The food distribution business is designed to value speed and secure packaging to the grocery aisle--and ultimately to the consumer. Different kinds of products present individual challenges and, as a result, different pallet management systems are required.
Macaroni and cheese is a dietary classic, and is a relatively simple product to make and package for the consumer. But because of the high volume of boxes shipped each day, the primary issue is securing the mac and cheese boxes to the pallet. Rotary ring technology is an especially effective and reliable solution here because it’s designed to handle the high volume and predictability of the packaging. In addition, the system can be programmed to manage the light weight of the mac and cheese boxes and secure weaker areas, such as the middle or the top, with the proper amount of wrap.
Ice cream, on the other hand, is not macaroni and cheese. It has a defined amount of time to be in packaging, given the unstable nature of ice cream, particularly in its relationship to temperature. You may not want your pallet wrapper operating in sub-freezing environments, but you also don’t want your frozen products to be exposed for very long.
With a need to wrap a load every minute, speed and reliability are the most important considerations. When combined with stretch wrapping equipment, the use of rotary ring technology again gets high marks in this area. With the freshness and shelf life of daily products the key factor, the fast-paced dairy industry counts on this stretch wrapping rotary ring technology to ensure that the products leave the dock and head out to the consumers as quickly and securely as possible.
It’s important to analyze the specific needs for wrapping and delivering food products. When it comes to shipping, not everything is as predictable as macaroni and cheese, and not everything is as volatile as ice cream. Everything moving through a processing plant and a distribution center does have a unique set of requirements, but there also are a wide variety of solutions to make sure each pallet gets the right wrap every time.
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.
The food and beverage industry is high volume—millions upon millions of boxed items alone are packaged every single day. The items vary in shape, size, weight, fragility, and shelf life. It’s vital that items are processed quickly and efficiently and arrive to the consumers in the condition they should be in: unbruised, unblemished, undamaged, and ready to sell. Items damaged through the shipping process are unnecessary losses. Increased product protection provides value to everyone in the food industry all the way down to consumers. But if you only view stretch wrapping as protective, you’re missing out on how wrapping can improve efficiency AND provide a branding opportunity.
Logo Wrap™ was developed by Muller LCS to be a value-added load containment solution. The food and beverage industry generally uses hand- applied stickers on stretch wrap to help customize a pallet, reveal SKUs or other identifying information. But stickers degrade and fall off. Besides the obvious sustainability implications of stickers, they are also less visible and are difficult to hand-apply on all sides of the pallet. Stickers just don’t work for today’s businesses who demand value and brand visibility. In contrast to stickers, Logo Wrap film is applied as part of the normal stretch wrapping process. Equipment like Muller’s Raptor HPL or Octopus ring wrappers, work by seamlessly switching from traditional stretch film to Logo Wrap film and applying it when and where needed on the load. A stretch film itself, Logo Wrap enhances pallet security while simultaneously providing a solution that maintains brand integrity and visibility even in harsh and dusty environments.
But the benefits of Logo Wrap go beyond branding. Logo Wrap films can be printed with identifying information, such as barcodes and SKUs, which in a warehouse or distribution center setting, can provide faster and more accurate identification of products, in addition to securely and safely wrapping the goods for shipment.
Branding at every level of the supply chain is important. Gone are the days when consumers only saw food products in carefully arranged grocery store displays. More consumers than ever are witnesses to the distribution process. Wrapped pallets of goods are more visible than ever. Nowhere is that more true than in big box stores. Big box stores have transformed the retail sector in the last two decades. According to a National Bureau of Economic Research study, sales for warehouse clubs rose 10.5 times over the period 1992-2013 to $420 billion. Costco, Sam’s Club, and BJs boast more than 100 million members. Walmart, which owns Sam’s Club, and Costco are the largest and second largest retailers in the world.
And every person who handles the product is a potential consumer—Costco alone employees more than 210,000 people worldwide. Warehouse stores added 660,000 jobs between 2000 and 2015. It’s only logical that they should see what’s being shipped and for companies to view custom printed wrapping as an opportunity to showcase their products to more consumers at little extra cost. As an add-on to many of the automated stretch wrappers Muller LCS sells, businesses can increase the visibility of their product without sacrificing the quality of the wrap or adding additional work.
 The Ongoing Evolution of US Retail: A Format Tug-of-War, Ali Hortaçsu and Chad Syverson, August 2015
 Walmart FY 2016 Report, http://d1lge852tjjqow.cloudfront.net/CIK-0000104169/46c5c2e3-666c-4865-b437-eb351ae5dbfe.pdf?noexit=true; Costco Corporate Profile, http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=83830&p=irol-homeprofile
 Costco Corporate Profile, http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=83830&p=irol-homeprofile
 The Ongoing Evolution of US Retail: A Format Tug-of-War, Ali Hortaçsu and Chad Syverson, August 2015
Is the amount of load damage going up with the age of your stretch wrap equipment? Having trouble keeping up with production and the increasing number of SKUs and load configurations? Have a need to do more with less people and feel automation might be the answer? Would you save money on film and eliminate film breaks if you could just improve performance?
If any of these questions have crossed your mind, then it’s time to seriously consider how to justify a new stretch wrap machine. In today’s economy, it’s unlikely your company is just handing over money for new capital equipment. Budgets are tight and every department is competing for the reduced dollars available. The good news is that there are many ways to justify the cost of a new pallet wrapper and prove a quick return on your investment.
The Right Fit
It’s important to consider what type of stretch wrapper is best suited for your specific application. Think about the size, weight and variability of the loads you will be wrapping. Highly variable loads would benefit from certain types of machinery, such as orbital, horizontal wrappers (like the Yellow Jacket) that secure the load most securely to the pallet. Stable, light-weight loads of consumer goods would do well with a turntable style wrapper, while unstable or heavy loads would do better with a rotary arm machine. For the best all-around performance, rotary ring machines can handle heavy and variable loads, such as construction supplies, pet food and beverages while still handling the highest volume lines.
Need for Speed
One should consider the production speeds required. If moving from a hand wrap application to simple automation, a semi-automatic stretch wrapper may be all that is required. Although these machines still requires a person to manually attach the film to the load at the beginning of the wrap cycle and cut the film at the end of the cycle, they can achieve rates as high as 35 loads per hour. The labor reduction or improved productivity may justify the relatively low cost of these machines.
If you’ve outgrown your existing stretch wrapper or are adding production, a fully automatic stretch wrapper may meet your needs best. While these machines typically cost more, the savings in labor, improved productivity, and increased versatility may easily justify this type of machine. Whether you choose a highly automated ring wrapper that can achieve speeds as high as 150 loads per hour or you prefer the redundancy of two lower volume machines in parallel can depend on available space, labor costs and maintenance expenses.
Living in a Material World
It is important to understand the material savings that can be achieved with a new stretch wrapper. Payback can be quick for equipment that allows you to reduce film usage. These savings are also, typically, the easiest to quantify. For example, film usage can be reduced by almost 30% when purchasing a new machine that would improve the amount of film pre-stretch from 150% to 250%.
Equipment design can also have a major effect on film usage. Almost all automatic turntable and rotary arm machines have a fixed clamp that requires the machine to start and stop at the bottom of the load. A rotary ring type machine, such as the Muller OctopusTM, has the flexibility to start and stop anywhere on the load. This can result in 25% film savings—often more than enough to justify a new machine. New machines may also offer opportunities to reduce the number of wraps or move to thinner films. Plus, for companies accounting for sustainability improvements as part of their evaluation, they will likely benefit from the thousands of pounds of film that can be saved.
A Load of Savings
Although film reductions can result in thousands of dollars in savings, it may pale in comparison to the money saved by eliminating load damage and reducing interruptions in production. Study results indicate that annual average unsaleables rates, as a percent of gross sales, are .96 percent for manufacturers, with nearly half of this as a result of damage. Improving load containment could quickly pay back the expense of a new machine—while making the customer much happier.
Likewise, by understanding the cost of production downtime, the justification for a new wrapper may be simple. Production stoppages can cost some companies in excess of $50 per minute. At this rate, eliminating even 20 minutes of downtime a week could pay for a new fully automatic wrapper very quickly.
New Technology Offers New Reasons to Buy
New technologies in stretch wrapping provide new ways to justify new equipment. Add-ons like LogoWrapTM from Muller can provide automatic and affordable brand identification. Additional labor savings can be achieved by adding an automatic film roll changer or SideKickTM spare carriage that allows for less frequent film changeovers and improved productivity. Performance monitoring systems such as OctoMAXTM provide assurance that the optimal amount of film will be applied to each and every load. Advances in film tension control can allow for variability throughout the wrap cycle to help reduce load damage and eliminate film breaks. Including an integrated top sheet or automated corner board applicator may eliminate enough labor to easily rationalize the cost of a new stretch wrapper.
Selection in Action
Every situation is different, but trained representatives can identify the best equipment choice for different scenarios. For example, Hensley Beverage Company had different challenges: Oddly shaped loads and loads encompassing several different products and sizes that would benefit greatly from variable film tension. ITW’s Octopus 808 machine solved these concerns because it applies just the right amount of tension at various points on the load. Manufacturers and distributors such as Hensley can rest-assured that they are reducing product damage while simultaneously lowering film costs.
Instead of operating with a single tension setting, variable tension control machines like the Octopus 808 allow 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). Hensley Beverage Company has estimated that the Octopus 808 machine has saved the company about 1.5 men a day.
Suppliers, distributors, and end-user clients are all partners in the supply chain, and consistency benefits each step along the way. Finding a partner that can provide a world-wide network of support and global solutions goes a long way in creating consistency. Standardizing equipment can translate into reduced downtime due to faster repairs and shorter parts sourcing turnaround time. Dealing with one vendor instead of many is always more efficient, and the consistent delivery of your products will be appreciated by customers, because it will allow their processes to be more consistent as well.
If you are still not sure how to justify that new stretch wrapper, companies like Muller offer free packaging line audits and consultations to help companies understand the options available and tailor solutions to each manufacturer’s needs. By working with a company that offers a full breadth of global solutions and an expertise in quantifying economic justifications, you might be closer to that new stretch wrapper than you ever imagined.
1Source: GMA, FMI and Wipro Technologies 2010 study - The Impact of Sales and Procurement on Reverse Logistics
When it comes to pallet security, the right wrap places a critical role. Whether it’s a traditional hand wrap or an automated solution, selecting the proper film can ensure a secure fit and a productive process.
Finding both the right film and the proper process can save time, money and man-hours. Waste Gas Fabricating Co. used the GaleWrap film with the Yellow Jacket robotic pallet wrapper and found significant savings right away.
“We are now wrapping four skids in the time it took to wrap only one by hand,” says Kyle Cloman, President and CEO of Waste Gas Fabricating Co. “Coupled with the fact the job can be done by one employee instead of two or three, we have already seen a return on this investment and paid for it in savings.”
The value of GaleWrap as part of an automated solution is found in its trademarked Post Wrap Contraction that allows the wrap to keep contracting around the load even after it is wrapped. Because it is an oriented film, the GaleWrap film allows the pallet to be wrapped with fewer revolutions, reducing the film consumed. And since GaleWrap includes a guarantee that you will use the full roll without the roll hanging up at the end.
But even in hand-wrapping operations, GaleWrap provides significant benefits. The rolls themselves are lighter, reducing the risk of back injuries to employees. The trademarked Tug n' Snug feature ensures that with a quick tug at the pallet corners, the load will be secured. With a puncture resistant film, the GaleWrap technology is less expensive on either a cost-per-roll basis or on a cost-per-load basis.
Michael Klear, Marketing Manager, Muller
Manufacturers are constantly charged with implementing processes that lead to greater efficiencies. From the outside, that may sound like an easy task. But on the manufacturing floor, changes to any part of the process, from the beginning of the line to the end, must be handled with care. Often that leads to “the fear factor”- the idea that changes lead to trouble. With that in mind, manufacturers need to identify ways to make changes that are easy to incorporate and choose processes that quickly and easily yield benefits.
When looking to create new efficiencies on the line, it is very common to focus upstream of the stretch wrapper. However, it is important to remember any improvements (and investments) that are made will be wasted if the product arrives damaged. Load containment is key, especially where accidents can lead to disaster for the manufacturer and end user.
Why Stretch Wrap?
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. Many manufacturers have made the transitions from boxes to trays to pads, while metal fabricators are becoming more reliant on stretch wrapping to ensure their product makes it to customers intact and unharmed. Therefore, increasingly, stretch wrapping has become recognized as a critical component in making sure a product arrives in the condition intended.
Stretch wrapping offers several unique benefits. For one, the wrap is clear, allowing the customer to easily identify the product they are receiving. Another great benefit of stretch wrap is that contents are protected from the elements. In terms of sustainability, several arguments have been made to suggest stretch wrapping uses less material than large box containment, adding strapping or other forms of pallet load packaging.
New stretch wrapping solutions are making changes to the end of the line incredibly attractive. When it comes to automating vs. hand-wrapping, automating is a clear winner in terms of productivity and there are statistics to prove it.
Reach Greater Productivity
Incorporating semi or fully automatic stretch wrap machines can significantly cut down the time it takes to secure pallet loads. When compared to hand wrap, most machines on the market today can wrap the same load at least 50% faster. However, in order to reap those equipment benefits, finding the right machine is paramount. When selecting a stretch wrap machine it’s important to first consider how many pallets you wrap per day and the type of load being wrapped. With so many different machines available, reaching your greatest potential for productivity means matching the machine to your application.
When securing oversized, oddly shaped, palletized loads, an orbital wrapper like Muller’s Yellow Jacket’s 87M orbital stretch wrapper should be considered. The 87M is a horizontally positioned stretch wrap dispenser that moves around and under a load as the Yellow Jacket is manually advanced across the length of the load. With the 87M, loads also remain on the forklift while being wrapped. Typically it takes two workers approximately 10 minutes to wrap a load by hand, while the same load can be wrapped utilizing the Yellow Jacket in 1 minute with only one worker- reducing labor by as much as 95%. These time and labor savings add up- in fact, customers have reported savings up to $50,000 annually. Yellow Jacket also eliminates the need for other strapping materials or expensive cartons to secure loads.
When wrapping anywhere from 10-100 standard loads per day, one might consider a simple turntable stretch wrapping machine. Higher volumes, requiring 30+ loads to be wrapped every hour, are better served by using more advanced wrappers like Muller’s Octopus rotary ring stretch wrapping machines. Available in many sizes and speeds, the Octopus line exceeds most volume and speed requirements, while its pre-stretch design can save manufacturers up to 25% in film usage over other wrapping machines.
While stretch wrapping equipment can significantly reduce time and labor associated with load containment, it also benefits employees’ health. With hand wrapping, employees are continuously lifting 30-50lb rolls of film every day and bending in awkward positions which can lead to back strain or pulled muscles.
In contrast, stretch wrapping equipment significantly reduces employee injury. Employees are at less risk as the equipment does most of the hard labor associated with wrapping. In addition, stretch wrap equipment can apply the right film tension and pressure to a load keeping it secure, and without product damage. The film also reduces the chance for products to shift or slide throughout handling and transportation.
Using straps or metal bands to secure loads also comes with its own risks. Not only is the process very tedious, bands can destroy the pallets and the loads. Too much tension on the strap and the bands can pop back when cut and injure employees. In both cases, the possibilities of loads shifting or sliding during transportation are also increased. With hand wrapping, a common problem is applying too much or too little film- resulting in unnecessary waste or causing load failures and transit damage. Strapping or banding is also challenging as the loads are only accurately secured at the point of contact. As mentioned earlier, too much tension on the bands and they can damage the product or pallet.
Go Ahead - Wrap it up
Stretch wrap machines come in many forms. Before selecting the right machinery, it is important to consider output, load type, labor and the packaging cost. If you are currently using straps or hand wrapping, taking a look at stretch wrap equipment can save you time and money. Speak to your supplier about your primary goals and options. If you are not sure how to improve your operations, companies like Muller LCS offer free packaging line audits/consultations to help companies understand the options available and tailor solutions to each manufacturer’s needs. So go ahead, wrap it up!
Even with all the advancement in automated pallet wrapping technology, there are still times when one worker and two good hands are needed to secure a load for shipping. If the only costs involved were the worker and the film roll, the use of hand film still would be competitive.
Issues such as worker injury, damage to product from improper work practices, and film product waste is one reason companies have moved much of their pallet wrapping to automated systems.
There still is a need for hand film, however, and there are several best practices to ensure minimal damage and maximum success.
GaleWrap® film does offer its oriented film as part of its automated Wrap n’ Ship Program. But for the times when hand film is still the best solution, the technology built into the wrap does matter.