Connecting the world

Connecting the world

Whether it’s bringing home entertainment to the masses, remote work, on-line medical service, digital security or power to communities, then it’s likely that Plumettaz, the Swiss-based cable-laying specialist, has played a part. As one of the leaders in its sector, the company builds network infrastructures underground with ground-breaking technology that continues to push the boundaries. Profile by Andy Probert.

Whether it’s bringing home entertainment to the masses, remote work, on-line medical service, digital security or power to communities, then it’s likely that Plumettaz, the Swiss-based cable-laying specialist, has played a part. As one of the leaders in its sector the company builds network infrastructures underground with ground-breaking technology that continues to push the boundaries. Profile by Andy Probert.

Plumettaz is to cable laying what Swiss engineering is to clocks. Innovative, robust, and performing. It remains on a mission first established in 1923 to either lighten the load for clients or, in this fast-moving modern-day world, to connect at the click of a button.

Located in Vevey, the company took its first foothold on the hills of Switzerland by taking the strain out of winemakers who had historically struggled to work the slopes of the region. Plumettaz designed special ploughs for them which did not need to be pulled manually, but by overhanging capstan winches which were also easy to transport and install. Since that time, the company has elevated its status to being a leader in its field by going underground. Cable laying, through to 1987, was generally achieved through pulling, but Plumettaz changed the landscape with its patented jetting systems, inventing the capacity to push cables in pipes in conjunction with air or water propulsion, known as the jetting method.

“We have evolved quickly since those days, and now in 2019, we are a global leader in engineering innovation in cable laying that the telecoms and energy industries often turn to,” offered Charles Delaloye, Vice President Sales and Marketing.

Intelligent machines
Plumettaz has expanded the traditional requirements of the jetting method with one of the company’s latest product launches. In addition to blowing telecommunication optical fibres in preinstalled ducts, the company’s new IntelliSerie is also equipped with a raft of smart technologies.

Thanks to its embedded sensors and control system, IntelliSerie monitors, records and supervises the performance during installation. Furthermore, after completion of the work, the Intellibox generates a detailed report, which can be exported in PDF format through its connectivity for reference, documentation and archive.

Now located in Bex, close to Geneva Lake, the company’s 130 employees have continued to develop several layers of technology that offer greater reliability of installation and decreased technical interventions – optimising a client’s ability to achieve more than they ever thought.

This extends to technological breakthroughs, such as its IntelliJetTM, OptijetTM and WatucabTM products, that have broadened Plumettaz’s appeal to markets that seek less manual laying effort. “In addition, by launching the next generation device as fully automatic, it will facilitate further the work on site while also guaranteeing the same optimal performance to each user; another exciting step to enhance user’s experience,” stated Mr Delaloye.

Exports claim a mammoth 90% of Plumettaz work, across Europe, America, Africa and south-east Asia, thanks to wellplaced subsidiaries in the US in Chattanooga (Tennessee) as well as Shanghai, and Singapore, and a network of 50 distributors globally. Around 70% of its export market is still within the European region.

As it adapts to modern technological breakthroughs,the company is geared to digitalisation and delivering more electrical and software add-on features for the telecom and energy industries.

“It’s an interesting note in our history to reflect on how the team has been able to build on this invention, and yet still providing additional values to remain on top of anything that is on the market today,” described Mr Delaloye.

He added that most of the machines were renowned for having a long-lasting lifecycle – in some cases 25 years – and that Plumettaz offered the opportunity for them to be upgraded, such as with a new digital platform.

“We are continuing to evolve our machines since we invented the jetting method, with the next generation of fully automatic devices,” he said. “Available soon, the machines will enable more features to be put on them that we would not have been able to achieve before.”

“We are currently developing the next devices and services based on our unique knowledge on the jetting method to optimise networks at the time of design and manage the overall asset infrastructure by collecting the field data available during the performance of the installation. These components would release a unique value
to network designers and operators.”

Watucab’s benefits
Another element that is enhancing the company’s credentials on the market is the Watucab, which can handle large power cables for energy distribution and offers several options to interconnect the grid.

By adopting water propulsion to its jetting techniques, the company has again pushed the boundaries even further, especially to meet the needs of renewable energies – such as wind turbines on land and at sea. Its floating installation techniques facilitate the inter-connection to offshore wind turbines making clean energy more accessible.

The Watucab’s maximum pushing force is 1350 daN (1,350kg) and can handle a single cable from 32-160 mm, or triple cables from 3 x 25mm up to 3 x 65mm.
Designed for installing underground cables for low, medium and high voltage power networks, it is especially effective over long distances and tortuous routes and offers higher performance over conventional installation techniques.

“Also, Watucab benefits from the latest technological innovation combining floating, pushing and water free-floating capabilities. Quick installation and a high cable laying speed increases daily productivity, requires fewer operators, and reduces the number of connections and access chambers,” added Technical Director
Alexandre Uhl. “We can install one kilometre of cable in less than 90 minutes that involves less people and resources.”

The company is also presently building a modal platform which ncan be applied across several applications, with the aim of going outside the jetting parameters and into winches – and with this, into different industries.

Plumettaz has been at the cutting-edge of several projects in the recent past including the cable installation from shore to the offshore 28 MW wind farm at the Nissum
Bredning Project.

Inaugurated by the Danish Minister of Energy, Utilities and Climate, Lars Lilleholt, the 28MW demonstration offshore wind We are continuing to evolve our machines since we invented the jetting method, with the next generation of fully automatic devices “ farm aims to contribute via specific test elements to further reduce
the CapEx cost of infrastructure for offshore wind energy.

The construction of the wind farm comprising of four turbines required special equipment that can lay power cables seamlessly from onshore to offshore. Cable-laying specialist Plumettaz utilised Watucab. With its patented floating technology, combined with the force of a compact cable feeder, the machine effortlessly
drove thick power cables.

Looking further afield
Mr Delaloye said the company was witnessing a shift in market trends that now demands more digitalised devices, faster installation and monitoring of the performance of the installation.

“We are rising to the challenges out in front, and through our portfolio, we can offer all those requirements.” Plumettaz technologies are also fast catching on in Asia, especially in Japan, where the government is reconstructing its energy infrastructure after the Fukushima incident and the onslaught
of natural disasters.

The company is eager to further educate markets such as China, India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand on the inherent advantages of underground cables.

Cedric Rosset, Vice President – Operation at Plumettaz, said the next generation of the machines were being developed which would see them fully automatic, electric driven, with features that would always calculate the correct set points with regards to pressure and force to offer the best optimum process performance and ensure competitive and efficient installation.

“With the advances in 4G and now 5G technology, we are also seeing a strong growth in fibre optic deployment and a regular upgrades of underground copper networks. This is essential to allow operators to provide efficient connections and to release new offerings for remote worker, on-line medical service and autonomous mobility,” he added.

The step forward on the R&D side, which the company dedicates approximately 10% of its workforce to, is continuing to add software which can pull data from the field of action and which can be used for asset management and additional services. Mr Rosset said the company has always been able to meet tight deadlines, thanks to the very close collaboration with its distributors and customers in developing accurate forecasts. “We have an exceptional product mix developed thanks to a near-century’s worth of in-house manufacturing know-how, and the depth to answer a diverse selection of customer queries. When a volume order comes in, we can always count on our highly qualified staff and capacity to meet those demands on the manufacturing front.”

The company is proud of delivering machinery and technology that is above the industry standard, and the network of 50 distributors it has globally. “We are fostering a jetting-community for the distributors so if one has a solution in Europe, they can share and support it with one in America and likewise. By doing so, they can grow the experience
and application knowledge together.”

Mr Delaloye concluded: “We are immensely proud of driving the business for years, one which exports from Japan to Argentina. We are one that has the footprint of a large company but built to our scale.

“We continue to be market leaders and are continually pushing the boundaries, not only of our machines but the sector as well.

Whether we are connecting communities, driving energy further or providing exceptional services to the OEM industry, we are always customer-centric and quality-focused.”

www.plumettaz.com

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