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Shrink film bolsters the bottom line

Discover Books, Ltd. sends its books through an automated machine that  side-seals the orders before they head to a shrink tunnel and are then labeled.

Companies have really taken a beating on shipping and postage costs in this difficult economy, with fuel and transportation costs, flight costs and postage skyrocketing in recent months. And the situation doesn't look like it will improve anytime soon. This is prompting many packagers to streamline their operations and consider alternative packaging materials. As a distributor, a printer and a retailer have recently experienced, Clysar® ShrinkBox™ shrink film from Bemis Clysar Inc. (www.clysar.com) can deliver various advantages for the printing and publishing industry, reducing costs in labor, shipping and materials versus more traditional packaging alternatives. It has even helped some companies “get greener.”

Small-press and print-on-demand printers such as Topflight Corp., a Glen Rock, PA-based converter of printed labels and die-cut components, have seen important cost- and labor-saving benefits when using flexible films as packaging instead of more traditional packaging options. Since Topflight began using a 2-mil ShrinkBox film in 2007 to wrap large rolls of labels for the health and beauty aids market, it has eliminated a significant amount of packaging waste, and cut the amount of time and labor it takes to package the labels for shipment.

Says Tonya Nye, pharmaceuticals and electronics manager, “It used to take three to five minutes to pack an item where it now takes 30 seconds or less. We have doubled our volume, but can keep the same amount of packaging operators.”

Traditional secondary packaging, like corrugated cases and paperboard cartons, hold a positive track record for protecting products during transport and storage. However, Bemis Clysar says that consumers are increasingly demanding secondary packaging that's both convenient to open and clearly shows the contents on store shelves. The coextruded, multilayer shrink film responds to these needs with sparkling clarity, and is durable enough to wrap products that, due to an irregular size, weight or shape, were previously only suitable for traditional packaging such as shipping cases, bags, sleeves or cartons.

As warehouses are forced to deal with products that vary in size and shape, packers are looking for packaging that can conform to just about any product configuration, to save space. Provided on 3- and 6-in. (ID) cores and rolls from 10.5 to 15 in. (OD), ShrinkBox film shrinks to fit almost any shape and runs on most shrink-wrapping equipment.

Topflight tried the film, which can be recycled in the low-density polyethylene stream, as a substitute for corrugated when customers began to reject bulky boxes due to recycling requirements, and also wanted a more sustainable solution to packaging.

Bill Baitinger, sales development specialist for Bemis Clysar, has extensively researched the ever-changing needs of the print-on-demand segment.

Printers seek competitive advantage

“We've found that a lot of the small to medium, and in some cases large printers, get involved in print-on-demand when they have repeating and shorter-run jobs,” he says. “Cost-effective execution of these short production runs is a must if printers want to stay competitive.”

Baitinger has worked with several of these small printers who have tried the shrink film and quickly see advantages to using it as a wrap to protect finished sheet, rolls of printed material and much more. According to Baitinger, the film meshes well with label converters and packagers who place a premium on speedy, streamlined operations.

Bemis Co., Neenah, WI, purchased the Clysar shrink-film business from E.I. duPont de Nemours and Co. in 2002. Considered by Bemis Clysar to be the strongest polyolefin-based shrink film on the market, the heat-shrinkable film is available in two grades: 2-mil 1525 for advanced product protection with maximum optical properties; and 3-mil 2035 for maximum physical properties as well as sparkling optical characteristics.

Both grades are based on the original Clysar structure and also come in an confidential, opaque version as ShrinkBox 1525C and 2035, respectively.

Besides rolls of paper and labels and stacks of board and sheet, it can be used to wrap and secure things like house shutters, ladders, automotive products, hardware, lawn and garden products, carpeting, rope, books, tools, masking tape rolls and even floor tiles. Lightweight and highly resistant to punctures, tears and abrasion, its composition allows the film to conform tightly around products, reducing overall weight and package dimensions, which helps save on postage. Delivering a more low-profile package means that a higher percentage of packages are eligible for lower-cost, flat-rate shipping.

Now, printers such as Topflight realize they can dramatically cut costs using film packaging without sacrificing speed-to-market competitiveness, a win-win solution that couldn't have come at a better time. “The speed and versatility of the film allows them to get their product out the door faster,” says Baitinger. “And they use less floorspace for film compared with things like rigid containers and inserts, which helps reduce inventory costs.” As rising postal rates and tighter regulations chip away at profit margins, Topflight can stay on level ground.

Film's use saves warehouse space

Topflight's shipping manager, Patricia Wanbaugh, says her firm can pack twice as much into its warehouse with ShrinkBox film as it can with rigid packaging. “It's an advantage to any shipping and warehouse area where you're limited on space,” she says. “The film has saved us a lot of time, money and space that would have otherwise been used to store packing materials.”

RIS Paper (www.rispaper.com), a Cincinnati-based national distributor of Clysar as well as paper products, introduced ShrinkBox film to a large, commercial printer of literature and brochures that had been using small, custom-made corrugated shipping cases for “small-drop,” print-on-demand production runs of bundled pamphlets and other printed matter in various configurations. According to RIS Paper's Tom Abell, switching to film immediately saved the printer $1 per unit on a 12,000-package run.

While a $12,000 savings is significant, the customer also found substantial savings on postage, labor and packing materials, he says.

“Before ShrinkBox was developed, the customer needed more people to pack all of the literature and brochures. Now, they take a pad of corrugated, place a stack of booklets on top, place another sheet of corrugated on top of that to stabilize the stack, wrap it, and automatically side-seal the stacks and the job is done. The whole process is simplified and costs less.”

“The custom containers were costly for a corrugator to produce in the small quantities,” he says. “If stock case sizes were used, they might require the addition of dunnage, cushioning or void-fill, and that involved extra labor. The printer had such great results using ShrinkBox that it has become their packaging of choice. And it provides us with another opportunity to bring value to our customers.”

The automation packaging process is yet another area where the shrink film can keep labor costs from spiraling out of control. With the inherent benefits of flexible shrink film, ShrinkBox can provide package customization by adjusting to just about any shipment size.

Abell says the customer he refers to seals the loads using side sealers equipped with Shrink Packaging Systems' (www.spsgm.com) Green Machine™ side sealer replacement sealing heads and ShrinkBox Confidential, an opaque blue-tinted 2035C heavy-duty version (approximately 3-mil) that keeps items confidential and private. Another customer tested ShrinkBox by dropping several packages 15 ft to a concrete floor, notes Abell.

“The results really showed how strong and durable the film is, and proved it could hold up to the most rigorous handling by United Parcel Service (UPS), FedEx and the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). Gauge for gauge, it costs more than most bundling films but is about twice as tough.”

30-percent postage savings

Discover Books Ltd., an online book retailer located in Abbotsford, BC, is also impressed with the labor-reducing efficiency it achieves with ShrinkBox. Like printers and packagers, the book retailer must not only ship the correct orders, but deliver them on time. Thus, package integrity is a huge priority.

Marcus Ouimet, Discover Books' president and CEO, says the key advantage is the savings. “We save about thirty percent on the total cost per package.” He points to an additional savings in postage per package and attests to ShrinkBox's durability through the book-distribution process. “Considering our large volumes, we have nothing but rave reviews from employees and customers. This film has definitely exceeded our expectations.”


More information is available:
Bemis Clysar, Inc., 920/303-7800. www.clysar.com.
RIS Paper, 513/244-2300. www.rispaper.com.
Shrink Packaging Systems Corp., 800/486-5866. www.spsgm.com.
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