Best Cable Management: Cable Ties vs. Trays vs. Ducts/Raceways

Best-cable-management_Cable-tray-installationEven in an increasingly digital world, efficient performance and communication rely on what’s hidden in plain sight: the complex network of cables. At its best, industrial cable management ensures the smooth operation of health care, manufacturing, datacom and many other applications.

At the heart of any well-organized data center, for example, you'll find carefully arranged trays and raceways – the physical pathways that guide and protect cables as they traverse the building. These structures are not just about keeping cables out of sight; they’re also crucial for preventing damage, reducing interference, and enhancing accessibility for maintenance and upgrades.

On the simpler end, cable management solutions like ties and bundling tools offer a lower-cost option. In the right situation, they too can ensure each cable is securely positioned, reducing the risk of snags and signal degradation.

Which is right for your application? We’ll compare all three – cable trays, raceways, and ties – but start with a review of the traits you should look for in an industrial-grade product.

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Factors in Choosing the Best Cable Management Solution


Known As …

Notable Benefit

Cable Ties

The baseline solution

Simple to use

Ducts & Raceways

The professional solution

Well organized, yet highly protective

Cable Trays

The high-volume solution

Good access for operators & air ventilation

Wires and cables power real-time decisions and processes. However, managing them is an exercise in planning for the long term. Your application might require you to follow several criteria to make sure the cables are safe and able to perform their best:

  • Cable(s) size – This includes both the dimension of each cable and the bundle as a whole. Factor in any need for future scalability in your layout plans.

  • Strength – Structured cabling won’t have much structure if your “solution” can’t  support the weight of the cables without deforming or failing over time. Again, consider the potential for additional cables later.

  • Cost – A lower price point may bring the total project cost down now, but maintenance and replacement costs may increase as a result. 

  • Environment – How will working conditions impact the product’s ability to last long-term? Will there be exposure to extreme temperatures, chemicals, or moisture?

  • Flexibility – Depending on your device design, the cabling system may need to adapt to bends, elevation changes, and expansions. 

  • Codes & requirements – Only certain cable types can be used in cable trays, per Article 392 of the National Electric Code. 

  • Installation complexity – This is important both initially and when it’s time to replace cables. Would it be useful if your system could accommodate different scenarios for adding, removing, and replacing cables?

  • Color – Different things may mean different things to the user or the maintenance guy. Work this out before the start of the project to facilitate easier identification and servicing. 

Ultimately, the decision comes down to the level of protection the cables need versus your desired feng shui.

Cable Trays 

Cable trays are common in industrial or commercial buildings, from malls to restaurants and office buildings. The NEC classifies these products as support systems, meaning they’re a structural component of an electrical setup. 

Cable trays do not fully enclose the wires inside them. If you go with trays, you’ll need cables that have high fire resistance, tensile strength, and positive results from crush and impact testing. 

The types of cable trays available depend on the structure. They include:

  • Ladder trays
  • Ventilated trays
  • Channel trays

Cable Tray Pros & Cons



  • Capacity: Ideal for large volumes, with flexibility to add or remove cables easily
  • Ventilation: Open design betters air circulation, reducing risk of overheating
  • Accessibility: Provides easy path to cables for mods maintenance, & inspection
  • Cost: Materials and support structures can be more expensive up-front
  • Space: Requires sufficient overhead or underfloor space to install
  • Protection: More exposed to mechanical and chemical damage


Cable Raceways & Ducts

Sometimes it’s OK to leave a bundle of wires as-is. In many other projects, extreme conditions or visual appeal are more of a concern. This is where raceways and ducts come into play. 

Made of a flexible plastic, ducts are open structures that still enclose the cables enough to keep them organized. Ducts have mounting holes for easy installation on flat surfaces.

Best-cable-management_Industrially laid cables in an aluminum cable racewayRaceways are also called wireways, conduits, or enclosed conduit pathways. No matter the name, the key difference stays the same: Raceways are fully enclosed. They’re typically a sturdier product and provide protection against: 

  • Humidity
  • Corrosive chemicals
  • Dust & debris
  • Extreme temperatures

Fiberglass, aluminum, and PVC are all materials manufacturers use in raceways to provide sufficient protection of the cables running within. These are typically self-adhesive and provide a more appealing aesthetic.

Raceway Pros & Cons



  • Protection: Resistant to physical damage. Some materials provide EMI shield
  • Aesthetics: Provides neat, organized appearance by concealing cables
  • Safety: Reduces risk of short-circuiting, electrical fires, & tangled feet
  • Cost: More expensive than cable ties due to material type and installation labor
  • Flexibility: More challenging to reroute or add new cabling
  • Space: Can take up an excessive amount of floor or wall area


Cable Ties & Wraps

Industrial cable ties are simple, yet sturdy fasteners that are simple to produce and use. This means they’re available at a lower price point. These products have wide-ranging utility and are therefore readily available. 

Best-cable-management_Electricianmaking-spliceCommon types of cable ties include: 

  • Locking cable ties: Curved tip allows easy retrieval from a flat surface, as well as faster threading. Consistent and reliable for general applications.
  • Dome top barb ties: Nylon product common in wire bundle management. Quick installation process, yet surprisingly durable. White ties are typically for indoors, while black cable ties are for both indoor and outdoor use. 
  • Releasable cable ties: Ideal for heavy-duty applications. Can press tab to release the cable for changes or repairs. 

A Note on Datacom, Ties, & Wraps 

You might think cable ties or tie wraps would be synonymous with data communication. Actually, users in those environments prefer Velcro straps (hook and loop fasteners) instead of rigid cable ties like Ty-Raps for bundling network cables. 

This preference is due to a few reasons:

  1. Flexibility – Easier to make changes to the cable bundle without cutting and disposing of the wrap
  2. Reduced pressure – Can secure sensitive data cables without risking damage or compromised performance
  3. Reusability – More sustainable and cost-effective for managing cables that might need frequent adjustment

A diverse array of materials are available for cable ties. Each has its own recommended temperature range for the working environment:

  • Nylon (-76°F- to 185°F): Versatile and popular in numerous applications, especially HVAC systems where the product must comply with regulations for fire resistance and smoke production
  • Weather-resistant nylon (-76°F to 185°F): Resistant to UV light damage; also used indoors
  • Heat-stabilized nylon (-76°F to 239°F): This material can endure higher temperatures but is meant for indoor environments only
  • Metal-detectable nylon (-40°F to 185°F): Indoor material for the food & beverage and pharmaceutical industries, which have strict standards against contamination
  • Tetzel (-76°F to 338°F): Stands up to radiation and extreme hot/cold. Usable both indoors and outdoors. 

Cable Tie Pros & Cons



  • Cost: Less up-front investment than raceways and trays
  • Simplicity: Easy to use and requires no special tools for installation.
  • Versatility: Uses range from simple bundling to structured w/ mounted base
  • Accessibility: Once cut to remove or adjust, it's an inconvenient waste
  • Pressure: Overtightening can damage insulation and wires inside
  • Organization: Limited routing support and environmental protection


The Best Cable Management Solution Focuses on Productivity, Not Price

Cable management is a key criteria for effective protection in a bundle of commercial and industrial applications. Whether in the expanse of a data center or the compact confines of a control panel, your cabling solution directly impacts operational performance and uptime.

Regardless of where you’re introducing cabling, each strand needs adequate protection while staying mindful of other components in the assembly. Order and efficiency – not just price – are the purchasing goals here.

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