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Safety markings, type plates, cable plates and component labelling are important. Nevertheless, for many engineers and designers they are an unwelcome side issue. How to get better.

By Dr. Helmuth Bischoff

We really ought to sing their praises: Markings form a communicative bridge between people and the means of production. They warn of hazards and help to identify the individual components of the production process. They make operation and maintenance possible, aid traceability and protect against counterfeits.

To make sure that everyone involved can understand them, most markings used in mechanical engineering are based on statutory regulations and standards. This is particularly true for safety markings, where responsibilities are especially clearly defined.

Expensive parallel structures

It is often a different story when it comes to procuring other markings - individual divisions of the same company often act with no coordination or binding principles. Internal order and structures aimed at achieving efficiency only develop gradually. A new approach came in the form of the Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC, which reinforced a harmonized level of protection for accident prevention on machinery for the EC in 2006.

Routes to efficiency

Florian Drützler, Head of the Control Construction department at Maschinenfabrik Gustav Eirich GmbH & Co. KG, explains which options he used when warning and operation plates had to be added to the machinery in a location, they could always be legible. "We also took care of the economic aspect of marking. We defined the markings which should be produced in-house in the future, and which should be produced by service providers. In our own marking production, we also replaced the engraving process with a digital printing process, reducing working costs by 50 percent."

Concise, succinct answers on the optimized procurement of markings are hard to come by, but they do exist. Florian Drützler has a simple rule of thumb: "When it comes to markings that are available off the rack, we have these delivered. These include films with common pictograms or standardized standard signs. In contrast, we produce rating plates, small series in multiple languages and individual plates ourselves. This mix allows us to make significant savings."

Digital printing processes replace engraving

The market is currently changing when it comes to suitable production processes. Dominant for decades, engraving is now often being replaced by digital printing processes such as the PrintoLUX process, which is faster and easier, while also offering high resistance and good presentation. With no set-up time, photo-based digital printing is also suitable for small batch sizes and individual prints.

Uncoordinated parallel structures within companies have also had their day. István Kovács, Plant Manager at MAG Hungary Kft., a plant that produces machine tools: "Until two years ago, there was a very messy mix of procurement pathways at our company. Now that the role of design engineers includes planning the required marking using software and ordering it from selected service providers, costs have reduced significantly."

Frimo Group GmbH has also set up clear rules for procurement and embedded the process in the Technical Engineering division. Kerstin Sexlinger, Technical Engineering: "We use 29 different safety notices in 16 languages. Working with parallel structures and failing to combine the required expertise would be negligent. Bringing together all the procurement and monitoring competencies in a central position and working towards a kind of company-wide marking system eliminates local uncertainty and creates synergies."

Further information

VDMA Standardization   |   PrintoLUX GmbH   |   Maschinenfabrik Gustav Eirich GmbH & Co. KG   |   MAG IAS GmbH   |   Frimo Group

Dr. Gerhard Steiger, VDMA Standardization.