Cable Management

Cable Management

When walking through a facility, someone might think all the devices just work by magic. While we all know that miles of cables and wires run behind the walls, in the ceilings, and under the floors, it is easy to forget about them. These cables work without problems the vast majority of the time, but they can be quite dangerous when something goes wrong.

Just like any other piece of equipment, wires can go bad for many reasons. Sometimes mice or other animals chew through them. Other times people accidently cut them. Still others just wear out over time. When this happens, facilities often learn just how difficult it can be to trace a cable and make sure they're removing and replacing the proper one.

What Is Cable Management?

Cable management is a term used to describe how cables are installed and maintained in a building. These cables usually provide electricity and communications services. When cables are installed or serviced, it's important they are organized so people can easily understand the system they're dealing with.

cable spaghetti

Avoid cable spaghetti

Cable management plays a large role in power distribution, communications, and information technology, but those obviously aren't the only industries where cables are used. Businesses in all industries need these services, so all buildings have these cables running through them.

Cables also play a role in the workplace on a smaller scale, since even small offices need to manage cables and cords. The term cable organization is often used in place of cable management, particularly when referring to keeping computer and other equipment cables organized so they don't cause safety hazards or lead to a lot of wasted time during maintenance or a repair.

The size of a cable installation and the location in question will often determine the best ways to manage cables. Trays may be used to hold large bunches of cables, while in other circumstances simple zip ties can do the job. It's also important to label cables so service technicians can see what's what without wasting a lot of time. This article will examine the methods available for cable management in the workplace.

Cable Organization Tools

zip ties illustration

When a new building is constructed, large amounts of cables are built into the walls, floors, and ceilings and routed where they need to go with devices such as cable trays or cable baskets. When a business adds new equipment or rewires an area, there are many additional tools that can help create an organized cable management system.

Zip ties are one of the most common tools for holding cables together or in place. They're sometimes called cable ties or wire ties. They're usually made of plastic, but can also be made of flexible metals or fabric with Velcro on one side. To use the plastic and metal varieties, users usually insert one end of the tie through the square fastener and pull. The end of the tie can sometimes be cut off to keep things neat. These zip ties are usually permanent and need to be cut off if the system needs to be changed. The Velcro cable ties, on the other hand, are reusable, since they are wrapped around cables and fastened using Velcro.

cable management

Cable mounts are another tool frequently used for cable management. Sometimes zip ties themselves have built in mounts. Separate plastic or metal mounts are also available so cables can be help in place along walls, desks, or any other surfaces necessary. These mounts often use adhesive backing or have holes for screws to attach them to surfaces.

Why Cable Markings Are Important

Wire labels can provide facilities with many benefits that will help increase efficiency, eliminate waste, improve safety, and generally make everything run more smoothly. The following are some of the perks of using proper marking methods:

  • Reduced Risk - When an employee is working on facility wiring, it can be difficult to trace out the wires to ensure they are working on the proper ones. There are many wire types, and if employee cuts the wrong one, it could be dangerous. Labeling each wire will help employees know exactly what they are working on. OSHA requirements even exist for labeling to keep employees safe.
  • Faster Repairs - If the power goes out on one machine and it seems like a bad cable is the cause, it's helpful to be able to identify the power cord among all the others as quickly as possible. By using a cable tag or other wire marker, employees can immediately see which wire it is so it can be repaired or replaced.
  • Improved Organization - Most people who have worked on wiring have seen or heard horror stories about thousands of unlabeled cables going through an area. Organizing each cable with a proper label or tag will help keep things in order.
  • Simpler Upgrades - Whether they are computer cables, power cables, or other types of cables, they will eventually need to be upgraded to keep up with the latest standards. Labeling the cables at both ends will make the upgrade process much simpler and faster so there is less downtime.
  • More Affordable - This one often surprises people, but it is true. Technicians are very busy and if they waste time tracing out unlabeled cables, it is a costly event. When the techs can just come in and do their jobs, it saves businesses money. This is especially true if they hire wire techs from third party companies.

Proper cable marking yields many other important benefits. Whether a business is looking to develop a comprehensive strategy for a facility or just wants to do things properly going forward, this article will help with the process.

wire marking communication

Improve Visual Communication with Cable Labels

When considering whether cable labels are worth the effort, businesses should take a look at how they can improve visual communication with these types of labels. While these labels won't grab as much attention as wall signs or floor markings, they can still be very helpful.

Visual communication is an important concept in manufacturing facilities, warehouses, and other types of companies. The concept with cable labels is the same as any other type of visual communication in a facility, so businesses should learn about why cable labels are important so they can incorporate them into their overall visual communication strategies.

Types of Cable Markings

There are many types of cable markings on the market. Different wire marking methods are designed for use in different situations. Taking the time to learn what is available and then checking to see which ones are right for a facility is worth the effort.

  • Wrap-Around Labels - Wrap-around labels are quite simple to use. They can be printed from any label maker. Just wrap the label around the wire or cable in question, and it sticks to itself on the other side.
  • Wire Marker Tape - Wire marker tape is a durable tape that has words or pictograms printed on it. The tape can be applied to a cable or wire, or can be wrapped around it to convey the message.
  • Cable Labels - General use cable labels often come pre-printed with common information and can be applied directly to the labels quite quickly. These types of labels may have numbers on them so users can simply identify a cable at each end so it is easy to trace.
  • Cable Stickers - Cable stickers can come in a variety of shapes and sizes. These are especially nice for larger cables so users can apply the stickers precisely where they are needed.
  • Electrical Wire Labels - When labeling an electrical wire, these are an ideal choice. Whenever applying anything to a cable that carries electricity, it is a good idea to use a non-flammable and non-conductive tape. Electrical wire labels can safely be applied to any type of wire.
  • Cable Identification Tags - Using cable identification tags rather than labels is quite common. These tags usually have a thin, yet strong, string which can be tied to the proper location on the cable.
  • video: heat shrink tube
    Heat Shrink Labels - Heat shrink labels are an excellent option. They slide over the cable itself and then shrink to snugly fit around it when heat is applied. The heat is applied from a heat gun. See how to properly use a heat gun for shrinking labels in this video:
  • UV Marker - When labeling wires that will be in the dark, using a UV marker may be a good idea. The ultra violet ink in the label will glow brightly under a black light so it is much easier to find.

Most facilities will need multiple types of label markings to ensure all needs are met. Sometimes it can even be helpful to have different labels on one wire to ensure all the information needed will be easily communicated to those in the area.

When to Use Heat Shrink Labels for Cables

One of the most common types of cable markings is the heat shrink label. Heat shrink labels are perfect for permanently marking a wire or cable with the exact information needed. These labels can be wide so they will fit along the length of the cable, which allows users to include additional information. This is important for hazardous electrical cables or situations where people need detailed information.

heat shrink tube
Once the label is wrapped around the cable, heat is applied to shrink it down to fit snuggly. When done properly, the label almost looks as if it is a natural part

of the cable itself. It won't slide around like label tags, so the information printed will stay right where it is needed.

When applying heat on the label, it is important that you don't direct the heat too closely or for too long. The label itself will shrink down fairly easily, but too much heat could damage the cable itself. Following the instructions precisely will help avoid any potential problems.

Choosing Shrink Tubing for Wire Marking

Another name for heat shrink labels is shrink tubing, and they are a great choice for wire marking in many situations. Choosing the right shrink tubing for cable markings is very important. There are many factors to consider.

For example, make sure the shrink tube is the proper color to fit with the overall marking strategy. If there's a label printer in the facility, choose shrink tubes that can be printed with the printer available.

Naturally, the size of the shrink tubes is important so users can find labels that will fit around the cable that needs to be marked. Most facilities have different sized labels ranging from tiny phone wires up to large electrical cables that are several inches in diameter.

It's advisable to order shrink tubes for cable marking in several sizes. When applying the tubing, select the size that will just fit over the wire or cable so that it can easily be shrunk down to fit perfectly without any extra space.

Important Facts about Electrical Wire Labels

electrical panel

While most cables can be labeled or marked with any type of marking supplies, electrical wires need something special. When working with anything that carries electricity, it is essential to take the time to think about safety.

Electrical wires are usually made to be quite durable, but no matter how strong something is, it can wear out over time. If an electrical cable cracks or breaks, it is important to be sure the label won't create a hazard if it comes into contact with the inside of the wires. Even better, having the label made of a plastic material that will contain the electricity is a great option.

It is unlikely that a cable would split or crack in the exact area where the label is, but it is not impossible. Should that happen, make sure the labels have not created a more dangerous situation.

On top of making sure to use the right materials for electrical wire labels, also make sure the right information is printed on the labels. It usually won't be enough to just mark each end of an electrical wire so it is easy to trace. Add information such as how much voltage the wire may be carrying, what type of machine it is intended to supply power to, when the wire was installed, and more.

Taking extra care when working with electrical wires will not only make it easier to work with in the future, but will also help improve the overall safety of the facility. Never take chances with electricity. Use high-quality wire markings designed specifically for electrical wires.

Are Cable Wraps Effective?

The most widely used type of cable marking is the common cable wrap. These wraps are seen in a wide range of environments from industrial to data centers. To apply them to a cable, just wrap them around the wire until the whole label is in place.

There are two main options for cable wraps. The first one is a specific size and can only be applied to one size of cable. The label will wrap around the cable once and fit nicely so it is easy to read.

The other option is to have a "self-laminating" cable wrap. This has the cable label portion followed by a clear material that goes over the printed part. This lets users ensure that the label will go all the way around the cable several times for added security. These types of labels aren't likely to come off, and the printed area won't wear since it has a protective layer on top of it.

See exactly how these types of labels are used in this video:

video: how to label a wire

Cable wraps can be very effective if used in the right situations. Like the other options, they aren't always the perfect choice, but they are certainly something to have on hand.

Are Cable Tags the Right Option?

Most facilities use labels for cable marking because they are affordable, easy to use, and remain in place. In addition to these types of labels, cable tags are also an option. Cable tags are great in some situations where labels won't get the job done properly.

For example, if cables are tightly packed into a small area, it may not be possible to get close enough to read the label on each cable. In this type of situation, tie cable tags onto each cable so the tag itself can be read when needed.

This will make it easier for everyone to read the information without any trouble.

The string on these cables can be several inches long or even longer to ensure they are easy to work with. Make sure the tags are not going to get tangled up with each other, which would defeat the purpose of improving the organization of the cables.

Color Coding for Cable Marking

Color coding cable markings can make them more effective without adding any complexity. This is an easy way to make sure the proper message gets to the people working with or around the cables.

While a business can choose any color coding scheme, it may be wise to follow a similar layout to the standard wire color codes that many facilities use. Select red cable markings for any cables carrying potentially dangerous levels of electricity. Yellow could be used for data cables, brown for ground cables, and so on. There are many options to choose from, but finding the right color coding for cable marking will improve the effectiveness of the overall management strategy.

Developing Cable Marking Systems for a Facility

Now that you have a good idea of why cable marking is important, what cable marking options are available, and a general idea of how things should be done, it is time to start implementing a strategy. While every facility is unique, the most important thing to consider when making plans is to keep priorities in mind.
For example, most facilities want to use cable markings to improve safety and organization. If that is the case for you, make a plan so that these two goals are accomplished properly. If you have any other objectives for a marking strategy, see if you can work them in as well, but only if they don't negatively impact the other goals.

While this can all seem complicated for something as small as cable marking, users will quickly find that with proper planning and understanding, a facility's cable management strategy can be implemented quickly and effectively.

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