in a quality job, delivers a far longer life and a more secure installation, and customers enjoy considerable savings in cost of ownership.
A final thought. From time to time in the cable market, concerns are voiced about the availability of non-compliant ‘fake’ cable. However, in this respect BASEC believes its mark is almost a ‘guarantee’ that a product isn't counterfeit. This is because of the amount of effort put into policing both the name and mark to be sure they aren't used fraudulently. There may well be manufacturers in some countries, which don't have the same rules on copyright - and manufacturers may counterfeit cable and put a BS number on it - but most significantly they don’t put BASEC on it!
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