AIA: Labeling System Streamlines Cable Assembly Process
Nortech Systems Inc. (Wayzata, MN) produces wire harness and cable assemblies for a vast array of applications. The company assembles more than 1 million cables annually. An order can consist of one custom cable or thousands of cables for a huge network infrastructure.
Nortech's customers were increasingly demanding that cables be labeled to meet documentation and quality assurance requirements. However, the process of creating, printing and manually wrapping identification labels on cables represented a big investment of time and talent each day. That's why Stephen Vandre, quality manager at Nortech, started looking for automated cable labeling equipment.
After trying a couple of applicator-only machines, Vandre called Brady Corp. (Milwaukee) for a more comprehensive cable labeling system. Brady supplied two Wraptor automatic wire label printer-applicator machines.
The Wraptor prints and wraps the cable label in one step. From the beginning, the Nortech team saw improvement in the speed and quality of the labeling process. The Wraptor also improved the placement and legibility of the labels.
"Before the Wraptor, we could label one cable per minute," says Vandre. "With the Wraptor, we can label 10 cables per minute-and that's just the time saved on applying the labels."
Automating the process of printing and applying cable labels has yielded major savings for Nortech. In 2004, Nortech manufactured more than 1 million cables and applied more than 100,000 labels. The time saved in applying those labels has allowed Nortech to pay off the two machines in just 4 weeks.
Nortech also realized savings on label materials, because there are fewer wasted labels with an on-demand printing system. In the past, Nortech would print out a large batch of labels and discard the unused ones. Now, the Wraptor prints exactly what is needed, when it's needed.
Before incorporating the print-and-apply wire identification system, three Nortech employees were needed simply to print labels in a back room. Although three to four employees are still needed to label cables, those workers can now dedicate their time more effectively to the entire cable assembly process.
Brady helped Nortech work through any production issues with the equipment, making operational adjustments and developing a regular maintenance schedule. "The amount of tech support is incredible," says Vandre. "If we had any problems, the Brady team found a solution right away."
In the future, Vandre plans to connect the Wraptor to Nortech's shop-floor network, so the machine can be incorporated into the company's work-order process. Each work order includes a bar code with the specific part number on it. The computer database that generated the work order will signal the Wraptor to print the appropriate labels when they are needed. Because Nortech produces lot sizes as small as one cable, the networking function will save time and increase accuracy in the production of special orders.
Vandre also plans to integrate the Wraptor directly with automatic wire cutting and stripping equipment from Schleuniger Inc. (Manchester, NH). And, he wants to obtain an additional Wraptor that will be dedicated strictly to small wires.
For more information on wire labeling equipment, call Brady at 888-311-0775, visit www.bradyid.com, or eInquiry 7.
For more information on automatic wire cutting and stripping equipment, call Schleuniger at 603-668-8117, visit www.schleuniger-na.com, or eInquiry 8.
For more information on custom wire harnesses and cables, call Nortech at 800-808-8281, visit www.nortechsys.com, or eInquiry 9.