Gerlof, can you tell us about your education?
After my intermediate vocational education electrical engineering I studied at Technical University of Enschede. I completed a Master’s Programme in Physics. I wanted to know how power and electricity really worked. Think about voltage, resistance and conductivity. But also the physical processes, electric potential and the application of electricity in control technology.
“There is not one specific education programme that you need to become a cable engineer. The combination of my two degrees is ideal for this job.”
How did you start your career?
After finishing my studies, I started as a product developer. I developed cathode tubes at IBM and pharmacy robots at PHMedical. Eventually I started working at Draka (now called Prysmian Group). There, I became a cable engineer.
There is no specific education programme to become a cable engineer. The combination of my two degrees is ideal for designing cables. It involved many physical issues and knowledge of materials and production possibilities. If you have this knowledge, you have the potential of becoming an expert in cable engineering.
Can you tell us more about your time at Draka?
At Draka I have learned from the founders of cable engineering and development. They are all retired now, but I have taken a lot of their knowledge. They have had a significant impact on the cables which are used worldwide nowadays. They are also the founders and authors of many (international) standards.
“I have learned from the founders of cable engineering and development.”
As a cable engineer, I worked with several specialists on specific cable components like specialists in armouring, insulation or conductivity. This helped me in learning every detail of every aspect of the development and production of cables. At Draka, I was involved in many innovation teams and so called ‘Think-Tanks’. I invented and developed a lot of cables during my time at Draka.
How did you end up at Incore Cables?
After the acquisition of Draka by Prysmian Group they offered me a new job. They wanted me to move to Milan and from there I would do projects all around the world. After consulting my family I declined the offer. For the projects I had to leave Milan once a month for more than a week.
Then, Incore Cables approached me. Incore Cables is a small company compared to Draka but when it comes to the possibilities of product development they are bigger. Incore Cables is progressive, innovative and service-oriented and they develop customer-specific cables. That really appealed to me.
Which product development possibilities at Incore Cables appealed to you?
At Draka, I had a lot of ideas on using other raw materials like aluminium. These ideas were not accepted, because they only wanted to use copper. I think they only wanted to use copper, because larger sales margins can be achieved compared to aluminium. This bothered me. Aluminium has more advantages regarding to the properties of copper. It is less expensive, lightweight, more sustainable and – in some cases – smarter to use.
“A lot of people think: ‘It’s just a cable. But it’s not that simple. Standards are becoming stricter and customer needs are more challenging than ever.”
At Incore Cables, I did have the opportunity to develop aluminium cables. We developed the PowerAmp-A (low voltage) and the PowerAmp-AMS (medium voltage) aluminium cables. We are the only one in the world with a KEMA and DEKRA approval on aluminium power cables. This is something that I am extremely proud of.
What are your challenges in today’s work?
My challenges are the fun things in my job. I really enjoy developing customer specific cables and advising in cable choices and type of connections. For example, I am currently working on designing a transport cable for a project somewhere in Africa. The cable needs to meet the South African Standards (SANS). It will be used to provide communities with electricity. A challenging aspect is designing a cable which is hard to ‘sabotage’. So it is not possible to illegally tap electricity from it.
“I really enjoy knowing that cables I invented are being used all over the world. To provide energy to millions of people and gigantic installations.”
At Incore Cables you write blogs and eBooks, for what reason?
A lot of people think: ‘It’s just a cable’. But it’s not that simple. A lot of information is available about cable regulations, national and international standards, safety aspects and the application of cables. I want to inform people who are using cables and share my knowledge with them.
As a professional cable engineer, these materials are very clear and helpful to me. However, these can be much harder to understand for project engineers and purchasers. I would like to make this information available for everyone using understandable and easy to read Blogs and eBooks.