Cable labelling to be standardised
Cable labelling is not an interesting topic. Now, a new Standard from InfoComm is set to tackle the apathy that has entered the market. Paul Skelton and Jacob Harris report.
Little pieces of plastic with hastily scribbled notes are hardly the stuff of dreams, but perhaps it’s this attitude that has forced InfoComm International to develop a new Standard to tackle the deteriorating state of cable labelling around the world?
Known as F501.01:2015 Cable Labelling for Audiovisual Systems, the new Standard defines requirements for AV system cable labelling for a variety of applications. It provides a way to make sure the system you just put in can be maintained and serviced with less confusion about what cable goes to what piece of equipment.
According to InfoComm International director of standards Ann Brigida, it’s all about consistency, legibility and serviceability.
“There are myriad issues related to AV cable labelling that is not standardised,” Ann says.
“Labelling is often inconsistent, illegible, undocumented, or not visible when it’s needed.
“This Standard addresses all of these issues without penalising companies who have implemented a system.
“It also provides enough flexibility in that no particular numbering/lettering scheme is required, but what is required is the fact that you have to have one, have it documented and provide it in a way that is consistent, legible, maintained and documented.”
Ann explains that while writing the Standard, the committee in charge of its development tried not to be too prescriptive about the ‘nitty gritty’ so companies would have the freedom to implement the Standard without abandoning their current labelling systems if they did, in fact, have one.
“And if you don’t have one, you can figure it out based on the information in the Standard itself.
“Included in the Standard is enough guidance to help you solve the problem without demanding too much effort. It’s only a few pages long and it provides some appendix information about choosing fonts, etc.
“The point is to make sure that your font size is large and simple enough to read, your materials will last as long as the cable does and that you have a record somewhere of what goes where. It doesn’t demand that you use a particular font, although it requires certain characteristics.
“There is really only one primary data element that is required. The Standard gives guidance for optional additional information, but it’s up to the user to implement.”
The committee in charge of F501.01:2015 comprised five members of the global AV industry, including American John Bailey, CTS-D, CTS-I; Australian Peter Swanson; and European Jason Brameld.
“I would describe this as one of the less glamorous standards. A standard about how to label cables sounds pretty humble. But it’s a problem faced every day around the world with people installing systems and people attempting to maintain them after the fact,” Peter says.
“If someone gets to the back of an equipment rack, almost inevitably they’ll start pulling out cables; if cables aren’t labelled well or at all, getting them plugged back in to where they need to be can be challenging or impossible task.
“The problem with cable labelling is there are many different methods and the default method is to write on the cable jacket with a Sharpie. But, the ink can get smudged and the writing might not be clear. Some people use printed labels with a comprehensive code that ties back to a register and a description. Some people put only a number, others use colour coding. Some people change the numbers and don’t update their schedules. One of the things that hasn’t happened well in a number of cases is people haven’t had the discipline to make sure they check their final documentation against what is installed onsite.
“This is about defining the quality of outcome. The expectation should be that you can tell what every cable is, what it’s connected to and what its function is. It’s about ensuring serviceability and longevity of systems after the completion date.”
Jason adds: “This standard defines the required qualities of the label, and those are primarily around legibility, durability and consistency. Because there is quite a lot of regional variation and different cable labelling within those bounds, we’re not prescriptive about one type or another.”
According to John, the primary benefit of this new Standard is consistency.
“Consistent, clear labelling of interconnected cables, which serve as the core of integrated systems, is very important. It is critical that cables are labelled in a consistent and methodical way, especially as large, more complex and facility-wide systems are commonplace today,” he says.
Says Peter, “We don’t mandate any particular system; people can use all sorts of different tape labels. Even little plastic rings with letters and numbers you can slide onto a cable in sequence. There is no particular cable label model. It’s about defining quality and outcomes. For example, the minimum text height we have proposed is 2.5mm for the primary information and 2.1mm for what we call secondary information. So 3mm text is still going to be compliant. It always comes back to the terms of references. We’re trying to achieve that if someone is trying to maintain system, they can work out what a label means by reading it.”
The F501.01:2015 Cable Labelling for Audiovisual Systems Standard is free to InfoComm members and can be downloaded from the Resources section of the organisation’s website.
“With a little bit of thought and a tiny bit more effort, users will save money in the long run and look more professional and organised to their clients. It sounds so simple… and it is. Just follow the Standard,” Ann says.