With industry 4.0, the Industrial Internet of Things is revolutionising the logistics process, and Nexans is something of a trailblazer in this field. The group, one of the world’s leading cable manufacturers, has installed connected trackers made by ffly4U on its cable drums, with deployment and financing provided by Econocom. This successful project resulted in Nexans making 20% savings on managing its equipment, and new services such as real-time tracking.

These wooden or steel cable drums, or “the unknown heroes of the cable industry,” as Nexans calls them, nevertheless generate substantial logistics costs. They are used for transporting cables from the factory to the industrial site where they are stored before and after use. Once they’re empty, the cable drums are collected and sent back to the factory. This service is charged to the end-client as a rental per unit.

For major energy network operators, this can add up to several million euros a year, and Nexans spends almost €1 million a year on the logistics for retrieving cable drums.

Real-time management and traceability with ffly4u technology

Optimising this process by being able to locate the equipment at any time to avoid loss or theft could therefore lead to substantial cost savings. And this is precisely what Nexans Group set out to do with Econocom and their partner ffly4u, a startup founded in 2015.

ffly4u is offering Nexans its industrial mobile tracking expertise by installing GPS sensors in a little box on each wooden cable drum so they can locate them in real time whenever they’re outside the factory.

Another advantage of this connected tracker is the ability to record the number of cables on each drum, so Nexans can work out how much extra cable length is left over and reallocate it, and collect all empty cable drums to send them back to Nexans’ factories. The ffly4u transmitter thus ensures 24/7 monitoring thanks to an alert that is triggered when a cable drum is moved outside the authorised perimeter or at night, (for example, during an attempted theft).

With a battery life of at least five years, the sensors are connected via a low-speed network, such as Sigfox or LoRa, and send data to a platform developed specifically for managing the cable drums, which Nexans and its clients can access.

Thousands of Nexans connected cable drums already rolled out across Europe

Initially launched for around one hundred cable drums, the project is now being deployed on a larger pan-European scale for a fleet of several thousand cable drums used for implementing energy networks, for example, with very conclusive results:

  • Cost savings due to faster relocation of cable drums
  • More efficient management for foremen
  • Traceability to ensure that the right cable is being used at the right location
  • Leftover cables re-used for other projects
  • Potential reduction in the number of thefts.


Find out more about industrial IoT with Econocom