Every packaging line and warehouse is unique, but having the right tools—suited for your industry, work space and/or application—is half the battle. It enables an efficient and productive packaging line—the ultimate goal.
When it comes to end-of-line packaging, many of today’s manufacturers and packaging warehouses use pallets to distribute product efficiently. Stretch film and stretch wrappers are commonly used to package these pallets for shipment. There are many standard stretch wrappers available, and there are many ways to customize them to suit your business needs that may ultimately pay off in terms of efficiency and productivity.
How do you know when to seek out a custom stretch wrapper and when a standard stretch wrapper will do? Customization is wise when specific elements of a production line fall outside normal limits.
Let’s take a look at some of those reasons:
Performance and speed: The first question to ask is this: How many pallets are you wrapping every day? How many per hour? This will determine what level of performance is necessary in a stretch wrapper.
There are many high-performing stretch wrappers (both automatic and semi-automatic models) that provide tremendous performance and speed to a production line. There are standard (conveyorized) stretch wrappers that can wrap up to 120 loads per hour. If your needs are on the lower end of the volume spectrum, even just 10 pallet loads per day can justify the introduction of a stretch wrapper to a line.
Customization elements come into play for performance and speed when production is even greater; for example, when a multiple stretch wrapping system needs to be designed and integrated into the overall production line. Many food and beverage distributors have this kind of high volume.
Semi-automatic stretch wrappers or automatic stretch wrappers can be grouped together to achieve greater performance. Multiple in-line stretch wrapping systems work well for warehouses with sufficient space (pictured above). There are alternatives as well; for example, one of our clients didn’t have enough space for multiple stretch wrappers, yet had high volume, so we designed a single semi-automatic rotary arm stretch wrap machine that wraps three loads one after another.
Space constraints: Warehouses come in all shapes and sizes. With stretch wrapping being at the end of the line, oftentimes it’s a bit of an afterthought.
If space is an issue, non-conveyorized stretch wrappers can often be moved around a warehouse with a forklift, allowing flexibility for placement and movement depending on production cycles. Conveyors and conveyorized stretch wrappers require more space, but can be customized for space. For example, a right-angled conveyor coupled with a two-legged automatic stretch wrapper can pack a lot of packaging punch into a small space.
Product and application: Is your product perishable? Is it heavy? Is it light? Is it stacked tall? These are just some of the reasons you may want to seek out a specialized stretch wrapper.
There are standard stretch wrappers than can handle some of these applications. For example, an automatic rotary arm stretch wrapper may work for heavy or light loads because the load does not rotate. The pallet remains stationary and the rotary arm circles the load while applying the stretch film.
Film carriage customizations to suit different applications are possible as well, such as heavy duty film application (pictured below) or banded stretch film that allows perishable products to breathe during transport. Tall pallet loads may require extra height to be built into the frame.
Other customizations are possible that are specific to a product or type of load. For example, incorporating a locking mechanism on a stretch wrap machine’s turntable make it possible for a company to wrap wheeled carts. Or a top sheet dispenser can be incorporated into the wrapping process to give a pallet five-sided protection from the elements.
A customized stretch wrapper is not always necessary to achieve production goals or an efficient end-of-line. There are many stretch wrappers on the market that can get the job done for many applications. However, there are cases where a custom stretch wrapper can overcome specific challenges within your production line, and can increase productivity and improve overall quality in packaging.
Do your research internally to understand what’s truly needed and then discuss your specific challenges with several stretch wrap machine vendors before settling on a stretch wrapper. It’s a big decision that will impact your business for years to come.
Graham Nicholson is the sales executive for Phoenix Wrappers and has more than 25 years of experience in the stretch wrapping industry.