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.