Wire Marking

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Wire Marking

When walking through a facility one might think all the devices just work by magic. While we all know that miles of wires run behind the walls, in the ceilings, and under the floors, it is easy to forget about them. These wires 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 working in the area accidently cut them. Still others just wear out over time. When this happens, facilities often learn just how difficult it can be to trace out a wire and make sure they’re removing and replacing the proper one.

Whether running wires in a new facility, replacing older wires, or just running a line for a new piece of equipment, now is the time for businesses to develop a wire marking system to ensure everything is properly labeled for the future.

Why Wire 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 the 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 they cut 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 power wire is the cause, it’s helpful to be able to identify the power cord among all the other wires 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 wires going through an area. Organizing each wire with its proper wire tag will help keep things better organized.
  • Simpler Upgrades – Whether they are computer wires, power wires ,or other types of wires, they will eventually need to be upgraded to keep up with the latest standards. Labeling the wires 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. Wire technicians are very busy and if they waste time tracing out unlabeled wires, it is a costly event. When the wire 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 wire marking yields many other important benefits. Whether a business is looking to develop a comprehensive wiring strategy for a facility or justs want to do things properly going forward, this guide will help with the process.

wire marking communication

Improve Visual Communication with Wire Labels

When considering whether wire 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 wire labels is the same as any other type of visual communication in a facility, so businesses should learn about why wire labels are important so they can incorporate them into their overall visual communication strategies.

Types of Wire Markings

There are many types of wire markings on the market today. 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 conveyed to those in the area.

When to Use Heat Shrink Labels for Cables

One of the most common types of wire 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 or other types of labels, so the information printed will stay right where it is needed.
One downside of heat shrink labels is that they take longer to apply since time must be taken to apply the heat to each one. This only takes a few minutes, but when working with hundreds or even thousands of cables, this can be a problem. Most facilities will use these types of labels only on the most important cables in the facility.

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 to avoid any potential problems.

Choosing Shrink Tubes for Wire Marking

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

For example, make sure that the shrink tube is the proper color to fit with the overall marking strategy. If there’s a wire 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 wire marking in several sizes. When applying the tubes, select the size that will just fit over the wire or cable so that they 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 the 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 to improve the overall safety of the facility. Never take chances with electricity. Use high-quality wire markings designed specifically for electrical wires.

Are Wire Wraps Effective?

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

There are two main options when it comes to wire wraps. The first one is made to be a specific size and be applied to only one sized wire. The label will wrap around the cable once and fit nicely so that it is easy to read.

The other option is to have a “self-laminating” wire wrap. This has the wire 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 quick video:

video: how to label a wire

Wire 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 Wire Tags the Right Option?

When it comes to wire markings, most facilities use labels because they are affordable, easy to use and remain in place. In addition to these types of labels, wire tags are also an option. Wire tags are great in some situations where labels won’t get the job done properly.

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

This will make it easier for everyone to read the information without any trouble. There are many other times when a tag may also be a better choice than a label.

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 Wire Marking

Color coding wire markings can make them more effective without adding any complexity. This is an easy way to make sure the proper message gets to 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 wire 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 wire marking will improve the effectiveness of the overall marking strategy.

Developing Wire Marking Systems for a Facility

Now that you have a good idea of why wire marking is important, what wire 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 wire 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 wire marking, users will quickly find that with proper planning and understanding, a facility’s wire marking strategy can be implemented quickly and effectively.

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