We previously talked about the advantages of using a stretch wrap machine. It is not for all establishments, but those that rely on this equipment gain significantly from it.
If your facility frequently lags at the palletizing section, then it may be time for you to buy a stretch wrap machine. We wrote this guide for business owners who are considering this thought for the first time.
What Factors Should You Consider When Buying a Stretch Wrap Machine?
Treat this experience as if you were buying your first car. It is a huge expense, so various aspects must be considered carefully to prevent waste and regret. Below are some of the weightiest reasons that should help you choose the right stretch wrapper for your business.
1. Your Consumers’ Demands
Increasing order volumes raise packaging requirements.
How busy is your facility? If you’re stretch-wrapping only a few pallets a day—say, one pallet every hour—then it may be reasonable to continue doing it by hand. However, if you’re already palletizing a few loads per hour, especially tall ones, consider getting a manual stretch wrapper. If you need to secure 10 loads or more per hour, a semiautomatic or automatic machine may serve you better.
2. Labor Costs and Work Hours
For growing businesses, hand stretch-wrapping is a task that requires additional labor and compensation. A few pallets a day will not require much from your staff. But multiply that by dozens, and it won’t take long before you encounter packaging line hold-ups, increased overtime compensation and a growing number of occupational injuries.
Get the kind of stretch wrap machine that will help you reduce labor costs and work hours. Manual types can lessen the ergonomically demanding tasks in small facilities, particularly, wrapping the load at hard-to-reach levels. Bigger establishments will need semiautomatic and automatic equipment.
3. Stretch Wrap Waste
We already explained in previous blogs how manual labor could waste stretch wrap and that stretch wrap machines can reduce plastic misuse. One of the simplest tasks you can pass on to a stretch wrap machine is setting the film tension. This feature can considerably lessen plastic waste by ensuring consistently adequate stretching throughout a palleting task.
Manual stretch wrappers will pre-stretch the film and require the operator to go around the pallet at a fixed distance to maintain tension. Semiautomatic and automatic equipment will do both pre-stretching and load-wrapping. Any of these machines can help you reduce plastic waste significantly.
4. Pallet Configuration
Pallet configuration can be uniform and non-uniform, like we pointed out in our blog, Actionable Ways to Reduce Stretch Wrap Waste. Pallets with uniform widths from top to bottom are more stable and easier to manage than those with irregular arrangements. And different stretch wrappers are designed to address these variations.
Semiautomatic and automatic palletizers with turntable mounts are suited for uniform, sufficiently tall pallets. On the other hand, straddle stretch wrap machines are more useful for non-uniform stacks of any height or weight. They have stationary mounts and a rotary arm that accomplishes the stretch-wrapping task. Manual stretch wrappers are more appropriate for uniform configurations, irrespective of height.
5. Stretch Wrap Colors
Semiautomatic and automatic palletizing machines depend on photo-eye sensors to monitor pallet loading and stretch-wrapping adequacy. Since they depend on light physics as barcode scanners do, you should factor your stretch wrap colors into your decision.
Dark stretch wrap is a good tamper-resistant material. If your facility uses both bright and dark palletizing films, think of getting a stretch wrapper with a highly sensitive sensor to maximize its use.
6. The Need for Full Automation
We mentioned some reasons for automating the packaging line in our blog, When the Coronavirus Pandemic Makes Packaging Automation Necessary. Not every business needs to make that switch right away, but high demands for your products will make you think of doing it at some point.
When shopping for a stretch wrap machine, expect its automation level to influence its price. Manual types are, of course, the least expensive. The high-end ones are automatic and may be designed to function independently or as part of an automated packaging line. Choose the type that best suits your business.
7. Energy Efficiency
Semiautomatic and automatic palletizers need electricity. And not all will convert electrical energy to stretch-wrapping work with the same efficiency.
Energy efficiency can be gauged based on a machine’s wattage at maximum use, which may be stamped on its body or found in its manual. Multiplying amperage with voltage will also yield the wattage value, and these numbers may also be found on the equipment’s factory labels and manual.
You can compare your prospects’ wattages to see which one is the most energy-efficient. Of course, how you use the stretch wrapper will also reflect on your bills.
8. Equipment Capacity
Ask the supplier about the machine’s hourly capacity. Manual types will naturally depend on the operator’s speed. On the other hand, semiautomatic and automatic ones are designed to wrap more than 10 loads in an hour. Choose the right one for your needs. Under-utilizing the equipment will simply waste your investment, whereas using it well beyond its full capacity will shorten its lifespan.
9. Machine Safety
Consider the stretch wrap machine’s safety.
- Does it have exposed electrical connections and mechanical parts?
- Are any segments of the pallet mount or tower base jutting upwards?
- Is the pallet mount too small for your loads?
- Does the machine move or fall on a slight push?
- Do cutters fail to get to a safe position after trimming the film?
- Can the stretch wrap holder potentially trip workers or injure their hands while using the equipment?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, move on to the next prospect on your list. Worker safety is just as important as optimizing packaging efficiency. Buy a stretch wrap machine that can satisfy this requirement.
Get a stretch wrap machine that does not need a rocket scientist to operate it.
- The manual should be easy to understand.
- The power regulators should be simple to use.
- Its film- and pallet-loading processes must be straightforward.
- The control panel must be easy to decipher and adjust.
Fewer hassles from using a palletizer also increase efficiency and productivity.
11. Equipment Material
Some stretch wrap machines are entirely built of steel, whereas others can have a few vital parts made of plastic. All-steel pallet wrappers are built to last much longer, but they also cost a lot more.
When looking for this kind of equipment, maximize your trip to the showroom and scrutinize all the important parts, which we enumerated in our previous blog. Only durable pallet wrappers can truly be cost-efficient and capable of returning your investment manifold.
12. The Brand’s Reputation for Reliability
Stretch wrap machine reviews are not widely available online. You have to do your brand research by talking to industry experts and business colleagues. Don’t hesitate to ask around for some recommendations.
Look for a brand that consistently produces durable machines, even with less lubrication or preventive care. Also, keep in mind that belt machines generally run more smoothly and require less maintenance than chain machines.
13. Customer Service and Technical Support
In our reviews for desktop and portable thermal printers, we pointed out that customer service and technical support availability impacted customer satisfaction as much as product reliability. These things also matter when looking for a stretch wrap machine, an expensive technological tool.
American brands are some of the best in the industry. They are also readily available to American business owners because they source their materials and assemble the equipment locally. Their differences will arise from their aftersales treatment of customers.
Technical support and customer service must be friendly and easy to contact round the clock. Guides must not only be provided in written form but online as well. Your distributor must have qualified technicians readily available to check on your equipment when it unexpectedly fails.
14. Budget Constraints
It’s understandable to remain budget-conscious even if your business starts picking up. Customer demands should not be your sole reason for buying a stretch wrap machine. Your bank balance, projected sales and anticipated risks should also guide you in your decision.
A manual palletizing machine will suffice if you’re securing fewer than 10 loads per hour. Your main goal in getting the equipment is to reduce worker strain. However, if you consistently reach or exceed that number, you should at least consider a semiautomatic stretch wrapper, which will be more efficient and cost-effective in the long run.
15. Perks Offered
You should also factor in warranties, maintenance and repair costs, discounts, delivery fees and similar aspects that determine the equipment’s ultimate price. By doing that, you increase your chances of getting the best price for your stretch wrap machine and making aftersales services affordable. Consider plenty of brands and suppliers to get the most from your money.
Like we said earlier, looking for a stretch wrap machine is like buying a car. The major difference is that palletizing equipment directly impacts your business, though both tasks should be approached cautiously. Stretch wrappers are there to add value to your company and keep worker injuries low.
What Are the Different Types of Stretch Wrap Machines?
Stretch wrap machines are classified in several ways, but the most important ones that customers must know are the following:
According to Automation Level
Put in another way, these machines differ according to their dependence on human assistance.
1. Manual Stretch Wrap Machines
Manufacturers interpret the word “manual” differently, but tools belonging in this category technically do no more than holding the film, pre-stretching it to a constant tension and allowing height adjustment. The rest of the work, particularly pallet-wrapping, depends on human effort.
Strictly speaking, manual palletizers stretch but don’t really wrap the stretch wrap. That is why some manufacturers don’t consider them as true stretch-wrapping machines.
When using this equipment, the operator goes around the load repeatedly, but he will not have to exert much to stretch the plastic or reach for very low or high locations. These tools are the least expensive types in the industry.
2. Semiautomatic Stretch Wrap Machines
These gizmos have fewer human-dependent tasks. Since palletization involves various machine-simulatable movements, semiautomatic load wrappers vary widely based on the functions they exclude.
Aside from pre-stretching the film, some of the variable tasks include rotating the pallet, wrapping the film and adjusting the film’s height. Some may go as far as cutting the plastic automatically, with human operators taking charge of securing both edges onto the pallet.
Note that the more complicated the equipment is, the pricier it gets.
3. Automatic, Stand-Alone Stretch Wrap Machines
These pallet wrappers are programmed to do more without human intervention. They can attach the film’s leading edge onto the pallet, proceed with stretch-wrapping then finish by fastening the lagging film edge onto the outer surface. Some can even be initiated by simple load mounting. In many cases, the workers’ only task is to secure the equipment’s film and power supply.
Stand-alone stretch wrap machines are the fastest and most convenient types to use. They are also some of the most expensive variants in the industry.
4. Automatic Stretch Wrap Machines that Are Parts of Packaging Lines
These palletizers can be bought alone or as part of a set of robotic packaging equipment. What they all have in common is their ability to stretch-wrap a load after it’s been fed to them on a conveyor line. They also release the pallet automatically, so they make up the automated packaging line’s terminal point.
These machines are not only expensive on their own. Keep in mind that they come as parts of sets that are also just as pricey. Additionally, when buying these palletizers, you need to make sure that they fit your robotic packaging line and its software to a tee. Otherwise, they will cause delays, as well as film and product loss.
According to the Stretch-Wrapping Mechanism
Semiautomatic and automatic stretch wrap machines may also be classified according to their stretch wrapping mechanism. The dynamics are mostly determined by the presence of pallet mount motion and the film holder’s direction when it wraps the load.
1. Turntable Mechanism
Here, the pallet mount revolves 360º in the horizontal, and the stretch wrap holder simultaneously moves in a vertical line. This is the simplest mechanism, but it is enough to wrap pallets cleanly from the bottom upwards. Reinforcement can be done by re-wrapping the load upwards or downwards. It is best for uniformly stacked packages.
2. Straddle Mechanism
Stretch wrap machines using this mechanism have a nonmoving pallet mount, but the film dispenser spirals around it to complete the task. It is best suited for the following:
- Irregularly shaped pallets
- Short stacks
- Light loads
- Heavy loads
- Unstable pallets
3. Orbital Mechanism
Here, the pallet advances on a conveyor belt while the stretch wrap holder orbits over and under the load. A short idler gap allows contact between the film and the load’s undersurface. It is best for the following product types:
- Flat items, such as plywood sheets
- Elongated objects, such as water pipes and furniture
4. Ring Straddle Mechanism
These palletizers have an ultra-fast straddle-type stretch wrapper, which goes around a conveyor-fed load. They are the fastest stretch wrap machines and are only available in automatic mode. They can handle any pallet configuration and weight. Big facilities in various industries use them.
According to Materials Used
As mentioned previously, palletizing equipment can be all-steel or partly made of plastic. The machine’s durability depends on the proportion of steel components and the tasks they perform. You’re free to base your decision on your current budget and go with partly plastic equipment. However, you should also consider the impact of steel components on the stretch wrapper’s lifespan and maintenance costs.
Other variables, such as photo-eye sensor sensitivity, cutting mechanism, ramp availability, etc., may come as modifications of existing models. Ask your distributor for further information about these other features.
Finding the right stretch wrap machine is an experience similar to buying a new vehicle. It requires a high cash outlay, so you need to consider various factors before getting one. There are different types of palletizing equipment, each one suiting different products and packaging setups. Get as much information as you can on each prospect to make sure that you choose the one that best fits your facility.