The Cable Experts: Interview with Akram Abdel Wahab
BASEC, the British Approvals Service for Cables, is a leading provider of cable product certification, which is amongst the most rigorous in the industry. The certification approval includes a comprehensive factory audit, management systems approvals and cable product testing programme for electrical, mechanical, material, chemical, fire and smoke performance characteristics. Completing cable testing to ensure products are compliant with the relevant or required standards.
Mr Akram Abdel Wahab joined BASEC as Regional Technical Manager in May 2019 to support the Middle East and Africa region. We took the opportunity to interview him to learn more about his background, why he joined BASEC, his responsibilities and the challenges and upcoming trends he sees within the industry.
What experience do you have in the cable industry?
I have been working in the cable industry since I graduated from the Faculty of Engineering at Ain Shams University in Cairo as an Electrical Engineer in 2006. I began my career working as a Design Engineer for Elsewedy and have also worked for Alfanar and Nexans in various technical positions.
These past employments have provided me with opportunities to gain valuable experience across a range of projects and countries throughout the Middle East and Africa. I have also developed expertise in multiple sectors, including utilities, transportation, construction and Oil & Gas.
Why did you join the BASEC team?
As my whole career has been in the cable industry, I have first-hand experience of the important role BASEC plays in helping the industry to adhere to industry standards and achieve the highest levels of quality and safety. With a heavily technical background I wanted to be able to add value through an independent provider to support a wide range of projects and industries. For me, BASEC was the best way I could achieve this.
Cable product testing and certification is important to everyone in the cable, construction and utilities industries, including manufacturers and specifiers, right through to the contractors, installers and end users. Cable products holding approvals from a well-known certification body offer the supply chain reassurance that the products have been tested to ensure that they meet the relevant industry standards.
Having been a direct customer of BASEC in my past, I am able to apply my knowledge from the customer perspective. The technical requirements of cable design can be misunderstood if an expert is not involved. My personal mission matches BASEC’s and I want to help verify and build confidence of manufacturers’ production processes, controls and management systems to ensure that they achieve quality outputs and meet all of the required and relevant regulations. BASEC’s laboratory is state-of-the-art and is equipped to comprehensively test and re-test cable products to ensure they are compliant with British, European, International and a range of customer-required local standards, as well as sector or industry-specific standards.
Photo: Exterior of BASEC office and testing laboratory What activities will you be responsible for at BASEC?
As a local in-country Regional Technical Manager for the Middle East and Africa, I will be focused on providing technical support to cable manufacturers, consultants and end users in the region, ensuring that the testing and certification services they receive or seek are suitable for their products and their applications.
My responsibilities include helping customers to understand the value that BASEC offers them, in recognising our mark of independent approval, and supporting the local Regional Commercial Manager by providing guidance on which standards are most suitable and aligned with customer’s testing requirements.
I plan to collaborate with purchasers, specifiers and installers to upskill them on the importance of cable quality. The quality of the cable is closely linked to safety, poor quality products or those that have not undertaken third party testing are more likely to pose serious hazards and risks to public safety.
What do you think are the biggest challenges for the cable industry?
The biggest challenge in the cable industry is for manufacturers: finding the right balance between cable cost and quality. As the market is competitive, this can lead to manufacturers taking measures to reduce costs, which can compromise the quality of the cable products manufactured and supplied into projects. There is a knock-on effect to end users. Low cost cable products can be attractive, and therefore caution or technical understanding of the cable make-up and performance should be sought first, over attractive pricing.
By driving continuous improvement and setting high levels of compliance to industry standards specifically to cable products and their differing families, BASEC is enabling consistent levels of quality. Through this compliance, the full supply chain can be assured that the cable products holding the BASEC mark will be fit-for-purpose, compliant, safe and will operate as designed for many years.
How can manufacturers improve the quality of their cable products?
More and more manufacturers are seeking higher levels of compliance to known industry-recognised standards, this upward trend shows the industry’s desire to improve the quality of their cable products. For example, advances in material properties is one key driver which is used to improve cable quality.
I have seen first-hand, the use of poor-quality materials in both conductors and insulation systems, which are not fit-for-purpose and pose significant fire risk should they spark or set alight as a result of a secondary fire. When cables are being designed or developed, they will normally undertake a lengthy design and trial process, at this point some manufacturers will test their performance and feasibility as a product to ensure the product is robust.
Independent testing and certification are the perfect way to ensure consistent levels of quality through a 3-year testing and factory process auditing programme. Relying on a third party removes any bias and provides a credible solution to evidencing cable quality.
Where can people meet you?
As I am based in Dubai, I am positioned in the heart of the Middle East and Africa region. I am meeting with many companies right now including regulatory bodies, large consulting companies and of course, the cable manufacturers and supply chain. The question to meet is not where for me, but when – I am open to meeting with anyone who has a technical need related to cables and cable technologies.
I, therefore, welcome anyone who needs support or wants to learn more about cable products, how and why they must comply with recognised standards to make contact with me.
+971 5050 66719