As electrical and datacom projects become more complex, moving materials and supplies and keeping everything organized and accessible can be a time-consuming, frustrating task on the job site.

However, there are many innovative products that make these tasks easier, reducing the amount of time they take away from the project and helping make workers more productive.

Reel stands, wire dispensers, pipe racks and other items designed for electrical work are available from many electrical distributors and suppliers.

“Today’s electricians have access to a wide variety of material-handling products to store, organize, transport and protect their equipment and supplies,” said Dennis Rees, a national product specialist at Graybar. “As a distributor, one of our primary services is to research and select the best products utilizing the latest technology for our customers.

“In the material-handling category, we will only stock products that are durable and innovative. Some of the best examples of products that exhibit these qualities are in the tool storage area. From job boxes on casters to the truck-mounted versions, they offer ultimate portability and organized storage for greater efficiency on the job as well as protection from damage and theft.”

These, and many other useful products, are marketed by a variety of sources, including major industry suppliers; small companies—some owned by electricians or former electricians—who make and market specialty products directly to electricians; industrial supply companies that serve many different markets; hardware stores; and home-improvement centers that have departments to serve professionals in the construction trades.

Products marketed to the electrical industry

“As an electrical contractor, I designed numerous tools and pieces of equipment to make my job easier,” said Jerry Lanser, president of Associated Electric Products. “Now as a manufacturer, we make products for electricians that improve job site efficiency and save labor costs. Our product line includes portable wire dispensers and a portable work platform for supporting large conduit benders.

“Wire and cable dispensers allow electricians to feed nonmetallic and metal clad cables through walls, ceilings and crawl spaces, reducing time and effort required to install cable and reducing the risk of damage to cable from twisting and kinking. Our wire wheel is a totally enclosed, easy-to-carry wire dispenser that can be set up anywhere to dispense cable in any direction.

“Large conduit benders are an important tool on most commercial and industrial projects, but their size and weight can make them difficult to move and handle. The portable bend cart platform can eliminate two or more hours set up and tear down time each time a bender is used.”

Doyle Elder, president of Elder Designs, said, “As an electrician, I have spent years installing conduit and pulling wire, and I know firsthand the frustrations of keeping reels of wire, conduit, and tools and supplies accessible and ready to use.

“Working with wire racks sent out to jobs, I thought there could be something more versatile that could be used more ways and developed our first multipurpose product, and today we offer wire wagon models [that] contribute to bottom-line productivity by helping electricians be more organized and efficient and accomplish more in less time every workday.

“In addition to a wire rack, they can be used throughout a job—to haul conduit, to hold and move materials and tools, as a workbench to prefab parts and to roll out prints. Our other product is rugged, multipurpose portable work stations that is a mobile work bench, print table and portable storage for conduit and other materials, all in a compact package that can be rolled around the job to where it is needed.”

Rob Bentley, product manager of Greenlee Textron, said, “Greenlee offers a broad selection of material-handling products designed to help transport wire faster, safer and easier. Greenlee product managers and sales representatives often visit job sites to gain feedback from customers on current Greenlee products and insight for developing new products. Greenlee also conducts contractor focus groups to determine a potential product’s viability in the marketplace.

“Whether you have to stand it up, truck it around, or just dispense wire in residential, commercial or industrial workplaces, Greenlee has products to get the job done: Hand-truck wire carts from Greenlee are designed for quick assembly and for maximum efficiency; there are models that hold spools to 7 inches in diameter and 53/8-inch widths. Wire dispensers [containing] folding designs are good for residential applications. Most are available with optional caddy baskets for using multiple coils of different-size cable.

“A swivel eyelet helps speed installation of NM-B and armored cable through wood studs and floor joists without tangling. Reel stand products with tested weight capacities reduce risks associated with overloading. Screw- and ratchet-type stands enable spooling at various heights and prevent the need to physically lift reels to extended heights.

“Stands with spindles instead of conduit for reel jack applications prevent sags and bends, which minimizes the risk of reels falling off the stand. Pipe racks allow workers to get conduits off the floor and enable sorting by size and type. Those made of structural-steel tubing provide strength and durability and collapsible racking maximizes warehouse space and keeps traffic areas clear.

“Racks that fit through 36-inch door openings increase practical use. Job site storage boxes provide security for tools and equipment. The best storage products encompass features of security, durability and safety. Whatever the product, we believe customers benefit to have equipment come from a qualified Quality ISO 9001 manufacturer.”

Richard Le Vert, vice president of Rack-A-Tiers Mfg., said: “Our primary product functions as a wire dispenser, pipe vise, saw horse, work bench, seat and more and does everything with no moving parts while weighing only 10 pounds. It is easy to use, waterproof, rustproof, rugged and reliable. We began our business with a few of our own ideas resulting from being an electrician, and our expansion is being assisted by other electrician inventors.

“Our catalogue now includes products of 18 inventors, 12 of them holding patents. Other material-handling products include a wire rack employing spring- loaded rollers instead of an axle, a compact, collapsible two-wheel wire dispenser, a rewinder and dispenser wire tub, easy-to-install wire brake, and a ladder sack made of tough ballistic nylon for holding tools and materials while working on ladders. Inventorship generally requires a dose of inspiration applied to motivation and necessity to create something new or solve a problem. Most people will happily work with existing tools and products. A much smaller group is just never quite satisfied with the status quo and this is where the new ideas come from.”

“Sumner sells a complete range of wire and conduit carts featuring one-piece construction,” said Rob Collins, president of Sumner Mfg. Co. “Ease of use is a major focus. Spools of wire can be loaded without having to hold a spool while attempting to weave the spindle through the cart and spool spindle hole. Spool spindles store easily, reducing the possibility of losing loose pieces.

“Transporting and storage is another benefit particularly offered on the Sumner’s conduit carts. By operating a plunger release pin, rack arms fold up in a snap. Once folded, carts can be stacked four high for compact storage and ease of transportation. Other products useful to electricians are material carts, lifts and a versatile portable work table,” Collins said.

Other sources

Industrial suppliers also offer a range of equipment not specifically targeting electricians but can be effectively used on electrical and datacom projects.

Wesco Industrial Products Inc., a leading manufacturer of material-handling equipment, offers hundreds of products for almost any material-handling need, including mobile hydraulic lifts to position heavy equipment for installation and many models of steel and aluminum hand trucks.

Michael Esris, Wesco vice president of sales, said Wesco’s folding hand trucks, available in models with capacities from 110 to 550 pounds, collapse to a thickness of a few inches for easy storage.

“The Wesco Cobra aluminum convertible truck is particularly well suited to the needs of electrical contractors,” said Esris. “A simple press of a pedal instantly converts the truck from a standard two-wheel aluminum hand truck to a four-wheel platform model with a capacity of 1,200 pounds. The Cobra is ideal for transporting boxes of cable, wiring components and other materials to and around job sites.”

Other useful products from industrial suppliers include hand-operated hydraulic pallet trucks, lifting platforms, compact scissor lifts and lift tables; compact floor cranes; rolling pipe racks for conduit; folding storage containers made of wire; stacking containers of various sizes made of a variety of materials; and portable container shelf trucks. EC

GRIFFIN, a construction and tools writer from Oklahoma City, can be reached at 405.748.5256 or up-front@cox.net.