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Article Date: 22nd June 2018

Furse Reaches 125th Anniversary with Prospects for Global Growth Spurt

Lightning Protection - Lightning Strikes - Lightning Rods - Conductive Cages

Furse Lightning Strike

Born in the UK in 1893, ABB is transforming the specialty group’s well-honed lightning protection skills into a worldwide enterprise.

Born as a one-man shop near the end of one of the United Kingdom’s longest depressions, Furse has always been able to ride out a storm.

It survived the thunder of World War I and thrived through the devastation of World War II.

It expanded and diversified through decades of changing owners in the 1950s, 60s, 80s and 90s. By the 90s, the focus and direction was firmly on its core business – lightning protection and grounding.

Today, at the ripe age of 125, backed by the worldwide sales power of its Zurich-based owner, ABB, Furse is poised to accelerate into the most focused global growth curve in its long and remarkable history, with the aim of protecting the world’s structures, and more importantly, human life, from the devastating effects of lightning and damaging fault currents.

All those years of expertise allow Furse today to offer a complete global package of engineered, designed and certified parts and products, along with risk assessment services, technical guidance and extensive system design advice.

“At age 125, Furse lightning protection has a rich past. But it has an even more exciting future,” said Shailendra Kumar, ABB global product manager for wire management and connectivity. “It has traditionally been a UK-centered company, but, thanks to the global reach of ABB it is making significant inroads today into China, the Middle East and India. And, due to a recent expansion of its product line and UL approval, it has great prospects in North America as well. In other words, it has gone from a largely British company to one that will touch every time zone in the world within the next few years.”

The Furse story centres on lightning and how to protect people and the world’s increasingly sensitive electrical and electronic equipment from its awe-inspiring power.

A single lightning strike can unleash 300,000 amps and 1 gigavolt of power on a building, generating temperatures as high as 36,000 degrees F (19,980 degrees C) - three times as hot as the surface of the sun - according to UL documents.

Lightning strikes the ground somewhere in the world about 10 times a second. It kills about 24,000 people a year and injures another 240,000, according to data compiled from various research organizations.

To channel that energy away from a building’s human inhabitants and its sensitive electrical and electronic equipment, Furse designs and constructs systems of lightning rods and conductive cages attached to solid grounds - sophisticated versions of a classic Faraday cage. The work is generally designed to integrate seamlessly into architectural designs, so even historic buildings can be retrofitted with unobtrusive protection.

Furse™ protection systems and equipment comply with various codes and standards that apply to lightning protection and grounding. The company’s products have long complied with British Standards, IEC standards and global grounding standards that cover most of the world, in conjunction with BS EN 62305 design standards. In a key milestone that allowed the company to compete in the North American market with its UL 96A and NFPA 780 design standards, Furse added a new line of products in 2016 that gained compliance with UL 96 product standards, completing the company’s ability to circle the globe.

Market researchers expect the world’s lightning protection and grounding industries to grow by 5 to 8 percent a year through 2021, and Furse is perfectly placed to service and supply these increasing industries.

Simple beginnings
Furse started in 1893 when William Joseph Furse acquired the premises and steeple jacking business of Joshua Till on Burton Street in Nottingham. (“Steeplejacks” specialize in working on tall towers or chimneys.) Quickly recognizing the importance of electricity as well as lightning protection, Furse expanded from a business with a single employee into electrical installation and the manufacture of switchgear and components.

The company expanded further into theater equipment manufacturing and installation, incorporating in 1912 - two years before the start of WWI - as W.J. Furse & Co. Ltd.

Despite hardships, the company grew through the war years and beyond, expanding into refrigeration and wholesale electrical equipment sales by 1926. Growth in the core businesses expanded steadily until the sale of the company in 1958 to E. V. Industrials Ltd., and then nine years later to Crown House, which began an era with a succession of owners and reorganizations.

Finally, after further expansion into the elevator business, various pieces of the Furse enterprise were renamed and sold off, leaving Thomas & Betts in 1998 to acquire the last part of the business that retained the Furse name after all those years - lightning protection and grounding.

Furse fits well with the Memphis, TN-based Thomas & Betts, which even then was a world leader in manufacturing and sales of electrical components. In 2012, ABB, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of industrial and electrical equipment, purchased Thomas & Betts, opening the door to the world stage for Furse.

ABB (ABBN: SIX Swiss Ex) also brings more than a 130-year history of innovation to electrification products, robotics and motion, industrial automation and power grids, serving customers in utilities, industry and transport & infrastructure globally with about 135,000 employees operating in more than 100 countries.

And within that umbrella, 125 years after the firms’ inception, the Furse name continues to be synonymous with innovative engineering and management success and stands as a tribute to its founder, offering the total solution to lightning protection and grounding.

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