Reduce highways projects’ costs with custom electrical enclosures

From paying contractors to construct the highways works and suppliers for the items needed for your project, such as electrical enclosures, through to covering supervision and inspection costs, as well as any costs associated with utility diversions, procurement and legal procedures, highways projects and improvement works can be a costly endeavour. Therefore, project managers often find themselves under immense amounts of pressure to reduce the spend of their projects and find innovations that will reduce costs and cut waste, as much as viably possible.

While in this article we won’t be able to advise you on overall cost reduction, our expertise and experience certainly allows us to provide advice on how custom electrical enclosures can make your projects much more efficient, while at the same time decreasing both your spend and project delivery timescale. Here’s how:

Reducing footprint:

If you’re part of the transport industry you might have already noticed that often you can see two electrical enclosures one next to the other on the side of roads. One of them would barely have any space to house the equipment inside it and the other would most certainly be half full. This is often due to highways expansions and the addition of components, or because enclosures have been purchased off the shelf and the sizes or types offered were unable to meet the specific requirements of the kit hosted inside them.

Custom electrical enclosures, also known as combined cabinets, are the ideal solution to this problem. The purchase of such an enclosure will reduce the cabinets footprint and bring with itself a significant reduction of civil works involved in the installation of each individual enclosure, such as digging out, ducting and putting the concrete in, which can all be very costly. Therefore, by purchasing a custom-made or combined cabinet, you will be installing only one piece of equipment and there would be only one concrete print layout and work involved in the process.

Choosing the right material:

Choosing the right material for your enclosures plays a large part of cost reduction in the long run. Usually, cabinets tend to be manufactured from either stainless steel or mild steel, the difference between the two being quite significant.

Having your enclosures manufactured out of stainless steel would substantially reduce your cabinet’s maintenance costs and you will also receive a 15-year lifespan guarantee. So, why is this?

The difference in steels is brought about by their alloying materials. Stainless steel includes chromium which gives it a very high corrosion resistance and a surface which does not stain or tarnish. This means that if stainless steel is scratched, the surface will only incur a cosmetic damage, therefore, providing a much higher level of protection compared to mild steel.

Mild steel, also known as ‘carbon steel’ or ‘plain carbon steel’, on the other hand, contains carbon as its name suggests. While carbon steels tend to be stiff and strong, their corrosion resistance is very poor and when the protective surface coating – such as paint –  gets scratched down to bare metal, it’s exposed to air and moisture, which will immediately trigger the oxidation process and rusting will begin. To compensate for this, mild steel cabinets often get sprayed with paint finish for protection, but their use is still not recommended in corrosive environments, as they will require consistent maintenance, burdening you with unnecessary costs that could otherwise be avoided. An effective option is zinc coating, but this can be expensive as the whole cabinet has to be hot-dipped in a molten zinc bath.

Pre-wiring and pre-staging the cabinets in the factory:

There is nothing more frustrating than purchasing an enclosure, having it delivered to your site, getting all your wiring, equipment fitting, installation and commissioning done and at some stage of the process finding out that there’s something wrong. Your kit does not fit where it needs to, there might be hot spots created, or simply integration with the system fails. Now, imagine all this being done on a busy road under the pressure of having to meet tight deadlines, while paying a large amount of money to at least two or three different contractors.

Having your electrical cabinets tested pre-installation and commissioned in the factory can help you avoid all this hassle, as well as a multitude of other problems and setbacks that can impact your equipment’s performance and lifespan.

Some factories can not only manufacture a prototype of your enclosures, ensuring that your equipment is fitted, configured and tested in a controlled environment and working exactly to specification, but they can also connect a string of cabinets together to simulate your network, giving you peace of mind by knowing that when the enclosures arrive on your site they would be ready to be bolted, plugged in and work perfectly fine.

How does the process work?

Usually, during this process the kit will be connected through fibre optics, powered up, installed and commissioned in the same way as it will be once it’s on your site. The equipment will be then tested to see whether it’s speaking to each other the way it’s supposed to, ensuring that everything is working in harmony and any issues are fixed prior to delivery and installation on site. The cabinets will then be stripped down, taken to site and re-installed, working exactly as in the factory.

To be able to effectively achieve this you will need to have extensive knowledge and experience of not only manufacturing electrical enclosures, but also completing installation and commissioning projects. Some companies provide this complete life-cycle service and the feedback and experience gained helps each stage of the process. It reflects a policy of continuous improvement. For example, installation engineers tell the design engineers what works best in the field and future products and processes benefit from this ‘lean’ approach.

By now you might be thinking that there aren’t a lot of manufacturing companies that have experienced installation and commissioning engineers in-house, which means a doubling of costs for you, either by hiring a second contractor to do the testing or paying a higher fee to the manufacturer, because they partner with another company that can do all the installations for them. In either case, project management starts to double up, costs begin to see a tangible increase and there’s decline of the control over the quality of the production process.

So, is it even possible to reduce costs then? The answer is yes, if you were to choose a company with strong inhouse resources and engineering team that can offer a full turnkey service. Hiring one contractor that specialises in providing a turnkey end-to-end solution would make the process much more fluid and you’ll be safe in the knowledge that there is guaranteed control from start to finish. It will also mean that you will be paying significantly less, as the company would be able to provide inhouse qualified team of experts that will be much cheaper than having skilled engineers on site.

The actual enclosure:

The process of installation and commissioning of electrical enclosures is not as simple as placing a cabinet out there, putting in some insulation and hoping for the best. Trying to squeeze kit in a cabinet that is too small comes with a series of implications, such as a risk of overheating, getting hot spots in the cabinet, resulting in your kit failing to work altogether.

Bespoke cabinets have the advantage of avoiding all this and performing exactly to specification. With custom enclosures, you will be able to design their inside layout based on the equipment’s efficiency, take into consideration things such as not putting parts in the way of air ventilation, putting sensitive kit at the bottom of the cabinet and more.

As you can see reducing costs with custom electrical enclosures goes beyond the actual purchase price of the item and it requires a company with extensive experience, as well as sophisticated and in-depth knowledge to be able provide you with adequate and competent advice that will potentially save you large amounts of money.

The first step towards choosing the right custom electrical enclosures begins with understanding your environment and choosing the correct IP rating. IP ratings are there to enable buyers and manufacturers create cabinets that will adequately protect your equipment against environmental conditions. What IP rating you require, would be one of the very first questions that any manufacturing company will ask you when you’re enquiring about equipment. To understand better IP ratings and determine the correct rating for your enclosures, download our easy to use ‘IP Rating Chart’ and start saving money today with better electrical enclosures.