“Voracious appetite for faster networks”

An interview with Don Neville, Chairman of the IWMA

The prospects are good, and they could be even better without current problems. Wind and solar farms and power distribution require enormous amounts of wires and cables. Added to this is the wiring of electric motors in vehicles. The rapidly increasing demand for fibre optic cables forces the need even further. “Total annual growth of 5.5 to 6.5 per cent is forecast for the rest of the decade,” Don Neville, Chairman of the International Wire & Machinery Association (IWMA), is optimistic for a good reason.

wire & Tube NEWS: How is the wire and machinery industry currently doing economically?

Don Neville: Big infrastructure projects are moving along, there’s a massive move into greener energy, we have a global change in transport and telecoms, and so on, and all of these require huge amounts of new cable and wire. This seems to be offsetting some of the problems we’ve seen from raw materials shortages and the aftermath of the pandemic. There are forecasts for the rest of the decade of 5.5-6.5pc growth overall a year; it might have been higher without all these current problems, but it will still grow markedly. In one way, it highlights the industry’s diversity and adaptability and that cable and wire aren’t being superseded any time soon.

wire & Tube NEWS: What influence does the war in Ukraine have on your industry?

Don Neville: The jury is still out on what direct and indirect effects will emerge from this terrible conflict. It might not affect our industry specifically, but the global response to Russia’s actions will affect the industry.

For example, I know of member companies that have spent years building up business in Russia and now make a significant part of their annual turnover selling to distributors there for Russian consumption. Presently, these businesses are generally facing strong demand for products from their distributors, but they will not—or cannot due to sanctions—meet it for the foreseeable future. Distributors may not recover their considerable investments in their business, and their suppliers may also have major problems. For example, if it is possible to send products into Russia, will Russian companies be able to pay for them across international borders? It’s still quite early; we won’t know how it will all shake out for a few months. It’s not the war as such but the economic fallout from it.

wire & Tube NEWS: How do you see the development in the market of optical fibre cables? A great opportunity?

Don Neville: Optical fibre has been around for decades and is firmly established. The market opportunities are limited only by our ingenuity and the applications

we develop that use it. The fibre industry is growing very quickly thanks to the voracious appetite the planet has for bigger and faster networks.

Fibre optic applications will only grow; we are seeing what was anticipated decades ago. The great thing is that fibre optic cables complement copper and aluminium cables; it’s usually not one or the other, but both. Metal cables are great at carrying current, fibre optics, and data. More and more fibre is being introduced for data and comms, which was expected initially.

wire & Tube NEWS: What expectations do you have concerning the growing market for electric mobility?

Don Neville: It is already evident that electric transport will be one of the big growth areas of the next decade; there is massive investment in that sector as the world finally starts weaning off oil and gas. With it comes to a new concentration on power sources, wind and solar farms and power distribution require enormous quantities of wire and cable, on top of the wiring demands of the big new electric motors in cars and commercial vehicles. If you are moving energy around, it has to be with conductive materials—copper, aluminium and their alloys. Energy doesn’t move through fibre optic cables yet. There’s an enormously broad field opening up for conductive cables.

wire & Tube NEWS: Why is participation at wire & Tube 2022 important to you as an association and the companies of this industry?

Don Neville: Düsseldorf is the premier event because people come from all over the world; it’s the place you can be sure to see everything that needs to be seen. wire Düsseldorf gives us, as an international association, the opportunity to meet our members from across the globe and take stock of their interests and concerns.

Düsseldorf is an amazing event, and over the years, it has developed into the exhibition everyone wants to attend, which automatically means it has become the exhibition where everyone reveals their latest ideas and solutions. You might be able to pick up a little of that information by trawling manufacturer websites for weeks, but at wire Düsseldorf, you can see everything, ask questions, place orders, and make sales better than anywhere else.

Michael Vehreschild

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