There are two primary types of copper wire distribution: bulk copper wire and wire harnesses. Bulk copper wire is supplied to manufacturers who then integrate the wire into their own manufacturing process. Wire harnesses however, are systems into which the wire is already manufactured and ready for installation. The overall copper wire market serves multiple industries including:
- Building Automation Controls
- Construction & Agricultural Equipment
- Electrical & Electronic
- Heavy Trucks
- Industrial Automation Controls
- Recreational Vehicles
- Residential & Non Residential HVAC
The preferred distribution method is determined by each manufacturer and based on manufacturing process. Copper wire demand is largely tied to manufacturing needs in recreational vehicles, trailers, heavy trucks, industrial automation control systems and building automation control systems industries. Further these industries have the most influence on suppliers of copper wire.
The recreational vehicle industry is expected to grow by 4 percent driven by the aging population’s interest in RV vacationing. Large amounts of wire are used for harnesses that supply power to lighting, water pumps and other low voltage systems including major appliances, headlights, tail-lights and power from generators. Many RV companies purchase bulk wire and manufacture many smaller harnesses in-house. However, they also purchase wire harnesses for their larger needs as well. Overall distribution of copper wire is nearly 50-50 between bulk wire and wire harnesses.
Demand for trailers in the United States has been growing steadily over the past three years due to housing starts and continued consumer demand for transportation of goods and materials. In 2006, many trailer manufacturers produced at capacity which provided solid demand for copper wire suppliers to trailer manufactures. Trailer wiring consists of wire main harnesses, rear sill harnesses and many smaller harnesses such as stop tail turn lights, license, ID lights, marker lights, and clearance lights. Also, copper wire is utilized in trailers containing refrigeration units. Total wire usage is also dependent on the length of the trailer and the number of marker lights utilized on the trailer. In the trailer segment, over 90 percent of wire distribution is through the wire harness channel.
There is a strong copper wire usage in the form of harnesses for the heavy truck industry. A growing number of wiring harnesses are used in the heavy truck industry due to the increases in options and computer connections. While some European countries have started to use aluminum wiring in heavy trucks, U.S. manufactures have no plans to use aluminum due to its reduced ability to bend and flex as compared to copper. Major copper wire uses for heavy trucks include engine control, safety systems, instrumentation, battery cables and driver convenience. Copper wire distribution to heavy truck manufacturers is 100 percent through the wire harness product segment.