Stretch wrapping secures packages and protects them from various elements.
That’s why, in our other blog, When the Coronavirus Pandemic Makes Packaging Automation Necessary, we mentioned that repeated hand stretch-wrapping could produce ergonomic injuries.
Stretch wrap machines can help make this task painless. Although they are expensive contraptions, they have other benefits, too. These are the things that we shall tackle in this blog.
What Is a Stretch Wrap Machine?
A stretch wrap machine is a piece of equipment that aids in applying elastic plastic film around pallets. Its typical parts are:
- Tower—supports all the major parts of the machine.
- Control panel—has controls for turning the apparatus on and off and specifying settings like rotation speed and stretching force.
- Sensor (photo-eye)—assesses pallet height and detects the presence of stretch wrap. It functions like a barcode scanner does in that it emits light and sends signals to the machine based on the pallet’s interaction with the rays. Bright-colored stretch wrap reflects more light than a dark one, so it is best to use different scanners on them.
- Stretch wrap holder—supports and stretches the plastic film. Depending on machine design, it moves up and down or around the pallet.
- Pallet mount—supports the pallet during wrapping. The most commonly used stretch wrap machines have rotating mounts called “turntables.” Others have nonmoving mounts requiring stretch wrap holders to move around them.
- Ramp—helps ease the transfer of pallets into and out of the mount. Pallets are placed on stretch wrap machines by forklifts, conveyor belts or similar equipment.
- Cutting device—a sharp tool that trims the film when palletizing is done.
- Clamp—secures the film edge.
- Brush—fastens and smoothens the clingy film edge to the pallet’s (stretch-wrapped) body.
- Power cable and plug–connect to the power source.
Stretch wrap machines can be classified into semiautomatic and fully automatic types. They differ based on the presence of parts needing human intervention.
Fully automatic machines work almost without human effort. Semiautomatic ones have more functions that need to be done or guided by humans, such as placing the film edge on the pallet, initiation of stretch wrapping, film cutting, etc. Also, semiautomatic stretch wrap machines will not have all of the parts we enumerated above.
Either type can significantly reduce palletizing time.
What Are the Advantages of Using a Stretch Wrap Machine?
Using a stretch wrap machine has many benefits. The most important ones are stated below.
The time spent on hand stretch-wrapping depends on the human operator’s skill, height, fatigue level, environmental conditions, etc. Stretch wrap machines shorten the time for palletizing because they eliminate most of the factors that can slow humans down.
Time saved from palletizing can be spent on other packaging and warehousing tasks. More jobs accomplished in a given workday increases a facility’s output.
3. Convenient for tall and irregular pallets
It is normal to stack boxes in tall pallets. Optimizing palletization helps reduce shipping costs. However, if the pallet is taller than a human operator, the latter will not be able to stretch plastic film to the top effectively. The same goes for irregularly shaped stacks. There are stretch wrap machines designed to address these issues. Business owners just need to find the one best suited for their needs.
4. Film waste reduction
Humans tend to pull elastic film inconsistently. Inadequately stretched regions end up as wasted film. Also, people can stretch 80-gauge plastic film only by 10-20% more than its original size.
By comparison, stretch wrap machines pull plastic films evenly, eliminating wasted film spots. They can also stretch the film to 200-300% of its original size. Therefore, they not only reduce waste but also optimize stretch wrap.
5. Fewer occupational injuries
Fewer hours spent on a repetitive and ergonomically taxing task like stretch wrapping result in fewer physical injuries. Consequently, less money will go to occupational health expenditures. Ensuring workplace safety enhances employee satisfaction and significantly reduces labor-related litigations.
6. Health protocol compliance
With a lesser need for human intervention, staggered work schedules can be implemented with little effect on production. Automation allows businesses to comply with government protocols, protecting people from protracted health disasters like the Coronavirus pandemic.
7. Professional look
Evenly stretched plastic film produces a neat-looking pallet. Maintaining the professional appearance of packages, especially those requiring colored stretch wrap, reflects on a company’s reputation. Distributors and consumers view good product presentations positively.
8. Enhanced product integrity
Optimally stretched plastic film is very strong and secures pallets well. Inadequately stretched regions create weak spots that may render packages prone to damage. Eliminating such weak points increases load stability, lessening the potential for damage.
9. Ensures barcode readability
Poorly stretched film regions create hazy surfaces that reduce barcode scannability. At worst, slits may be needed to extract the barcode labels so they can be read accurately. A single slit may reduce pallet stability and make it prone to pilferage in turn.
In contrast, well-stretched plastic is clearer. Applying stretch wrap evenly throughout the pallet allows barcodes to be scannable in any location.
10. Cost Reduction
Stretch wrap machines reduce work hours, labor costs, film waste and worker health expenditures. They also increase production and ensure that pallets are neatly and securely wrapped. Overall, they decrease costs and help increase revenue.
Stretch wrap machines do more than just make a task lighter. Businesses that invest in such equipment enjoy big returns fast.
What Are the Disadvantages of Using a Stretch Wrap Machine?
Unfortunately, getting a stretch wrap machine is not very easy, for the following reasons:
1. High initial costs
Stretch wrap machines, whether semiautomatic or fully automatic, cost thousands of dollars. Customizing them for special needs, e. g. tall pallets, dark film, etc., will also require extra fees.
2. Some are not appropriate for short pallets
Some relatively inexpensive stretch wrap machine scanners accurately detect pallets that are at least 3 feet in height. Their accuracy is impaired below this level. Using them on shorter pallets may increase stretch film waste.
3. Maintenance costs money, too
Taking care of stretch wrap machines is also costly. Technical experts performing the maintenance checks will need to be paid for their services and testing equipment. Proper maintenance reduces breakdowns and extends the machine’s lifespan, but these gains can only be realized in a high-demand facility.
Purchasing a stretch wrap machine needs careful planning and timing. It may be too expensive if you’re wrapping only a few pallets a day. It will not be practical for all business owners to get one.
When Should I Start Thinking of Buying a Stretch Wrap Machine?
Just like in automating other packaging line equipment, a stretch wrap machine should be purchased only when one is ready for it. Below are our rough guides:
When palletizing begins to reduce productivity
This occurs when demands steeply increase, and workers barely manage to palletize numerous packages in a single workday. Stock shortages are known to ward off customers, and they can occur anywhere along the supply chain, including the packaging line. Investing in a stretch wrap machine ensures that product packages are palletized and get to customers on time.
When stretch wrap waste reduction becomes crucial
High production volumes open a company up to both increased profit and waste. Businesses that remain heavily reliant on human labor despite high demands use up a lot of time and resources.
In the packaging line, increasing the number of pallets also creates more opportunities for stretch wrap misuse. Stretch wrap machines can help eliminate those opportunities, optimizing resources and profits.
When it is more cost-effective to get the machine
Higher packaging requirements increase work hours, labor costs, worker injury compensation and stretch wrap waste. They also take away time for other income-generating activities, such as production, sales and delivery.
You would notice these things happening to you when you’re manufacturing a product that becomes a local hit. You may get overwhelmed by the customers’ orders if you and a lone assistant are attending to every task.
A stretch wrap machine can reduce costs and recover valuable time and resources, which are vital for growing businesses. Despite its price and need for electricity, it will pay for itself over time, as it converts waste into value. Consider getting this equipment when it’s more cost-effective for you to do so.
The stretch wrap machine is not for everybody. However, the need for one indicates that business is expanding steadily. The time to get this equipment will be busy with planning, but must also be welcomed as a sign of progress.
Stretch wrap machines reduce time and human effort for stabilizing pallets. They are costly contraptions that can benefit rapidly growing businesses immensely. They are not for everybody, but business owners may consider buying one if there’s a pressing need to reduce work hours, labor costs, staff injuries and overall expenditures at the packaging line.