Packaging Machinery Buyer's Guide: Stretch Wrapping Machinery
Stretch wrap is one of the most commonly used packaging materials across the globe. Hundreds of thousands of companies stretch wrap millions of pallets of product every day. While many companies rely on physical labor from human employees, shrink wrapping machines are a staple in high production packaging lines and even smaller companies who want the cost savings and related benefits of using a stretch wrapper.
That being said, what are the benefits of using a stretch wrapper? Who is a good fit for a stretch wrapping machine? Which type of machine is best for your company? Follow me into the article below and we will stretch your knowledge to its maximum capacity.
Human Labor VS Stretch Wrapping Machines
Many companies start palletizing with hand stretch film (AKA hand stretch wrap) that is applied by manual labor via a tool called a stretch wrap dispenser. A roll of stretch wrap is loaded onto the device (see picture below) and the handle is held by the operator of the stretch wrap dispenser.
The stretch wrap is usually tucked between the corner of two boxes or at the edge of the pallet to hold it in place. Next, the person doing the wrapping walks in a circle around the pallet, continually keeping tension, until the pallet is completely covered with stretch wrap from top to bottom. The goal is to keep the products contained within safe during travel. When finished, the wrap is cut or torn from the roll and stuck to the pallet as the rap will stick to itself.
Many companies utilize this device in thinking that it is less expensive than using a machine to do the work, however, depending on what you are paying the employees who work this job, that may not be the case. Manual labor does not always produce consistent or proper load containment nor does it maximize the stretch of your wrap, which creates more waste.
The problem here is that hand stretching is far slower and a human can only stretch the wrap at an average of 10% to 20%. Machine applied stretch wrap applies 200% to 300% to the stretch length, consistently! So while at first glance it may seem you are saving money over the purchase of an expensive machine, you are losing money on materials with every pallet wrapped. In many cases, the total cost of ownership for a stretch wrapping machine will be less costly than relying on manual labor.
But how do you figure out if manual labor or machine wrapping is a better choice for your business? That is where having a professional analysis of your packaging line and the related processes comes in. Reaching out to a local packaging vendor and requesting an analysis of your packaging materials and machinery or lack there of will provide you with data on how you are currently doing things.
By comparing the data from the analysis on your current packaging processes and looking at the numbers when comparing human labor versus the use of a machine, you will be able to see which of these two options makes the most sense for your business.
Want to see the ROI of investing in an automated pallet wrapper?
Types Of Stretch Wrapping Machines
OK, so you have done your homework and now you have decided that buying a stretch wrapping machine is the right choice for your business. But which type of machine should you buy? When beginning the journey of shopping for a stretch wrapping machine, you will soon discover that there are a few different types of machinery for this application.
First of all, you will need to decide if you want a manual, semi-automatic or automatic stretch wrapping machine*. An automatic stretch wrapper takes a pallet and automatically puts it in the wrap zone where it is wrapped based upon the settings of the control system. When completed, the pallet moves down a conveyor to the end of your packaging line. As your fully wrapped pallet completes its journey, the next pallet is automatically being conveyed into the wrap zone.
*There is also another option called "simple automation". This option includes cut and clamp capabilities so that operators don’t have to get off their fork trucks to run the control panel. They also can drop the pallet onto the wrapper and the machine pushes it onto a roller conveyor. See the video below...
On the other hand, manual and semi-automatic stretch wrappers necessitate an operator to complete various tasks associated with the wrapping of pallets including but not limited to loading and unloading the equipment and making continual adjustments to the machinery.
1. Turntable Wrapper
With this particular machine, the pallet is put on a turntable that spins while a wrap delivery system allocates the stretch wrap to the load being wrapped. The wrap delivery system generally begins at the bottom of the load and wraps up to the top and back to the bottom. Turntable wrappers are one of the most popular kinds of stretch wrapping machine and can be set up to work well with various types of applications.
2. Straddle Wrapper
With straddle stretch wrappers the load stays immobile while a wrap delivery system spins around the load being packaged. This kind of wrapper can wrap unstable, light weight, and heavier loads and is capable of wrapping from low to high volumes.
3. Orbital Wrapper
An orbital wrapper (also known as a "ringer") wraps a pallet by going over and under the load being packaged as the load travels on a conveyor into the machine. Orbital wrappers are primarily used for packaging flattened, or oddly shaped items such as pipes, rolled carpets, windows, etc.
4. Ring Straddle Wrapper
Ring straddle wrappers are fast wrappers which are generally able to wrap 200 loads per hour. These machines are often found in the toiletry and beverage industries. These machines are extremely specialized devices and only make up a small portion of the stretch wrapping machines currently in use.
Choosing The Right Stretch Wrapping Machine
Now that you have some idea about the different types of stretch wrapping machines, you need to ask yourself a few questions to identify which machine is right for you.
1. Volume Of Stretch Wrap Used
How much stretch wrap do you go through in a month? Taking a look at your monthly/annual volume of stretch wrap will give you an idea of which if any machine is right for your needs. Not sure how much stretch film you are going through on a monthly basis?
Reach out to a packaging machinery expert and ask for an analysis of your packaging line. This report will provide you with insights into your current stretch wrapping practices and if they need to be altered to produce a more productive and efficient line.
2. Amount Of Products Wrapped
The amount of products you are packaging on a regular basis will give you some indication of the volume of stretch wrap you are using. If you are not already tracking this information in conjunction with a detailed KPI report, you will want to consider developing and implementing one ASAP. Not sure where to start? Again, reaching out to a local packaging expert and asking for an analysis of your packaging line will help you to gather all the data you need.
3. Budget For Packaging Machinery
Professional packaging machinery is not cheap. It is a major investment for many businesses. Once you have researched all the information above and have had a professional analysis of your production line completed by your vendor of choice, you will be able to review all of the information and identify if a stretch wrapping machine is a good investment for your company.
4. Purchasing The Right Stretch Wrapping Machine
Once you have done all the proper homework and chosen the right type of machine for your packaging line, you will need to identify a brand of machinery to buy. When you are ready to make a purchase but are unsure of which brand you would like to buy, you have two options...
One option would be to independently research at least three brands of machinery who offer the type of machine you are looking for and compare the cost, quality and serviceability of each machine. You will also want to seek out reviews from other customers to gauge which machine is or is not a good fit for your needs.
Once you have identified a brand, make and model for the machine you are interested in, you will want to get quotes from at least three local vendors for the machinery AND service and supply options. Keep in mind the services they offer and the quality of service you receive on your initial calls. Keeping these items in mind will help you determine the right fit for your business needs.
If you are not excited at the prospect of doing so much time consuming research on multiple brands of packaging machinery, you may want to consider buying from a distributor instead of an OEM. Where OEMs will usually tell you their machines are "the best" and provide information with little transparency, a distributor who sells multiple different brands is less concerned with selling you on one brand of machine, and more concerned with helping you choose the right brand, make and model for your particular needs.
Buying a shrink wrapping machine for your business is a big deal. It is a large investment in your company and it is not something you should rush into without being educated on in regards to all the dynamics mentioned above. When you are ready to begin the process of buying packaging machinery, consider reaching out to your local packaging expert for guidance.
One you have chosen and purchased the machinery for your line, you will want to ensure that it is always running at peak performance with little to no downtime. In conjunction with a preventative maintenance program, a stretch wrapping machine can help your production line to reach it's ultimate performance while maximizing the capabilities of your stretch wrap.
About Nathan Dube
As the Digital Marketing Specialist at Industrial Packaging, I am honored to create content for such a phenomenal company and work with one of the greatest teams in the Packaging Industry. Whether creating a video, writing blog posts or generating other pieces of content and multimedia, I am always excited to help educate and inspire our prospects and clients to reach their highest potential in regards to their packaging processes and needs.