Electrical Products Optimize Safety and EfficiencyWed, 10/21/2015 - 15:48
“Safety is the most important consideration of mining companies, followed by the maintenance of continuous operations, sustainability, and the balance between spending and return on investment,” says Armando Negrete, Regional Sales Manager in Mexico of Thomas & Betts. His company was founded over a century ago to supply safe electrical conduits to mines. Over that time, it has evolved into a vast international corporation, supplying over 70% of the items used in a typical electrical installation. “Thomas & Betts is an umbrella which covers over 30 different commercial brands, each with its own unique product lines. These equate to more than 250,000 commercialized products,” Negrete states. Mining is one of the company’s 12 core markets, for which equipment is divided into four categories: wire and cable management, power connection and control, cable protection systems, and safety technologies.
Its most successful products in the Mexican market are PVC-coated electrical conduits, designed to withstand corrosion caused by extreme temperatures, grinding, and moving liquids. “Given that downtime costs in mining production can run into the millions of dollars, our products are designed beyond simply fulfilling international standards and regulations,” shares Jan Ubbelohde, Sales Manager of Thomas & Betts’ Metals and Mining division in Mexico. “They have to continue performing over many years in order to keep up with the life of the mine.” Since mine sites present a variety of environments across openpit and underground mines, ranging from near-explosion to hazardous and humid areas, products need to be designed to function under all possible conditions. “Our mission is to help achieve continuous operation of the mines, so we provide solutions to keep the mine, and the equipment inside, running continuously,” Ubbelohde expresses. “There is no Thomas & Betts product that does not fulfill local or international regulations,” Negrete adds. The company executives are confident in their products’ performance in Mexico, given their prior testing in countries where safety and environmental regulations are stricter than in Mexico. Furthermore, they state that now the country is improving its regulatory framework, the appeal of Thomas & Betts’ electrical components only increases, as they already meet these heightened requirements. Mining is the second most important industry for Thomas & Betts, after oil and gas, making its worldwide performance a key indicator for the company. Despite the global downturn in metal prices, Negrete and Ubbelohde are confident that the industry will recover. “Mining investment in Mexico has been growing exponentially over the last few years. The mining industry has to keep growing in order to meet an expansion in demand,” Ubbelohde reasons.
Being secure in one’s product performance certainly helps to approach distribution in a confident mood. For many years, Thomas & Betts products were manufactured in Monterrey but it was not until 2011 that it developed a commercial strategy specific to Mexico. “Three years ago, the company decided that it was important to increase our reach in Mexico,” states Ubbelohde. As the company’s distributors were reporting increased demand for its products, its corporative office in Memphis decided to install a dedicated commercial team in Mexico. “We now have under 40 distributors in Mexico, and we want to keep it that way. We prefer a small group of distributors that can receive very strong support from us. We want to grow along with them,” Negrete explains. Although Thomas & Betts manufactures products in Mexico, its worldwide distribution continues to rely on its mega distribution center in Louisiana. The center is the size of 18 football fields, has over six miles of conveyor belts, and all Thomas & Betts products and components that enter the US go through its doors. “That covers close to 100% of our products, even those that are manufactured in Mexico,” adds Negrete.
Since Thomas & Betts was acquired by ABB in 2012, the company has gained access to a whole new range of products, as well as entry to overseas markets offered by the power and automation technologies giant. “ABB is very well known for its advanced technology and for having a good presence in the European market. Complementary to this, Thomas & Betts is heavily oriented towards the American market, with over 6,000 distributors. Both companies had a lot to gain from this new venture,” Negrete points out. As Thomas & Betts’ products focus on low voltage applications, it has slotted neatly into ABB’s low voltage division. This complementarity has led to both sides channeling customers to one another. “The added traffic will help Thomas & Betts meet its commercial goals in Mexico, which include seeing a 10-20% growth in Mexico’s mining sector,” adds Negrete. “In light of this, we are confident that we can be the brand and supplier of choice for innovative electrical products in Mexico. We also want to be closer to the market, and closer to the different projects and industry trends. We work on the initial idea and design process of a product right up to its manufacturing and distribution, and that is how we want to continue working.”