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Getting It Right the First Time: Ensure the Wire & Cable Materials You Order Are What You Actually Need

April 30, 2018

Have you ever ordered a new part, but what you received wasn’t exactly what you needed, even though the spec looked good on paper?

Every original equipment manufacturer has their own distinct set of needs and expectations for wire, cable, and wire management solutions. These needs are what suppliers strive to meet and support each and every day. There are times, however, when the delivered product meets an OEM customer’s requirements, yet isn’t the optimal fit for their application. While there are many reasons for such mismatches, a strong distribution partner will always make every effort to understand the “specifications within a specification” — or the nuances that are not included in a typical product’s description — to ensure that you, the OEM, get the right material.

To better understand the importance of uncovering the “specs within a spec,” let’s consider the following questions and how the answers can help your supplier partner deliver the solution you need:


1. How will the materials be utilized in the real world?

Too often, product engineers request a product based on physical requirements such as temperature and voltage ratings, diameter parameters, as well as specific chemical composition, only to discover that the product doesn’t meet the performance requirements of the intended application.

For example, a request is made for a material that is rated to 200°C, however, the application may actually need a product that can sustain a temperature of up to 200°C while it is flexing and bending in a repeated motion for a certain period of time. If the supplier does not know that the application requires cable with high flex properties, then the product that is delivered could fail after enduring repeated motions.

Asking yourself how and where the product will be used, and then sharing those insights with your supply partner will go a long way in ensuring that you receive a solution that not only meets the physical specifications, but also withstands the rigors of daily use that may occur with your application.

2. If a value range is provided for a given specification on a product, is there a tighter target within that range that must be specified?

Some industry standards will accept a product that falls within a specified range of values, but often the application will require a product to adhere to an even more stringent specification.

An example of a range of accepted values can be found with some UL styles where there is a tolerance range for insulation thickness. If the insulation thickness can vary, that means the overall diameter (O.D.) of the wire or cable will vary. If a supplier only knows that you need a product with a particular UL approval, you might not realize until you receive the product that you actually need a product that is both UL approved AND a specific diameter to accommodate the connector you are using. Similarly, if a supplier knows up front that you will be using a wire management product with your wire or cable, they can ensure that the products you receive will fit together seamlessly.

3. If a value range is provided for a given specification on a product, is there a tighter target within that range that must be specified?

The environment that the end product will operate in can dramatically impact the requirements of the wire and cable within the product. When you detail how you will use the product, make sure you include any type of environmental influences that could affect the product’s performance. Will the wire or cable be exposed to water, oil, or chemicals? Do you need certain flame ratings? Answers to these questions and other stipulations will ensure that you identify a product that can operate well in the environments your applications run in.


All three of the questions above speak to the same guiding principle — when requesting wire, cable, or wire management products, always share as much information as possible with your supply partner. The more that you are able to share about the intended application, such as how the product will be used, what specification values must be met and which environmental requirements are necessary, the more likely it is that your supplier will be able to identify the right product.

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