Ensto is introducing a totally new family of mechanical medium voltage underground cable connectors and lugs. Hannele Kenkkilä, Project Manager at Ensto DSO is more than happy. She has been responsible for managing the development of more than 50 items of new generation accessories that will replace the connector and lug series SMJ/SML.
The development project started a few years ago with extensive concept planning within group of experts from various functions. The project team then furthered simultaneously several concept alternatives of which two most promising ones proceeded to pre-testing phase. The most optimal concept was found in close cooperation with production and prototype production taking especially patent and producibility aspects into account. The main purpose of all the concepts was to obtain a screw that does not have a predetermined break point and that always adapts to the cable available.
The concept was verified with one size after which the optimal solution was scaled into the whole assortment. Self-evidently, each size still has its own nuances that required pondering and testing. As the project is large-scale, it was divided in phases to make the project managing easier. As there are connectors and lugs in eight different sizes, both the product development and the product launch are built in three waves of which the first one is coming to an end. Hannele Kenkkilä tells:
“It was clear for everyone that we want to develop a product family that is comprehensive and will include items from the smallest to the biggest. All the time used in product development was necessary as now the product characteristics are excellent.”
This long project has introduced many new ways of working. There has also been close cooperation with the customer throughout the process.
“From the very beginning, we listened very carefully both the customer and the production experts”, Kenkkilä emphasizes and continues:
“It is just a fact that when the production is behind the wall, the cooperation is naturally smooth and makes the daily communication faster and easier. Especially the concept planning phase was agile as it was easy to test various product versions and producibility without extensive pre-planning. We have even been able to introduce and implement new manufacturing methods. The new products are assembled with highly automated machines, which brings profitability and guarantees excellent quality.”
Investing in in-house knowhow and knowledge is a strategic choice for Ensto. When the whole package from product development, laboratory testing and manufacturing to product management is in own hands the agility and expertise capital increase.
Developing new product concept requires extensive testing – and that requires time. All new products are type tested according to latest IEC 61238-1-3:2018 standard, which is the key to superb quality. Kenkkilä thanks the Porvoo laboratory for seamless cooperation:
“Many times, people do not realize how many various tests one product needs and how long just one test takes. There are product development tests, pre-tests and type tests handling of which is about strong expertise and sometimes creativity, as well. I could not be gladder how our people have stretched during several years to keep the schedules of testing the 50 products.”
Patrick Ekholm, Product Manager, Underground cable products states that teamwork and extensive learning during the project have been rewarding.
“When the new series is complete, we will have a full range of own cable lugs and connectors for both heat and cold shrink technologies. The whole entity is in our own hands which will enhance our ability to participate tenders, grow on the existing markets and enter new markets. This project has increased our motivation in many ways and the internal cooperation has risen to a whole new level which is all for the customer’s best”, Ekholm states.
As result of vigorous, thorough product development and testing the qualities of the new products are polished and perfected to the smallest detail. The benefits for the installer are clear and high-class. Both the connectors and the lugs have a patented screw design with stepless shearing, which enables an excellent, safe, and pleasant installation experience. As underground cable installations are often made under challenging conditions, it is vital that the screw always breaks at the correct point.
The products are full of unique features praised by the customers. Electrical simulations that were used to optimize the design showed the great benefit of having a semi-conductive cover and centering rings. Stepless shearing and the cover facilitate the installations as there is no need for hammering, grinding, and adding mastic.
Both Kenkkilä and Ekholm are happy that the whole project and its outcome in form of the new product family supports Ensto’s strategy of becoming the leading expert for DSOs. Now the customers get all the cable lugs and connectors from one manufacturer: Ensto.
“We are proud for the result. It feels good to be able to offer customers something unique: the concept is entirely developed by Ensto and there are no equivalent products on the market.”
The first three products to be launched include connectors and lugs of sizes 10-95 mm², 25-150 mm² and 50-240 mm². In future, the entire connector and lug families will include sizes from 10 to 1000 mm². With the new extensive range of products, Ensto strengthens its foothold on the underground cable accessory market.