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Wire Labels?  We don’t need no stinking labels!

Julia Grant


One of the most boring topics for most designers and engineering are labels. Most specifically, wire and terminal labels. As you design a piece of equipment, each wire gets a label. The problem is that someone has to create the physical tag for each wire end. It may sound like an easy task to accomplish, but imagine that a 5-page schematic package might contain over 150 wire numbers. So how do we get those labels to the electricians? In the old days, we would print out the schematics and use a yellow highlighter to mark the wire label as you typed it into a Brady label maker. Doing this could take hours, and it was easy to miss some, resulting in electricians and assemblers stopping their work to make another label.

While a tedious task, the proper marking of wire and devices is necessary, and the law in most countries. Between UL, NFPA, NEC, and OSHA, specific standards must be followed and documented. Besides the regulations, can you imagine trying to wire, debug, and maintain a panel that doesn't have any labels? Or, in some cases, the wrong labels. Any controls person out there will tell you it's a nightmare and costs an enormous amount of effort to correct.

We talk to Controls customers every day about their design and build process. The main frustration we hear about from customers is the time and energy it takes to produce wire labels. And yet AutoCAD Electrical has had this feature since its inception many years ago. A simple report can be exported to any format, to any wire label printer, or manufacturer. We had a customer several years ago that bought and implemented the software for that feature alone. When they tracked how many hours were used during a machine build and debug process, it only made sense.

I tend to preach about "capturing data at its source," and wire labels are perfect examples. When I was a junior controls engineer, it was my job to create those labels. And while it was "brain dead" work, I wanted to design and engineer, not "fat finger" labels into a label machine!

As for the article title...Yes! We need stinking labels, but why should it be an actual task when you get them for “free” with a good implementation of AutoCAD Electrical.