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The hidden costs of buying cheap

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Penalties, reputational damage and system failure can rack up massive costs on a sub-standard power installation, warns Clive Maasch, GM at Tank Industries.
There is an Afrikaans saying: ‘Goedkoop is duur koop’, which, translates to ‘buying cheap is buying expensive’. This is particularly relevant in the power sector, where getting it wrong by using inferior products and unreliable suppliers can incur massive additional costs.
As sub-Saharan Africa races to address the power deficit, we will see a growing number of power facilities being rolled out across the region. As with any sector boom, a wave of suppliers will enter the market looking to cash in on the growth. Some of them will be fly-by-night companies offering inferior products at bargain basement prices.
Contractors and installers looking to boost their margins should view these suppliers with caution, however. On the face of it, cutting the cost of cable and accessories may appear to be a good way to cut the project costs and win the tender. But in the long term, there are hidden costs associated with partnering with untrusted suppliers.
For example, should a supplier lack nationwide technical support resources, an installer might lose days on the installation while awaiting technical back-up from the vendor. If the supplier has insufficient cable and accessories in stock, an installation could be delayed for weeks awaiting an order from overseas.
These delays can impact on the switch-on deadline and cause the contractor to incur high penalties.
If the cables and accessories are sub-standard, systems failures a year or two down the line impact the contractor’s reputation, the utility’s service delivery and the end customer’s experience – all of which result in additional costs.
Should the supplier be unable to supply product training for staff, the contractor, utility and local authorities could suffer costly delays and future downtime due to faulty installation.
The most cost-effective power installation is the one that rolls out efficiently, on time, and operates reliably for at least the next 15 years. Achieving this depends on a combination of industry-leading cables and accessories and a supplier who does more than just drop off products; but instead actively partners with the contractor in ensuring a successful roll-out.
Tank Industries, the market leader in low and medium voltage cable accessories, has a 25-year track record of supplying the South African power sector with TE Connectivity’s industry-leading Raychem peoducts. Owned by CBI African Cables and part of the JSE-listed Reunert Group, Tank Industries fields the best niche technical skills and training available in South Africa, and supports contractors nationwide with its expert technical support team and multi-million rand in-country stockholdings.