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.
According to the American Trucking Association1 nearly 70% of all the freight tonnage moved in the U.S. goes on trucks - which equates to 9.2 billion tons of freight annually. In short, that’s a lot of product headed to customer destinations on a daily basis and unfortunately not all arrives as intended. Nearly every manufacturer in every industry understands the importance of properly securing pallet loads for transport. One proverbial wrong turn and the entire load can be damaged.
Thankfully there are ample solutions for securing ones upstream value and ensuring products arrive as intended to their final destination. Whether a small electronic device or large industrial pipe, the first step to proper load containment is identifying the right solutions for the job. Signode Industrial Group understands this all too well. The company is made up of over 88 manufacturing facilities across dozens of industries - all focused on protective packaging and load containment needs. And if there is one thing we have learned over the years, it’s the importance of protecting customer products. Helping manufacturers better understand the supply chain and solutions available, here is a quick guide:
The first step for most manufacturers, especially in electronics, automotive and food and beverage industries, is getting product into its respective case/box. However, most cases are provided flat and must be erected, sealed and labeled before they can be unitized and shipped. Those looking for reliable, cost-effective solutions for automating these processes should consider a company like Loveshaw. As an example, their brand of Little David case forming machines are commonly integrated into existing product lines for volumes as low as 500 cases per day.
For a little extra protection inside the box, Multi-Wall is an example of a company that provides custom, eco-friendly solutions to protect products from the constant knocking and vibration caused inside the box during transportation. Products like Sus-Pak® help firmly suspend product inside the box and cushion it to prevent damage.
Once packed and sealed, the next step is pallet unitization. Those looking for proper load containment solutions need look no further than Muller. From its high speed automatic Octopus™ rotary ring stretch wrappers and Lachenmeier stretch hooders to its robotic pallet wrappers and turntables, the company provides a range of equipment and material solutions to fit various applications and budgets.
Looking to strap it instead of wrap it? Signode has long pioneered the advancement of consumables and equipment for strapping. Protecting edges from potential strapping damage, companies like Angleboard offer additional armor with cornerboards.
Further downstream, manufacturers can ensure even greater protection during transportation by reducing friction between pallet loads with Shipper Products’ airbags or slippage with AIA’s TransMat® Rubber Friction Mats. Even loads with varying temperature requirements can be safely transported with insulated bulkheads and air chutes, like those by Insulated Transport Products, which helps create multi-temp zones in single trailers.
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
If you were transporting any kind of load, you’d want the pallet and its contents to be as solid as cement. When the load you’re moving is cement bags, it makes the security of the process of the utmost importance—not to mention creating an ironic metaphor.
When Ash Grove Materials Corporation was looking for a solution for its slow and inefficient pallet wrapping process, it turned to Lachenmeier’s Power Flex T1 stretch hood machine to provide both load stability and product visibility for the company’s cement bag distribution process.
The bags are stacked on pallets, and the procedure had been to use rotary arm stretch wrappers and add a sheet of stretch film to the top to protect the load from moisture, which is the natural enemy of cement distribution. It was a two-man job and limited both throughput and productivity.
The Lachenmeier stretch hood process provided instant 5-sided protection for the load, since the hood stretched snugly over the load. It saved film, and company officials said the stable load also provided greater product visibility.
While customer liked being able to see the delivered product clearly and the stretch hood machine reduced the amount of wrapping material used, it was the increased process speed that was the biggest change. The Ash Grove Packaging division was able to wrap just 22 load per hour with the previous technology; the Lachenmeier Power Flex T1 stretch hood machine increased productivity to 30 loads per hour—an increase of more than 36%.
When materials handling supervisors try to justify a capital expenditure, they need to convince the management team of a quick return on the investment. At Ash Grove Materials Corporation, the reduction in manpower and film usage, the improved visibility for the product and the dramatic increase in production throughput meant the product got out of the plant and to their customers faster. Those are concrete results.
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: email@example.com, 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
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.
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.