From the Lab: Let’s look at the benefits of Harnessflex® conduit systems

When it comes to choosing the right conduit system for heavy-duty vehicles, there are plenty of important factors to consider.

Safety and reliability are top priorities for all, especially for OEM Vehicle manufacturers. For the Harnessmaker, cost-effectiveness and efficiency are always going to be key. Yet the cost of the material used to build the harness is only one element of the total overall expense – the necessary labor to assemble the harness, additional supplies and the life expectancy of the assembly also need to be taken into account. Special equipment and supplies may be needed to assemble the harness such as heat shrink guns, taping machines, etc. Because the assembly time for a taped system typically takes longer, there is an incremental increase in labor costs. And while a PVC heat shrink system may have initial material cost savings, these are often offset by a shorter product lifespan, resulting in more frequent replacement of the whole system.

In contrast, Harnessflex® conduit systems are an integrated solution that seamlessly clip together for easy installation and complete wiring harness protection for the vehicle.

To put this to the test, we examined the figures and risk factors when producing harnesses for hundreds of vehicles from the perspective of both the Harnessmaker and the OEM Vehicle manufacturer. What factors are important and what are the risks for vehicle reliability?

Match-up – Material safety and reliability

First, we looked at arguably the most important factor to consider – the reliability of the material being used. A conduit system is designed to protect the critical electrical wiring of a heavy-duty vehicle, the heartbeat of the machine that ultimately drives its productivity. When in operation on demanding terrain, the connectors and electrical wiring of these machines can be put under a great amount strain and require suitable protection to help withstand the elements – vibrations, abrasions, hot engine oil, even jet pressure washing during clean down. Without the necessary systems protection in place, these vehicles are at a much higher risk of downtime and will likely need more frequent repairs to fix any issues.

As an integrated solution, Harnessflex conduits and fittings are built and tested to be used as a combined system. As standard with any Harnessflex solution, products are extensively tested in a number of ways:

  • Compression and crush
  • Tensile and pull off
  • Ingress protection (jet wash safe)
  • Oil and chemical resistance
  • UV resistance
  • Extreme cold and hot temperatures
  • Vibration
  • Abrasion

This robust testing helps Harnessflex complete system solutions provide dependable routing and protection of electrical wiring against damage by impact, mechanical abrasion, liquid ingress, corrosive salts and extreme temperatures. By choosing a Harnessflex conduit system, Harnessmakers and OEMs can expect that vulnerable connectors are not exposed to the elements and the impact of foreign bodies or jet washing, all of which can cause vehicle malfunction and failure.

By including a unique vibration friendly profile (VFP), UV and heat stabilization as standard, this helps to maximize the productivity of the system being protected, while reducing the risk of electrical failure and vehicle downtime. For even greater protection, the Harnessflex® Tensile Strength solution is a general purpose system enhanced with a multi-purpose conduit clip that testing shows can deliver up to 50% greater resistance to compression and mechanical strain, as well as 20% extra tensile strength.

When these factors are considered alongside the base material cost, it dispels the assumption that a PVC heat shrink system is a lower-cost option. In fact, a PVC heat shrink conduit system has a base cost of $15.95 (£11.53), only cents less than the Harnessflex system cost of $16.61 (£12).

Match-up – Installation time and system longevity

While the taped conduit system may have the lowest material costs of just under $5 (an average of £3.57) less per harness, it also requires the longest install time of the three options. Notably, the Harnessflex system is much simpler to assemble, as evidenced by the shortest installation time* – an average of 19 minutes per harness compared to 29 minutes for the taped system. The cost savings are striking — the labor cost to install the Harnessflex assembly worked out to approximately $10 (£7.92) compared to $16.50 (£12.08) for the taped solution. Across a full fleet of vehicles, this adds up to a big difference.

However, when analyzing cost, frequency of replacement also needs to be considered. As standard, the Harnessflex conduit systems carries a 5-year warranty, with some customers having reported Harnessflex installations that have been in service since the 1980s without needing replacement. Importantly, based on previous testing results, Harnessflex conduit systems also provide 10-150% greater life expectancy in dynamic or vibrating applications when compared with other products.

By comparison, a taped or heat shrink PVC solution only has the warranty of the components from which it is installed and may have a much shorter lifespan of 3-to-5-years before needing to be replaced. Generally taped and heat shrink PVC systems are made to be installed immediately, which doesn’t allow for rigorous testing of the system’s stability against the elements that it will likely come up against in operation. This poses a potential risk of electrical failure and vehicle downtime, and also increases the likelihood of regular repairs and replacements.

It all adds up

All factors considered from the Harnessmaker’s perspective, in a head-to-head match-up between the Harnessflex system and a taped system, the Harnessflex system is the lower cost solution at $2,826 (£2,059) vs. $2,908 (£2,119) for a taped system based on assembling 100 harnesses for a full fleet of vehicles. And while the PVC heat shrink harness had similar overall costs, the speedier assembly time enabled safer, more secure harnesses to be constructed in the same production period.

From the perspective of the OEM Vehicle manufacturer, our risk analysis showed that a Harnessflex system was six times more reliable for the same material investment. This was based on a much lower risk of failure (11% Harnessflex vs 68-76% taped or PVC heat shrink), which in turn led to significantly reduced repair, replacement, fleet downtime and servicing costs. On the basis of our analysis, for both the Harnessmaker and OEM, the Harnessflex system helps deliver greater reliability which sets it apart as the better investment for helping to maximize electrical protection over a vehicle’s lifetime.

The safety and reliability of the Harnessflex conduit system make it the clear winner, with a range of benefits to the Harnessmaker and OEM including:

  • Greater connector protection with increased strain relief
  • Lower re-work rate at install – no special equipment needed
  • Longer product lifespan and 5-year warranty
  • Better design aesthetics
  • Reduced labor and overall costs
  • Lower annual spend
  • Simpler and faster to install than taped systems and PVC sleeve solutions

From fit-and-forget CPC (circuit protective conduit) systems offering dynamic performance to our forthcoming range of systems designed and tested to withstand extreme temperatures, Harnessflex helps provide a reliable, secure solution for many applications and environments.

For more information on Harnessflex, visit our website here.


Taping Protection
Heat Shrink
HFX Cable and Connector Protection


*average install time based on testing in collaboration with independent harnessmaker

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About the author

Nathan Cook

Nathan is the Global Business Development Manager for ABB’s Harnessflex Brand of products, the leading and best range of cable and connector protection systems in the Heavy Automotive Sector. Harnessflex is dedicated to innovating and delivering maximum circuit integrity and performance in productivity critical heavy vehicles, including construction, agricultural & mining machinery, bus, truck, and drive train technology. Harnessflex is moving into the future with specialty ranges and advancements for growth industry sectors and high-spec applications such as EV development and high temperature protection. Nathan is based in the UK and works with customers and colleagues around the globe to protect electrical systems from in-field failure and the resulting machine downtime.
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