Marketing Automation Platform
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!
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.
Neil Weisensel, Brand & Marketing Director, Muller
There are many ways to secure a pallet load. One common method is hand wrapping. However, hand wrapping can be a tricky and sometimes costly process. Because pallets are shipped in less-than-ideal conditions, tossed around by forklifts and then often jostled around by trucks during transport, load failure costs due to improperly wrapped loads can run up to 3% of the annual value of the products shipped. That’s why it’s important to choose hand-wrap film that does the job optimally the first time around. The right film will reduce load failures, costs and waste.
With countless brands of hand film available, it can be challenging to choose the right one. To simplify the selection a bit, hand film can be categorized into three types: conventional, offline pre-stretched, and oriented in-line. Easy enough. Nevertheless, the finished product dramatically differs and the advantages and disadvantages of each type of film will affect one’s bottom line. When you add up all the costs and risks, oriented film will often come out as the clear winner.
Stretching Your Budget
There are a number of factors that contribute to cost savings when it comes to hand wrap film. The most obvious is in film consumption—thinner films and fewer film revolutions on the pallet will result in less waste and costs. Conventional film is the most difficult to monitor and reduce because it must be manually stretched during application. To compete with oriented in-line and offline pre-stretch film, conventional hand wrap should ideally be stretched 150-250% or more. That is the optimal stretch percentage to yield the best balance between thicknesses of the final film and force to load. The fact is, it is virtually impossible to manually achieve that level of stretch. Thus, employees are applying much thicker film than the load requires and ultimately over-use conventional film. Without proper stretch, the film will also loosen as the pallet shifts and product pushes against it. In addition, it is unreasonable to expect employees to stretch the film with any consistency—making it even harder to manage consumption. For example, an employee might stretch 30% in the morning when the boss is watching, but only 5% latter in the day.
In contrast, pre-stretched film solves many of the above challenges. The film is inherently thinner, yet stronger, and requires fewer wraps to secure a load. Also, employees do not need to manually stretch the film. However, because the film is pre-stretched offline and then re-wound (often quite loosely) on the core, it must be applied tightly to get back the holding force capability in the film. Further, punctures and film failures are more common when applying these films quickly and tightly. If instead they applied loosely, it will take many more wraps (revolutions around the pallet) to achieve the same load integrity.
Oriented film, on the other hand, is an in-line manufacturing process, which means that it too is thinner, contains the necessary stretch, but it is wound in such a way that it continues to contract around the load even after the load is wrapped. Oriented film is manufactured with multiple layers of LLDPE plastic, which provide an optimal blend of stretch and strength.
There are a few other benefits of oriented film as well. The hemmed edges of oriented film prevent "neck down," or narrowing, and a tug at the corners is all it usually takes to secure a pallet. This translates directly into fewer revolutions around the load and increased productivity. Compared with oriented film, pre-stretch film’s behavior in action usually requires more effort and more film to securely wrap the same pallet load.
And to wrap it up, so to speak, oriented film has great puncture resistance and, if it is ever punctured, it will not propagate or “zipper,” which causes time-wasting interruptions in the wrapping process. Some companies are so confident in the quality of their oriented film (like Muller is in their GaleWrap Oriented film) that they will even offer a money-back guarantee for customers if they don’t use the entirety of every roll.
To put it in perspective, a major food distributor, with over 50 locations nationwide, was able to save over 2,000,000 lbs of film per year by switching to ITW GaleWrap Oriented hand film. More specifically, 37 locations previously used conventional film and 27 locations used pre-stretched film—combined they used 4,292,000 lbs of film annually. After incorporating GaleWrap across all its facilities, the food distributor only required 2,270,000 lbs of film annually to achieve the same number of loads wrapped.
Similarly, a large Pepsi-Cola Distributor in the Midwest, LinPepCo, found that oriented hand wrapping not only made the process safer, faster and easier, but it also minimized film breakage and waste. The high-volume shipper wraps 220 loads per day just at its facility in Lincoln, Nebraska, and it has three other locations wrapping a similar number of loads.
So, compared to the film LinPepCo was using before, the company estimated that they now save about 3 rolls per 144 rolls. The savings equate to roughly 308 rolls per year across all four facilities. In other words, LinPepCo saves about $2,500 to $3,000 per year in material purchases alone.
Oriented Toward Safety
Employee safety is another important factor to take in to consideration when choosing film. Hand-wrapping greatly increases the chance of employee back injury due to lifting the heavy film rolls. According to the US Department of Labor, the average worker’s compensation claim in the US is over $21,000. Oriented films are the lightest of the three. In fact, Muller, GaleWrap LITE Oriented Film is 50% lighter than conventional 70-gauge films and easier to maneuver—greatly reducing the risk of employee injury.
The Bottom Line With a 60- to 70-gauge performance equivalent, GaleWrap LITE rolls are also 50% stronger than pre-stretched films of equal weight. This allows for greater load integrity and less wasted film due to breaks or tears. The LITE film also provides users with puncture resistant material.
The Bottom Line
In short, if you are looking to reduce costs, minimize waste and improve overall productivity of your hand-wrapping processes, oriented films are the best bets. Factoring in the long-term benefits over upfront costs is an important exercise. Oriented film can not only reduce costs throughout the stretch wrapping process, but it can also help companies meet growing sustainability goals. When in doubt, talk to your vendor. Companies like Muller LCS offer sustainability audits and free consultations to help you identify areas for improvement. With a full suite of stretch wrapping products and services, they can also help you go from hand-wrapping to assisted-wrapping to fully automated stretch-wrapping, when the time is right.
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.
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
The first consideration in any stretch wrapping operation is a secure load. Right after that comes the consideration of how much wrap material needed to secure the load.
When the Octopus ring technology was developed more than 30 years ago, it addressed both issues in a compact and efficient form. The pallet stayed in place while the stretch wrap revolved around the load, tightly anchoring the pallet and reducing worker strain.
As the technology has evolved, one of the key improvements has been the ‘S-style’ feed on the Octopus machines--from the cost-effective B-Series to the versatile C-Series to the high-speed, highly effective S-Series. The S-style feed on the Octopus accomplishes both of the goals of the original Octopus. First, it creates a more effective pre-stretch of the wrapping materials. This allows for the tightest possible wrap on the first pass, and on every pass that follows.
That’s important because not every load is a perfect cube. In an age of single-product pulls from distribution centers, it’s more likely the shipping pallet will include odd lots and different sizes and shapes of containers. That pre-stretch provided by the S-style feed gives the material handling team the confidence that every load is secured to the pallet, regardless of the size or shape of the load itself.
The other benefit of the S-style is the amount of wrapping material needed compared to the W-style pre-stretch technology. If you think about the differences between the letters, the S-style has just two pivot points; the W-style has three. Multiplied over the daily output of a stretch wrapper and the life of the product, that’s a significant amount of wrap. But because the S-style offered on the Octopus lines provides security in the pre-stretch itself, both goals can be accomplished.
The Octopus system can reduce stretch film usage by up to 25% as compared to rotary arm stretch wrap systems, and the versatility built into every Octopus system provides the greatest flexibility in wrap programs on the market.
The ‘S’ may describe the shape of the wrap form as it prepares fort secure an order, but it also stands for ‘secure’ and ‘savings’. Those are the two important considerations when considering any stretch wrapping solution.
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