Southwire believes innovation delivers value to our customers and ensures our sustained success as a company. Each innovation is an opportunity to grow our market share and improve the lives of customers and end users.
We stay abreast of evolving industry standards and requirements, and innovate in advance of pending changes. We also listen to and observe our customers and product end users to identify innovation opportunities. Through extensive firsthand research, Southwire takes a comprehensive approach to understanding our customers’ needs and behaviors. We closely examine the entire product life-cycle, paying special attention to the product’s design, installation methods and use. We strive to make the customer experience seamless, so we integrate our solutions as much as possible—thereby enhancing customer productivity and ensuring the highest standards of user safety.
Southwire’s Sustainability Scorecard includes goals that directly connect innovation and customer experience. One goal is to improve customer efficiency by providing innovative products that improve productivity and reduce waste, leading to cost savings and enhanced profitability. We are currently developing our strategy to accomplish this goal. Another goal is to develop and implement a consistent framework that measures and improves customer experience and creates a sustainable competitive advantage by year-end 2017. Consequently, we plan to launch Voice of the Customer in 2016, a new customer service survey that measures satisfaction.
Research and Development
Our strength in technology and innovation stems from our dedication to Research and Development (R&D). Southwire grounds its culture in its rich history and tradition of cultivating new ideas and creating customer solutions, and it remains an integral part of our collective fabric today. The Southwire Cofer Technology Center houses our world-class R&D team, which communicates with each division to learn what solutions to pursue to solve our customers’ most pressing problems. Our divisions communicate the desired solutions based on insights gained from observing and experiencing customers’ use of its products.
Innovation differentiates Southwire in the marketplace, and we include environmental considerations into our product development approach. We examine six sustainability criteria as we consider each new product effort:
- Minimizing the amount of resource materials, including those that impact our carbon footprint
- Minimizing or avoiding the use of hazardous materials;
- Using as much recycled material as possible;
- Minimizing environmental impact during use phase of product;
- Making our products for renewables as cost-effective as we can; and
- Developing products with a smaller carbon footprint.
After a performance evaluation by the respective division president, a Specifications Committee formally manages the approval and launch of product innovations, ensuring that the product can be manufactured and its performance consistency maintained. Staffed by Manufacturing, Marketing, and R&D; the team manages the long-term integrity of any product innovation as it moves from development to full-scale production.
Southwire’s innovation is a very successful interweaving of the product managers’ understanding of the customers’ needs and R&D’s conquering the science necessary to implement a product design that satisfies those needs.
2015 Innovation Highlights
Southwire’s Industrial Division, in conjunction with Applied Software and Southwire’s Electrical Division, developed and released the Southwire BEM™ (Building Electrical Model) software in 2015. This revolutionary innovation automates electrical design and installation, a process that—until now—required a complicated web of communication between the project engineer, contractor, CAD designer and field workers. BEM™ software, a type of BIM (Building Information Model) solution, will reduce the entire design and installation process to a fraction of the traditional time. As a result, labor efficiency will drastically improve.
Southwire’s OEM Division saw a number of developments in 2015. We completed torsional testing on multi-conductor wind turbine tray cable, broadening our offering in the wind systems marketplace. The company received approval for 125-degree EPDM battery cable insulation, used throughout the automotive industry. We launched an ultra-low temperature trailer cable designed specifically for the truck trailer industry, providing a more reliable cold-weather solution for those working in extreme climate conditions. Finally, we released the EZ-In™ Shielded Mini-Split Cable to the HVAC market, allowing for protection from interference when running mini-split cable alongside communications cable. The shielding blocks electrical interference from occurring between the two side-by-side cables.
Our EZ-In™ Mini-split Cable received an Innovation Award at the 2015 Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration (AHR) Exposition in Chicago. While most cables cannot run from the outside of a dwelling to the inside without violating electrical codes, the mini-split cable can. As an additional benefit, wiring the mini-split reduces extra materials.
Our SIMpull Solutions® products and services best exemplify our innovation in the Electrical Division. Our SIM Technology® products provide a variety of benefits for our customers, including:
- Elimination of the cost, mess and need to dispose of added lubricants, since they are “No Lube®” products—installed without the use of supplementary lubrication at the job site.
- Reduction in labor on certain wire and cable installations as well as the time needed to install the cable by eliminating the use of a pulling lubricant during installation. By reducing the pulling effort, customers can improve safety for those individuals at the job site.
- Less confusion and higher productivity. Our SIMpull® feeder wire solutions are color-coded to identify specific circuits, minimizing costly installation errors and making the entire process safer.
- Elimination of reels, reducing potential injuries associated with heavy lifting on the job site.
In 2015, Southwire introduced the SIMpull™ Reel™ maneuverable payoff. Electrical Construction & Maintenance magazine selected the system as Product of the Year in the Wire & Cable (Accessories & Equipment) category for its labor-reducing design. In contrast to traditional reels, we designed the SIMpull™ Reel™ maneuverable payoff so that a single person can safely and efficiently maneuver a 6,000-pound reel through tight spaces on a job site and pull off the reel right beside electrical equipment/conduit.
Southwire also introduced the MC-PCS Duo™ cable, which won the prestigious 2015 NECA Showstopper Award. This product, specifically designed for use with energy efficient LED lighting, combines power conductors and 0-10 volt dimming control conductors into one cable, reducing labor and installation costs. MC-PCS Duo™ cable also features circuit identification printed directly on the armor, eliminating any confusion about the cable construction under the armor.
Our Energy Division supports the utility industry with innovative products and solutions, such as Southwire’s Intelligent Grid monitoring technologies that provide wide-area situational awareness of a utility’s power system. Monitoring critical components and actual environmental conditions along the line allows utilities to increase capacity, improve reliability and optimize generation, which also reduces carbon emissions. For 2015, Energy Division innovations included:
- Insulator Monitoring System. Developed by EPRI and licensed by Southwire, the Insulator Monitoring System—composed of RF sensors, a base station and the Southwire Information Management System—provides real-time information on the contamination level for insulators. The data helps prevent unplanned outages and reduces the frequency of unnecessary cleaning activities. Read more in our highlight story.
- ZTACSR/VR2®. This product is the first and only high-capacity overhead conductor on the market that provides the documented anti-galloping properties of VR2® conductor, our standard-capacity anti-galloping conductor. Galloping is an aerodynamic instability caused by ice-coated conductors, resulting in violent motion. Galloping causes millions of dollars of damage and prolonged power outages every winter. Applications for the conductor include new lines and reconductoring of existing lines that have reached their capacity limit.
- Braided Flexible Connector. Part of a new line of Substation Engineered Solutions, Southwire designed high-performance, Braided Flexible Connectors to compensate for a variety of mechanical properties while delivering minimum resistance values.
Tools and Assembled Products Division
Our Tools and Assembled Products Division sets new standards in delivering the most comprehensive project and sales solutions in the industry. Innovation and quality are at the core of what we do, shaped by the collaboration with our network of contractors who share ideas. This process results in products that fill a void in the market. For example, the award-winning Maintenance PRO™ Smart Multimeter creates a connection between the user’s phone and meter via Bluetooth® wireless, allowing the user to monitor the meter from a safe distance and anticipate problems before they occur. Because many problems occur during hazardous weather events, the technology’s potential to reduce occupational injury is considerable. With these benefits, the Smart Multimeter won the 2015 NECA Showstopper award.
From systems that produce copper and aluminum rod to electrical controls, power management solutions and manufacturing support services, Southwire’s Engineered Products Division serves a variety of specialty customers.
In 2015, we proudly announced two new areas of innovation and focus:
- The SCR® Ultra-D™ Aluminum Degasser demonstrates Southwire’s continued dedication to innovation and technology within our Engineered Products Division. The Ultra-D™ Aluminum Degasser uses ultrasonic waves to eliminate porosity in the finished product by reducing hydrogen gas levels as well as removing harmful inclusions, including alkali metals such as lithium, sodium and potassium. The Ultra-D™ eliminates the use of environmentally harmful gasses, drives a wider production range while focusing on flexible operation and lowers operating and maintenance costs for aluminum static mold and continuous casting systems, including SCR® aluminum rod lines,
- SCR® is in the advanced stages of integrating ULTRA-G™, which is an ultrasonic grain refining technology that will eliminate the use of chemical grain refiners resulting in significant improvement in cost and quality. ULTRA-G™ also reduces the negative environmental impact during the solidification process of aluminum alloys.
- The SMARTphase® solar micro-inverter converts direct current to alternating current, which ultimately feeds an electrical grid that delivers power to residential and small commercial businesses. Micro-inverters increase system performance, safety, monitoring visibility and system uptime. SMARTphase® micro-inverters have a flexible software-based system that provides more economic, efficient and flexible alternatives in the marketplace.
We share our advances through the Southwire network, newsletters, digital or industry trade press releases, our internal email, advertisements, universities and trade shows. We also share them with our industry partners, such as the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA).
|Southwire Division||Active Patents||Patents Acquired in 2015||2015
|Tools & Assembled Products||99||11||
Additionally, customer labor efficiency, reduced user injury rates and Southwire’s market strength demonstrate our excellence in delivering new technology and innovations to customers. We also measure return on investment for our innovations. Since Southwire is a private company, we choose not to disclose these metrics.
|Year||Percent of projects incorporating sustainability principles (Goal: 65%)|
|2014||51% of projects; 52% of spend|
|2015||46% of projects; 80% of spend|