Clear, accurate labeling of wires, cables and components is key to quality assurance, warranty protection and long-term maintenance of electrical, telecom, A/V and security networking systems.
by Craig Robinson, RCDD, Brother Mobile Solutions
An accurate and complete labeling system is the mark of a professionally installed wire and cabling system. The days of using tape and markers to label infrastructure components are long gone, and so are the days of “on-the-fly” cable management and administration. Whether the project is a new construction or an upgrade, the ANSI/TIA 606-B Structured Cabling Standard details a comprehensive labeling scheme that reflects industry best practices.
Used in conjunction with a dynamic management and administration system, end-to-end identification and clear labeling of infrastructure system components:
- Simplifies maintenance and troubleshooting, saving time and costs in making repairs or moves, adds and changes (MACs).
- Lowers the total cost of ownership.
- Ensures quality assurance and audit compliance with manufacturer and installer warranty terms.
The ANSI/TIA 606-B Standard’s guidelines cover facilities of every class, size and type ‒ from small office buildings to large commercial enterprises, corporate campuses and data centers. That’s why increasing numbers of facility owners, managers and IT directors, as well as system designers, integrators, electrical contractors and installers today are including labeling in their project specifications for electrical, telecom, A/V and security network systems.
General 606-B Labeling Guidelines
The 606-B Standard calls for text on the labels to be machine-generated and visible, and for wires, cables and pathways to be labeled at both ends for ease of tracing from either direction. Labels should meet the UL969 specification for legibility, defacement and adhesion. This means they should be rugged, tamper- and smear-resistant and able to withstand environmental conditions such as heat, moisture and ultraviolet light. In fact, the Standard recommends that the labels applied should have a design life equal to or greater than that of the labeled components.
In addition, facility owners or IT personnel must ensure that the cable and component identification system be updated as needed to reflect future upgrades and MACs, and that facility managers maintain a permanent record of the original installation and all subsequent changes. This provides an accurate blueprint should the configuration need to be re-created, in whole or in part, due to damage or destruction from fire, flood or other disaster.
Choose Next-Generation Labeling Tools
To facilitate compliance with the 606-B standard, installation firms can find in today’s marketplace rugged, industrial-grade labeling tools which incorporate smart technology, intuitive navigation, broad versatility and deep functionality to help make labeling faster and easier. Designed for on-site use, the best of smart handheld labeling tools are easy to operate and ergonomically designed, and they are built to withstand long-term daily use by work crews in the field.
Thermal transfer printers are the most practical and popular choice because they don’t use any ink and can format and print a variety of conforming label types up to 24mm or 36mm wide using easy snap-in tape cartridges. The tapes generate durable UL-approved polyester laminated labels which encapsulate the print between two protective layers to ensure long-term integrity, legibility and adhesion.
Some smart labeling tools offer a selection of wireless connectivity options and built-in software that allow users to download and store data from common databases. They also allow for on-site download and printing of previously saved custom or pre-formatted label templates, as well as previously programmed Alpha/numeric serialization of labels to aid speed and productivity in the field.
Features to Look for in a Labeling Tool
In selecting labelers, here are additional user-friendly features that add value:
- Large backlit LCD display for instant, at-a-glance viewing and selecting of label designs
- QWERTY-style keyboard, pre-formatted label designs, and intuitive navigation menus and icons for faster formatting and editing of labels
- Automatic smart font-sizing for clear, legible labels in both short and long identifier formats
- PC connectivity, built-in software and memory to allow storing and download of data to create custom designed labels
- Convenient multi-lingual user interface for today’s diverse work crews.
In addition, smart labelers should accept a variety of interchangeable tape cartridges to create different types of labels. The most common choices are HGe and TZe tapes, which are available in various sizes, colors and adhesive backings. Some installers opt to use HSe heat shrink tubing, a thin flexible tube that contracts when it is heated with a heat gun. When applied to an individual cable or bundle of wires, fibers or cables, HSe tubing forms a strong, secure sleeve which provides insulation, strength and strain relief to prevent flexing or crimpling at the wire-to-termination point.
The relatively low cost, high performance and robust reliability of today’s smart industrial labeling tools make them well worth the investment. And, following a standards-based approach to identification and management of the physical infrastructure’s wires, cables and components is the mark of a true professional.
About the Author
Craig Robinson, RCDD manages growth strategy, channel, and business development initiatives for the Brother P-Touch EDGE® brand of products. Brother Mobile Solutions is a premier provider of innovative on-demand mobile printing and labeling solutions for the mobile workforce. For more information, visit www.edgelabeling.com.