Control Cable Management

Over the years, I've built and refurbished quite a few control panels. 
Last year, I was tasked with cleaning up a rat's nest of control wiring 
in a packaging machine. The only way to make it right was to gut the 
panel and start from scratch.<br><br>Now, even though the wiring was in 
disarray, the machine was still operational. However, when it did 
malfunction, troubleshooting was a nightmare. Over the years, the 
control cabling had been tugged, pulled, and generally left in a big 
ball of spaghetti. Thomas & Betts

Steve Maurer, IME

Over the years, I've built and refurbished quite a few control panels. Last year, I was tasked with cleaning up a rat's nest of control wiring in a packaging machine. The only way to make it right was to gut the panel and start from scratch.

Now, even though the wiring was in disarray, the machine was still operational. However, when it did malfunction, troubleshooting was a nightmare. Over the years, the control cabling had been tugged, pulled, and generally left in a big ball of spaghetti.

You've seen them if you've done troubleshooting on older machinery. When you encounter a mass of cables, you already know the job will be time-consuming. That's what happened on this automatic packager.

Before I got started rewiring, the first order of business was to take out the schematic and track down the circuits. Labeling as I went, I took notes of where the cables landed on each end.

Then, cable routing and fastening plans were made. Some fasteners had been either removed or damaged. Others were inadequate because of upgrades through the years. Add-on equipment required additional cabling, often just thrown in place.

Like me, I'm sure you believe that a neat, well-planned installation isn't just a source of pride. It makes the inevitable troubleshooting and repair easier as well.

Cable routing and fastening doesn't have a one-size-fits-all solution. Several options work together to make for an easy to install and easy to troubleshoot control panel.

One thing I've realized through experience — control cables get unfastened during troubleshooting. So, the easier it is to put them back in place, the more likely they will be.

Cable trays of adequate depth help. Don't forget the potential for future expansion. Other fixed fasteners make replacement much easier as well. This particular machine had been upgraded to PLC controls, which meant flat control cables were used.

Open-ended pressure clamps now hold the flat control cables firmly in place. But, they slide out and back in easily when necessary for problem tracing.

I still use zip tie straps. But these day, I use a hand-operated tool to apply the right tension, and to cut off the "tail" at the same time.

A clean, neat control cable installation isn't just a show of pride in your work. Using the correct fasteners keeps the wiring manageable, and easier to trace during troubleshooting procedures as well.


Photo courtesy of Thomas & Betts