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Martin Dolezal
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8 minutes

Labeling cables, harnesses - performance & compliance challenges

Technology is advancing at an ever-increasing rate, so it stands to reason that the wires and harnesses that connect our electronic devices are also becoming more complex. Whether they are used in cars, electrical cabinets, or electronic equipment, these cables play a vital role in keeping our modern world functioning.

As industries grow more reliant on new technologies, it becomes even more important that efficient and compliant cable labeling is available. There are various challenges associated with labeling cables and harnesses that threaten this growth.

Performance problems

Wrap-around and flag labels are often used to display information on cables. They are crucial for telling us what a cable does and whether it's safe to use, but there are various challenges involved in ensuring these labels stay in place and do their job.

For instance, it’s very easy for labels to open up, making them vulnerable to environmental factors such as moisture, dust or physical damage. This is not only unsightly but it can also result in crucial information going missing. Therefore, maintaining compliance with storage guidelines helps to ensure labels are securely sealed and reduces the risk of data loss or damage. Labels can also slide along the cable, especially if the adhesive isn’t effective enough. This can also be an issue when cables are covered by PVC plastic, as while this can provide good adhesion at first, it can quickly deteriorate, especially if exposed to higher temperatures. 

"These challenges are important as labels need to stay where they’re meant to be to ensure the information is readily accessible."

Similarly, labels can suffer from temperature-related issues, as many of the places where they’re used can get extremely hot. As a result, normal labeling materials may not be suitable as they can’t handle such heat, and special materials are required for the job.

Various rules can also make it challenging for labels. For instance, cable labels in cars need to comply with automotive specifications to make sure they are safe and work well. Similarly, in electronics, the new UL 969A standard places fresh requirements on labels to be compliant.

The advantages of labeling cables

If companies can get labeling right it has several clear advantages, both in terms of ensuring that they’re compliant with the rules and regulations, and also ensuring that their labels are functionally sound.

Clear and strong labels are nearly always better than printing directly on cables. They allow us to put reliable and easy-to-understand information on the cables, like barcodes and warnings. These can even allow for the inclusion of pictures that are specific to each particular product.

The materials used for labels are also hugely important. PVC labels are popular because they are flexible, durable, UV-resistant, and fire-resistant. If we need labels to resist high temperatures, we can use polyester labels. What's most important is choosing materials that can stick to cables and not peel off. This includes choosing the right adhesive, which ensures the labels stay safely in place.

Adapting to market trends

As electrification increases, so does the need for cables. People want to know where these cables are throughout the supply chain, so it’s important that we’re able to track them at all times. Not only does labeling help with that but we can also put RFID inlays into the labels to make tracking easier. With the right equipment, labels can be applied automatically, which is faster and more reliable than doing it by hand. This helps to ensure that we achieve both safe and proper labeling at all times. As these trends unfold, the industry must continue learning and evolving.

"There are several crucial strategies companies should follow to ensure that their labels are both functional and compliant. "

Firstly, picking the right label material and printing equipment and inks is crucial. If it's not done right, labels can come loose or decrease its quality over time. Companies should work with trusted suppliers who have materials that are thoroughly tested and reliable.

Secondly, companies should always ensure that they’re investing in the right machinery to ensure that labels can be placed on cables both efficiently and reliably. Your labels must be able to stay in place under all conditions, so this cannot be underestimated.

It’s also important that your labels and materials fully comply with the rules and regulations for your specific industry. This is particularly important in sectors such as automotive and electronics, where the regulations are very particular.

Last, but not least, it’s important that you consider the conditions your labels will operate in. Take into account factors like temperature, humidity, the type of cable, label size, wear and tear, exposure to sunlight, and how easily the label can catch fire. It’s important that your labels can handle all of these factors.

As the demand for cables and harnesses grows in different industries, labeling them properly becomes increasingly important. Solving performance and compliance challenges by choosing the right materials, adhesives, and application methods is essential. Staying updated with industry rules and using new labeling technologies helps companies meet the needs of this expanding market, making various applications safer and more efficient.

Further reading

About the author

Martin Dolezal

Martin Dolezal is a seasoned marketing manager with a focus on automotive and energy storage within the Materials Group EMENA. He overesses the self-adhesive product portfolio catering to the evolving industries of automotive, energy storage, EVB, durables, and aerospace. 

Martin joined Avery Dennison in 2009 as a technical sales specialist based in the Czech Republic, evolving into a leader of a technical sales organization in Eastern Europe, Mena, Russia. Since joining EU headquarters 2017 he has served in various manager roles, leading the charge in shaping the strategy and positioning for Avery Dennison’s paper and variable information (VI), special papers, and digital portfolios. 

Prior to joining Avery Dennison, Martin worked for one of the largest converters in the Czech Republic developing automated labeling machinery for multinational B2B partners, which provides him with a customer-centric perspective that he brings to his role.