The packaging industry leaders gathered Sept. 24-27 in Indianapolis to get caught up on everything that has changed in the four years since the last Corrugated Week convened.
Managed by industry associations TAPPI and AICC, Corrugated Week brought together the top packaging and shipping experts to assess the state of the industry.
So what’s changed in the last four years? Amazon’s meteoric growth and the continued rise of e-commerce means speed was among the biggest topics of the week. Among the Corrugated Week learning topics were digital printing and material handling automation, two of the most significant changes in the industry since the industry last got together in Long Beach, Calif. in 2014. Safety, human resources and a new Emerging Leaders/Young Professionals track were among the other key topics for the week at the Indiana Convention Center.
Lachenmeier/Muller LCS Stretch Wrapping had its industry-leading product solutions on display at Booth 406. Among the Lachenmeier products on display were the MultiFleXL, designed to take on some of the biggest stretch wrapping products with both speed and a reduced footprint.
The Multi FleXL machine tackled loads from as small as 20 X 20 inches to as large and 125 inches in lengths by 66 inches in width, with a maximum height to 120 inches. Depending on the height and size of the load, the MultiFleXL can securely wrap up to 150 loads per hour.
Combined with Lachenmeier’s exclusive Xeros condensation control film, attendees at Corrugated Week learned about pallets of cardboard and other large bundles wrapped secure from moisture and weather (including sunshine) but also secured to the pallet.
In the next recap of Corrugated Week, we’ll take an in-depth look at the Muller's Octopus and how it will provide secure solutions for the corrugated industry.
By Neil Weisensel, Brand & Marketing Director, Muller
The way we transport products from point A to point B has changed dramatically over the years. We’ve gone from domestic railcar and trucks to worldwide air and sea shipping. While this evolution has been critical to our global economy, each stage has presented new challenges for safely securing products in transit. Since 1948, the International Safe Transit Association (ISTA) has led the industry in developing test protocols to ensure products survive the risky and hazardous global distribution market. Whether by land, air or sea, these tests allow manufacturers to predict and adjust their load containment practices to “manage risk while optimizing the supply chain.”
As a leading manufacturer of equipment and material load containment solutions, Muller understands all too well the importance of properly securing palletized units in transit. As part of the Signode Industrial Group (SIG), Muller frequently solves customer load containment challenges in the SIG Application Development and Research Laboratory (commonly referred to as the “SIG Packaging Lab”). The state-of-the-art laboratory is equipped with ISTA certified simulation equipment designed to reproduce the forces that products experience in transit.
Since “One good test is worth a thousand expert opinions!” we’ve broken down the testing process and procedures available to help manufacturers make informed decisions for current and future packaging practices.
Benefits and Timeline
As the quote above alludes, testing palletized units can save considerable time and money. Today’s laboratory testing procedures allow manufacturers to replicate real-life scenarios in a shorter timeframe. For example, a cross country journey on a truck can be replicated in a few hours on a random vibration table (explained further below). In addition, further savings can be added to the bottom line. Testing eliminates fuel, personnel and equipment needed to perform the actual journey and proactively isolates and helps solve perceived challenges.
Understanding these benefits is the first step to greater unit containment. So when is the right time to put your packaging method to the test? The simple answer is anytime: after product damage, during package redesigns, to meet customer demands, prior to product launch or to proactively test your packaging design. Ideally it’s best to test as early as possible and it’s recommended to do so during the packaging design phase.
There are a number of ways to approach testing. Three distinct approaches and services are:
1. Customer Application Review: Conducted onsite, an evaluation of current packaging methods followed by a comprehensive report of analyses and recommendations. Whether looking to upgrade a packaging system with new products or looking to identify further savings, this 1-3 day review can help.
2. Field Engineering: Services are performed onsite. It can include developing a new package or providing support through an existing project. The package can also be followed through the entire supply chain environment.
3. Packaging Laboratory Testing: Products are tested in a controlled environment on various ISTA certified equipment to ensure the packaging solution can withstand various harsh handling and shipping conditions.
Of the services listed, the most common is the laboratory testing because it is effective and efficient. It also helps prove that recommended unit containment solutions will work in the real-world. For more complex or early stage products, field testing is highly recommended. According to our laboratory packaging engineers, on average 40 hours of engineering work is required to properly test a unit. Timelines can vary based on the product conditions and testing parameters.
So what tests are available? From vibration tables to environmental chambers, there are a number of solutions available to ensure products arrive in their intended condition. The most popular test at the SIG Packaging Lab is the Random Vibration Simulation machine which reproduces vertical vibration that packaged products experience during shipping and handling. As mentioned earlier, the random vibration equipment can simulate long distance travel at a fraction of the time and cost without risk. For example, a 30 day rail car trip can be simulated on the random vibration table in just several hours. The key element to the machines’ success is a portable shock and vibration recorder equipped with a time and date stamp. The recorder collects transportation-specific data which can be replicated later on the random vibration table. In conjunction with a separate GPS system, the exact location of product impact, shock or vibration can also be determined. For products transported via ship or railcar, a Rotary Motion Vibration machine is best used to simulate its unique transportation conditions.
There are also shocks and impacts that typically occur during truck shipments and rail car coupling. An Incline Impact Machine can simulate rail car coupling and truck shocks for packaged products.
Before a palletized unit is placed on a truck or railcar it’s most likely being transported throughout the warehouse and storage yard via forklift trucks or other equipment. A Rough Handling Test can be used to recreate shock and vibration during handling.
In other instances, testing the environmental conditions of the product throughout the supply chain is most critical. This is especially true for refrigerated and frozen foods, produce and dairy applications. Whether the requirement is to test hot or cold temperatures, A Conditioning Chamber can duplicate conditions from -20 F through +100F.
When looking to test how unitized products perform when stacked or subjected to stacking weight, a Compression Test apparatus is used. This test is especially important for customers who stack settling or shrinking type units in warehouses or big box stores. In order to condition the unit for warehousing, compression strapping is recommended. A compression test can generate forces up to 20,000 lbs.
Other common tests include a Drop Test, to illustrate product performance when less than a 150 pound packaged product is literally dropped.
There will always be a need to transport goods from a manufacturer to a destination. As transportation evolves and new products are developed, testing will endure to be an effective and efficient way for ensuring properly secured packaged products as its benefits are felt throughout the supply chain. In the meantime, places like the SIG Application Development and Research Laboratory will continue to help manufactures discover more sustainable solutions for their ever-growing product protection and load containment needs.
For Muller and SIG, the future will be greater collaboration with customers to meet their unique requirements. The laboratory is readily awaiting challenges in the marketplace and will soon expand to feature all of the company’s solutions in one showroom.
To learn more, visit: http://www.signode.com/evaluation-testing/ or contact Muller directly via email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone: 1-800-OCTOPUS (1-800-628-6787).
 https://vimeo.com/istavideo - Introduction to ISTA Video
 https://vimeo.com/istavideo - Introduction to ISTA Video
 https://youtu.be/eIq4tw2ceso - Signode General Applications Video
More than 30 years ago, the Octopus ring technology was introduced, and while the technology embraced packaging in a new way, the wrapping industry embraced the Octopus.
As Corrugated Week launched Sept. 24-27 in Indianapolis, Muller LCS featured the latest generations of Octopus technology at Booth 407. While a great deal has changed in those 30 years, value and the quality of stretch wrapping remains the focal point, and Octopus continues to be the industry leader.
From the high speed and high value of the B Series to the small footprint and big power of the C Series to the high-volume and low-maintenance S Series, the Octopus line provides the manufacturer with options that meet the changing needs of the accelerating supply chain. Each utilize the S film cartridge, which is easy to thread and helps reduce the overall cost of ownership.
Another high-volume alternative is the Muller TWIN series, which maximizes load containment while minimizing film consumption. It also features easy installation and requires a minimum amount of maintenance.
These all are important issues, because the expansion of e-commerce requires a smarter and more secure and more reliable supply chain. The automated supply chain was among the topics presented at Corrugated Week, which convenes every four years to look at the changing issues in the packaging and distribution industry,
While a great deal has changed in the industry since the last Corrugated Week, the fundamentals of high-volume pallet management remains a basic need. It’s what Octopus first wrapped its arms around 30 years ago, and this year’s convention saw the latest generation of that commitment to the industry.
Dan Schmidt, Business Development Manager, Muller
Since Wal-Mart’s Sustainability Initiatives were first introduced in 2007, sustainability is a subject manufacturers find hard to avoid. For packaging manufacturers and suppliers, the added pressure to “go green” has only escalated over the years with customers unwilling to lower their expectations for them to meet varying sustainability goals. However, more companies are also realizing that implementing more sustainable practices isn’t just improving the environment, but also their bottom-line. For example, companies using petroleum based products are being greatly affected by rising oil barrel costs and have had to reduce usage to minimize costs. For stretch wrappers, these factors are all too familiar.
While packaging sustainability is predominately focused on reducing primary packaging material and increasing cube utilization, the end-of-line stretch wrapping process is critical to achieving optimum product delivery and reducing waste. As another step in the supply chain, it can’t be ignored if companies are looking to meet industry demands and achieve greater overall production efficiency. Advancements in equipment and technology are making it easier to reach sustainability goals while minimizing costs.
Reduction of materials is practiced in the name of sustainability. The reduction in primary packaging has put greater demands on stretch wrapping operations. Manufacturers are no longer just wrapping cardboard boxes of can goods. For most manufacturers, stretch wrapping has become essential for products that create unstable loads such as water bottles and open top display boxes.
As we have gone from boxes to trays to pads to nothing but shrink wrap, manufacturers have become more reliant on the end-of-the-line stretch wrap to make sure their product makes it to their customer intact and unharmed. Stretch wrapping may be the last operation before the product leaves the production facility, but it is the very first thing the customer sees when it enters their facility. Therefore, increasingly, stretch wrapping has become recognized as a critical component in making sure a product arrives in the condition intended. Most companies have already made significant investments upstream of the stretch wrapper, but any improvements (and the costs) will be wasted if the product arrives damaged.
It’s easy to understand how reducing film consumption is good for the environment. Less waste in landfills, reduced oil demands of producing plastic resins, and decreased energy costs associated with manufacturing the film are all green benefits to help meet growing sustainability initiatives. However, how to reduce film usage when stretch wrapping and avoid load damage can be challenging.
This article will provide a variety of solutions to minimize film usage, optimize load containment and improve efficiencies while at the same time, improving sustainability impact.
Thin is in
The most obvious way to reduce film consumption is to use a thinner film. However, moving to a thinner film without properly analyzing if it will work for the particular application will often result in an increase in film usage overall. In addition to the likelihood that a manufacturer has to compensate by using additional film to maintain the integrity and security of the package, a thinner film that is inappropriate for the application also creates the possibility for film breaks which will almost certainly increase overall film consumption, as well as slow productivity.
The good news is that recently several high quality, thinner films have come to market that can effectively reduce film usage without compromising the integrity of the load. Muller recently introduced the ReducerTM line of stretch films. This high strength, thin gauge film is produced using a new, proprietary formulation and compliments the proven, high quality Eliminator cast and ST blown films. When evaluating any new film, thorough testing with the new film and intended application and performing, at a minimum, an ASTM standardized force to load test is essential. Similar testing can also be performed to ensure the proper number of wraps is being applied.
Add Tension to Your Load, Not Your Work Day
An overlooked opportunity to limit waste is by applying proper tension to the load. To put it simply, most stretch wrapping machines have a tension adjustment that affects how tightly the load will be wrapped . It is important because if you don’t apply enough tension than you run the risk that the loads will topple over in transit. If you apply too much tension it can “squeeze” the film too tight around the load and damage the product or increase the probability that the film will break. When film breaks occur it is common for operators to “fix” any stretch wrapper issue by lowering the tension. In a study by Muller, a customer could see as much as a 10% increase in film usage when wrapping a load under low tension settings versus high tension settings using the Octopus wrapper. When applied to an average manufacturing scenario where 200 loads are wrapped per day, the result is nearly 1,000 lbs of film wasted annually. In a similar test using a used turntable wrapper, film usage increased 60% when wrapping under low tension compared to high. This is because under low tension you allow the film to recover and spring back, as opposed to when it is kept stretched under high tension. Spitting out film at low tension may be good for wrapping empty PET bottles that are prone to crushing under the lightest of force, but the majority of loads would be better served by allowing for optimal tension throughout the wrap cycle. By applying just the right amount of tension at various points on the load, manufacturers can rest-assured that they are reducing product damage while simultaneously lowering film costs. Instead of operating with a singular tension setting, variable tension control allows for increased tension at locations on the load that require extra hold (the base of a sturdy box) and lighter tension where reduced force is beneficial (sharp corners, the top of an open box). With the continuing changes in primary packaging design, it is crucial to have a system that offers flexibility and variability in order to optimize the stretch wrapping function.
For example, Muller not only offers variable tension control on their Octopus machines but, integrated with their OctoMAX™ system (highlighted below), they can also loads were wrapped and quickly identify where changes need to be made. The variable setting control eliminates film breaks and reduces usage by optimizing the settings based on the load configuration and containment needs. As film type, load dimensions or pre-stretch requirements change, the wireless function and monitoring system further make it easy to adjust to new settings. The wireless control also minimizes components and maintenance adding additional cost-saving benefits.
Measure, Monitor and Act
To really understand and quantify the benefits of any change made, having a way to record the performance of the film and equipment is essential. With retailers increasingly looking for proof that a manufacturer is making strides in its sustainability promise, stretch wrap equipment manufacturers are beginning to add monitoring systems to their machines that will measure and display at the HMI the precise amount of film that was applied to each and every load. Systems such as OctoMAXTM by Muller, will not only display the information at the HMI, but it will send an e-mail notification when too much film is applied and includes a secure web portal that the user can utilize to track historical trends, produce a variety of valuable reports, and help diagnose the root cause of issues.
Monitoring tools enable the user to keep a close eye on film usage and machine settings to help drive down the cost of stretch wrapping operations and simplify maintenance. It can even be utilized to compare the performance of two different types of films. As the old adage says, “What gets measured, gets done” and is a great way to ensure that the pre-stretch performance promised, is actually delivered. In addition, providing this data to customers and retailers is a great way to show that requirements are being met.
Optimize the System
True optimization and savings comes from looking at the stretch warp operation in its entirety – film, equipment and service. The return on investing in a simple service audit of your existing equipment can be tremendous. Speaking to your suppliers and finding out what upgrades are available is an essential component to improving sustainable practices.
As customer demands for greater packaging sustainability increase and rising material costs effect everyone’s bottom-line, taking a look at the entire supply chain is increasingly important. Overall, recent advancements in how the film is paid out, tension control, variable frequency drives, and wireless communication have created new opportunities to reduce film usage and improve overall efficincies, as well as reach your sustainability goals.
Welcome to summer! It’s a season of holidays, picnics and the occasional thunderstorm. Rain is the enemy of outdoor plans, but it is fatal to corrugated cardboard.
When Lachenmeier debuted its Multi FleXL stretch hood machine at CorrExpo 2017 in Providence, R.I., the goal was to provide the corrugated industry with a water-tight and secure shipping solution for box pallets of all shapes and sizes.
Because the Multi FleXL’s patented technology keeps loads both snug and dry, the boxes are protected from rain and humidity even when the weather changes. Combined with the popular Xeros stretch hood film, the box pallets are protected on five sides.
The Xeros film is a vital part of the solution as well. The multi-layer film technology repels not just water, humidity and condensation, but manages the impact of sunlight while maintaining the ability to read barcodes through the film.
“The system saves customers 10 percent in film consumption, is 100 percent waterproof, and eliminates the risk of contamination, (and it) addresses and solves many concerns in today’s supply chain,” Mark Wolschlag, National Accounts Manager at Muller, told the audience at CorrExpo 2017.
It will still be pretty humid in Indianapolis on September 25-26 when Corrugated Week, held only every four years, gathers industry leaders to look at the top trends and the best solutions. Multi FleXL and Zeros already have a one-year lead in establishing itself as a solution to keep the industry’s most vital asset secure and dry, no matter the weather.
According to the Food Marketing Institute, the average number of items available in a supermarket in 2014 was over 40,000.1 Today that number is even greater. This abundant product availability and diversity poses both advantages and challenges. For the most part, the largest advantage is that it offers consumers more convenience and choice. That’s a great thing. But greater convenience and variety for the consumer creates greater challenges for the food supply chain. To say the food supply chain is extremely complex is an understatement. With safety and quality at the top of any food manufacturer or distributor’s list, multiple solutions to every day challenges must be acquired. At Muller, we have looked at solutions from so many different levels, from raw ingredients to processing and distribution and we believe the possibilities are abundant.
What the Recipe Calls For
To best understand the food supply chain, let’s start from the beginning. From milling grain that will eventually become flour to carrots picked from the farm, every recipe requires raw ingredients. And each ingredient requires special handling before it makes it to the store or food processing plant.
This is where load containment comes in. Let’s take flour as an example. As a general rule, flour is mostly bagged and those bags are heavy and cumbersome. When palletizing them for distribution, one must consider the size, weight and packaging material to ensure safe transport to the store or food processing plant. For instance, poly bags have a tendency to slip on each other when stacked. Though often secured with stretch film, the constant movement and weight of the bags can force the film to stretch, and the load can topple over. To avoid film stretching and excess waste, some manufacturers have opted to use hot melt. The adhesive is placed between layers of product - essentially gluing the bags to each other. While this option can be advantageous over stretch wrap in the case of poly bags, it presents several challenges for other packaging materials. For example, paper based bags risk tearing when the product is pulled apart. And no matter what type of packaging is used one disadvantage of adhesive is that it leaves residue behind on the packaging surface, which not only reduces brand integrity, but creates mess and the potential for food contamination both from the residue left behind as well as the heat source used to apply it.
One solution that has proved ideal in the milling and baking industry where bags are used most often, is water-based cohesive. It is stronger than stretch wrap alone and is cold-applied, making it safer than hot melt. It does not leave a sticky residue or harm packaging surfaces when unstacking/popping product apart. Water-based cohesive further allow for heavy reductions in traditional packaging -- stretch film, slip sheets, dunnage bags, corner boards and more can be virtually eliminated while maintaining proper load security. This allows for a leaner supply chain, reduces the number of employees needed to stabilize a load and reduces costs associated with excess materials.
In contrast, produce takes a different journey and growers are responsible for ensuring this key ingredient makes it through the supply chain. Since produce is typically transported in corrugated boxes, it leaves it vulnerable. For example, rain or any type of moisture on the boxes can lead to mold growth and other bacteria that can spread to the produce. Condensation is a major cause of damaged box loads. In fact, the same can be said for the flour loads above- especially paper bag loads that will get destroyed if wet.
Stretch hood technology is ideal in this situation. Particularly with “10-sided” (5 outside surfaces + 5 inside surfaces) waterproof protection, growers can ensure products remain dry regardless of storage conditions. However it doesn’t need to rain for moisture to form inside the load. Covering the product in plastic film on hot days can produce its own condensation build-up inside. Multi-layer film technology effectively manages sunlight and creates an impermeable barrier to liquids. Aside from eliminating condensation and unwanted elements from entering the bag, the technology also maintains barcode readability and prevents tears or punctures as bags are stretched over the load.
Set to Make
Once the raw ingredient has traveled safely to the food processor, it’s here the majority of food bought is manufactured and packed. However, this is also where things get even more complicated. As an example, there is a big difference between how macaroni and cheese versus ice cream is made. In addition, the pallet security demands for each greatly vary.
With millions of mac and cheese boxes packed each day, tackling high volumes requires the work from more automated load containment systems. Rotary ring technology is a common solution in high throughput environments like this. In addition, the technology can provide over 200 different wrap patterns and can start and stop anywhere on the load. The ability to pre-program wrap patterns also means various pallets can be wrapped without hesitation or operator interface. For lighter loads, like mac and cheese boxes, this advantage also enables users to add film in weak or vulnerable spots such as the middle or the top.
Dairy plants are also unique in their needs. Most plants are packed tightly with product rushing through at high speeds. The sensitivity of the product adds further complications to the supply chain. They must keep up with extremely high demands as millions of gallons of milk are sold daily in the United States alone. Ensuring products are quickly processed, packaged and out the door is essential to its shelf life. ‘Getting things done before the ice cream melts’ is no euphemism in the dairy industry. With the average dairy plant wrapping anywhere from 60-120 loads per hour, the ideal solution is automatic rotary ring stretch wrapping equipment.
This technology has been proven successful in an environment where speed, reliability as well as harsh environments are top concerns. Any machine downtime in the stretch wrapping zone can cause a myriad of problems upstream and greatly affect product shelf life.
Before any of the above items are available at the local grocery store, each typically makes one more stop at a distribution center. Grocery distributors are responsible for providing your local store with the variety demanded by its patrons and ensuring product arrives in immaculate condition.
According to the USDA, the United States throws away one-third of all the food it produces (133 billion pounds of food); and grocery stores are responsible for tossing 10% of that food.2 Grocery stores typically throw food away because it may be expired or damaged. Often, product packaging gets damaged during shipping, leading supermarkets to toss products even though the food hasn't been compromised. The stores assume, perhaps rightly, that no consumer is going to buy a dented box of cornflakes if a pristine one is right next to it.3
Of course, damage may be done once the food product arrives at its destination and it’s virtually impossible to expect all products to make it unscathed. The food distributor however, has the most arduous task of delivering the products without damage and there are many places during the distribution process where products have the opportunity to be damaged.
Let’s illustrate this process; first, the distributor receives pallets filled with items from one manufacturer (ex: mac and cheese boxes). The distributor then breaks down the load so that the boxes can be separated for each store. As mentioned before, the store provides great product diversity and the distributor will create new mixed product loads to meet varying demands. This mixed load, also known as B and C type loads, will have jagged edges / odd shapes because the stacked products are not necessarily from the same manufacturer or have similar packaging dimensions. This fact leaves stretch film vulnerable to tears. In addition, because product is pulled from multiple locations throughout the warehouse, it’s difficult to assign a single wrap zone. Workers must be able to move throughout the plant and adjust for inventory levels. The smaller available footprint and nimble distribution practice calls for an equally flexible solution.
To this end, a robotic pallet wrapper is an excellent solution for this; the speed, convenience and wrap quality of such machines make it an ideal choice to ensure proper product delivery and pallet security. Specifically, its increased product protection and wrapping consistency improves employee safety, lessens waste and significantly saves time and cost over hand-wrapping.
The next time you walk to your grocery store, think about the journey each item available has taken. Without proper load security along the way, most of those products would not have made it so far. From raw ingredients, to processing to distribution, Muller has a history of proudly protecting pallets throughout the supply chain while simultaneously reducing waste and optimizing load containment practices.
1 Source: Food Marketing Institute http://www.fmi.org/research-resources/supermarket-facts#sthash.U2nhbl7q.dpufThe
Ash Grove Packaging manages the distribution of the product array from the parent Ash Grove Materials Corporation. The cement products manufacturer’s 135-year history is a testament to continuous improvement, and when they looked for ways to improve the palletizing and shipping of products to its global customers, they found a new solution from their existing partner, Lachenmeier.
Ash Grove’s use of the Power Flex T1 stretch hood machine to securely wrap and ship pallets of cement bags realized a savings in time and manpower while improving the security of the pallets. One big issue was the process with traditional rotary arm stretch wrappers was a two-man effort. Another concern was slippage of the cement bags during shipping. The Power Flex T1 took care of both issues, and used less film in the process.
“Before when products would shift it would stretch the film and loosen the load,” says Ash Grove Packaging plant manager Engel Islas. “The Lachenmeier system gives us a clean wrap you can see through with the added advantage that it’s a much more stable load.”
The stretch hood system covers not just the four sides of the pallet but also the top of the materials. This eliminated the need to wrap the top of the pallet with a separate pass from the rotary arm wrapper.
Speed also was improved through the introduction of the Power Flex T1. Ash Grove Packaging was able to wrap 30 loads per hour. While the Power Flex T1 can wrap more than 120 loads per hour, applications do vary across the industry, and the solution at Ash Grove was designed to match the palletizing output from its system and eliminating shipping bottlenecks.
“We are now utilizing an area we never have before and doing so with a solution that offers us much more throughput,” says Engel.