In today’s globalised markets, the increase in cables traded between countries represents a cause for concern as the safety and quality of cable can be overlooked without a proper quality verification system in place.
'A good quality cable enables high performance in line with the standard expectations, reduces downtime and rework in projects which results in savings of time and money,' Haroon Qteishat, Commercial Manager, Middle East & Africa, Basec, tells OGN.
To ensure the highest levels of quality, cables should be subjected to rigorous assessments. The purpose of testing is always to identify factors, which may compromise quality, structure, performance, durability and safety. When cables are found not complying with industry standards, this exposes them to increased risk of faults, which may result in premature failure in service.
There are two levels of cable quality assessment: Type Test; and Product Approval.
Through these levels of quality assessment, testing is performed on the cables across the following areas: electrical, mechanical, material, chemical, and fire.
Testing can be standalone, as is the case of Type Testing, or can be part of a bigger scheme in the form of a Product Approval.
Type Tests are snapshots in time of the cable’s compliance with the standard. Their purpose is to verify if the materials and construction of the cable sample to be tested are compliant with specific standards or specifications. The manufacturer selects and supplies the sample for testing.
In this approach there is a lack of random and impartial sample selection, opening the door to a practice known as ‘golden samples’. A golden sample is manufactured for the sole purpose of passing the testing processes and is not representative of the actual range of production.
Based on the test results, a third-party testing house issues an official Type Test report or certificate. This report includes all the tests that have been performed to meet the required standard and whether it passed or failed.
Type Test is performed once to capture compliance at one moment in time. There is no validity period for the report, which means it isn’t a continuous assessment.
Product Approvals are certificates issued by third-party testing and certification bodies that state if a cable range conforms to the necessary international standards. Product Approvals schemes are usually designed with a combination of: factory audits, and cable testing.
Compliance with on-going certification drives manufacturers to maintain consistently high levels of quality across their systems and production methods. If the product meets the criteria assessed as part of the factory audits and cable testing, the accredited certification body issues a license or a certificate, which allows the manufacturer to display a mark of conformity on the cable. This assures that the product, and its manufacturing processes, have been assessed and demonstrated adequate control structures are in place to maintain the quality and adhered to standards consistently.
BASEC PRODUCT APPROVAL
The Basec Product Approval scheme was established to improve the quality and safety of cables through in-depth, rigorous testing and on-going surveillance throughout the year over a three-year validity period. It promotes conformity to local, national and international standards, and helps differentiate product quality, compliance and reliability through its endorsement.
Basec assesses the management systems a manufacturer has in place and thoroughly tests the cables being produced to make sure they conform to Basec’s requirements for compliance to national and international standards (Figure 1). In order to obtain the Basec Product Approval, the manufacturer must consistently demonstrate that:
Figure 1: Steps of product approval
• Its facilities compliance with Basec’s Product Certification Requirements (PCR), which set out a series of procedures and processes intended to ensure consistent product quality. Basec assess adherence to the PCR during regular factory audits.
• The cables manufactured comply with the required cable standards. Basec assesses this through comprehensive cable testing in its testing laboratory in Milton Keynes, the UK.
Factory Audits: Basec auditors are technical experts and highly specialised in cables. Basec is, in fact, the only testing and certification body, which specialises exclusively in cables.
Auditors conduct independent factory audits three times per year: two scheduled and one unannounced.
The number of audits is higher than most other third parties as Basec’s aim is to comprehensively assess and monitor the quality of all manufacturing processes and cables.
The scope of the audits is to verify that the manufacturer’s production processes, controls, production equipment, staff, raw materials, test equipment, procedures, test results, and handling and packaging of cable products comply with Basec’s requirements.
During the factory audits (as part of routine surveillance) the Basec auditor selects multiple samples for testing. Any non-conformity of the factory’s management system or of the tested products against requirements is followed up.
During the audits, Basec auditors identify and select the cable for testing and assessment. This ensures the cables are selected randomly by someone objective and neutral, and therefore, prevents the malpractice of producing and testing ad hoc golden samples.
In one year, Basec collects numerous samples from each approved range including cross-sections of all cable sizes. The total number of samples depends on the size, volume and complexity of the manufacturer’s production processes and the risk category.
The rigorous testing comprises all fields that determine cable quality and performance: chemical, electrical, fire, material, and mechanical. If the assessments are successful, Basec issues two certificates with a three-year validity:
• If the factory audit results are compliant, Basec will issue a general PCR management system certificate granting the quality of the management systems and manufacturing processes (Figure 2).
Figure 2: Example of PCR Certification
• If the sample testing results are compliant, Basec will issue an accredited Product Approval certificate for the range of cables tested with a specific design and materials (Figure 3).
It is not possible to obtain a Product Approval certificate without successfully passing the audits and testing verifications. If either the audits or testing do not comply with requirements, then the manufacturer has a time-limited period to implement corrective actions before certification is suspended or withdrawn. An on-going programme of audits and market surveillance of the cables works to ensure a high-quality end product.
Figure 3: Example of product approval certification
All cable approved by Basec must have the registered certification trademark (‘Basec’) marked on the cable. Only cables with the trademarks and listed on www.basec.org.uk are Basec approved.
Basec’s unique approval scheme is structured in a way to prove that the cable complies with the highest quality and safety standards and gives the end-user the peace of mind that the cable is designed and built to perform as per the highest industry standards.
The cable manufacturing industry recognises a set of standards, specifications and test procedures to control cable quality and safety. Type Tests inform whether the cable passed or failed the testing requirements of a specific standard at one point of time. The test is usually conducted on one sample selected by the manufacturer. Product Approvals, on the other hand, give the end-users and specifiers a better assessment of cable quality as it includes factory audits and tests (Figure 4).
Obtaining and retaining the Basec approval and mark requires great effort, experience, control and knowledge. Thus the successful completion of the approval offers the assurance that the product has high quality and safety standards.
Figure 4: Differences between TT and PA
Basec approval brings enormous benefits, including:
• Ensuring consistency in cable quality.
• Ensuring the cable meets the highest safety standards.
• Reducing the risks of downtime, replacements and reworks due to cable failures.
• Ensuring the cable is fit for purpose.
• Proving product compliance as part of the project quality management system documentation and for other legal requirements.