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Posted on October 29, 2013

Award-Winning Supplier Provides PG&E with Reliable Electric Cable

By David Kligman

SAN RAMON — If you’re a customer with underground cables providing your electricity then that wiring was likely produced by a company even older than PG&E.

Okonite is one of PG&E’s major suppliers, each year delivering about 7 million feet of half-inch thick insulated aluminum wiring to the utility.

Every year, Okonite delivers 7 million feet of insulated aluminum wiring from its plant in Santa Maria in Santa Barbara County. (Photo by Tim Tullis.)

PG&E’s partnership with New Jersey-based Okonite began more than 20 years ago, a natural alliance in many ways given that the cable manufacturer has a large manufacturing plant in Santa Maria.

“We’re not only a customer of theirs, but they’re a customer of ours,” said Steve Coleman, PG&E’s director of sourcing for electric operations.

And like PG&E, Okonite is venerable company with a history that began more than 100 years ago.

On Monday night (Oct. 28), PG&E Chairman, CEO and President Tony Earley and Des Bell, senior vice president of safety and shared services, presented Okonite with PG&E’s Supplier of the Year award. Other suppliers also were honored.

Back-to-back Supplier of the Year award a first

It’s the first time PG&E has honored the same company in consecutive years for Supplier of the Year honors since it began the awards seven years ago.

“We’re honored to get it,” Okonite district manager Pat Nash told Currents. “PG&E is a big, large important customer to us nationally and especially here on the West Coast. It’s a big deal to us.”

Having a manufacturing plant that's in PG&E's territory makes it faster to get replacement wiring during an emergency outage. (Photo by Tim Tullis.)

PG&E uses so much of the wiring that Okonite delivers the cables in 78-inch steel reels that are then sent back to the company to reuse. Smaller clients typically receive wiring in wooden reels that aren’t recycled.

“These reels are used over and over again and we’re not throwing away hundreds of thousands of pounds of wood a year, so it’s environmental,” Nash said.

Each year, PG&E spends $5.5 billion in goods and services to provide safe, reliable and affordable power for millions of customers. Each of those suppliers gets a scorecard rank measuring quality, cost, safety, diversity and green practices. This year, Okonite’s rating was perfect, another first.

What makes Okonite such an important business partner, Coleman said, is its ability to drop everything for PG&E if the need arises.

“Their quality is exceptional and so is their on-time delivery,” he said.

PG&E a priority if cable needed during power outages

If there’s a power outage where cable needs to be replaced or an urgent project, the company makes PG&E a priority. They even have emergency stock on hand at no extra charge. And delivery from Santa Maria in Santa Barbara County makes the service even speedier.

“We ship something in the morning and it’s there in the afternoon,” Nash said. “If PG&E needs something we do it.”

From left, Okonite representatives Pat Nash, Jim Becker and Bruce Sellers accept the Supplier of the Year award presented by PG&E's Des Bell, second from right, and Tony Earley, far right. (Photo by David Kligman.)

PG&E even has a direct phone line to Okonite’s president.

In all, PG&E has about 4,000 suppliers, providing materials like wooden power poles and even nuts and bolts and high voltage warning signs. They also provide important labor like cable replacement and on the gas side, hydrostatic testing and pipeline replacement.

The suppliers also are a diverse group. PG&E’s supplier diversity program has provided thousands of businesses owned by women, minorities and disabled veterans with opportunities to deliver products to PG&E. In 2012, PG&E spent more than $2 billion with diverse suppliers — a record for the company — accounting for 38.8 percent of its total procurement budget.

“Our suppliers augment what we do,” Coleman said. “Of course, we have 22,000 dedicated employees but we need these critical partners to help us get the job done.”

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