By Tom Brizek
Before manufacturing automated stretch- wrapping equipment, my company acted— and still does—as an East Coast distribution
arm for a West Coast manufacturer of hollow metal
doors and frames. We were struggling with some
of the same packaging challenges that plague job
shops and manufacturers today.
We had multiple personnel armed with rolls of
stretch wrap running around pallets with products
and getting dizzy. The wrapping jobs provided minimal support or product protection, and as a result,
the company experienced increasing damage claims
on products being shipped out on a daily basis.
That got me to thinking there had to be a better
way. Coming to work one day, I noticed people baling hay and observed their orbital-style wrapping
device bundling the hay. The hay being wrapped
looked similar in size and shape to our loads, so I
wondered if we could design something similar.
The company made four stretch wrappers that
first year eight years ago. Today it makes about
three per week.
Meanwhile, job shops and manufacturers still
struggle with their shipping activities. Answering
these questions can help these companies to find out
if their packaging operations are ripe for a change, including a move to automated stretch wrapping.
Is more than one person involved
in stretch wrapping of products?
If so, how long does the operation
It’s not unusual to see two or three people wrapping
a pallet of metal products. They might each have a
roll of stretch wrap, and they walk around in a circle
as if they’re playing “Ring Around the Rosy.”
Depending on the size of the load, even more
people might be involved. Consider one shop that
had six people involved in shrink wrapping a large
load. They laid the shrink wrap on the ground in a
cross formation, and a lift truck placed the pallet
and accompanying load in the middle of the cross.
The employees then pulled up one side of the shrink
wrap at a time and used an open flame to shrink the
wrap around the product. The lift truck then picked
up the pallet and backed up so a new cross of shrink
wrap could be placed on the floor to initiate a new
round of wrapping. The whole process took about
15 to 20 minutes for one load.
An automated stretch wrapper can wrap a load
in about one minute and needs only one person to
be involved. The lift truck driver positions the load
into the ring of the stretch wrapper and initiates
the wrapping sequence with the push of a button.
Working around a horizontal axis, the automated
wrapper stretches the film around the pallet and
products. The wrapping cylinder, which carries a
spool of stretch wrap on a moving dispenser, moves
parallel to the forks of the lift truck. Stretch wrap is
dispensed around and under the loaded pallet while
the cylinder advances forward across the pallet.
The lift truck driver can slowly back up so that the
entire length of the pallet is wrapped to satisfaction.
To end the wrapping, the lift truck driver hits a button on the remote control, which is either corded
or wireless, that initiates a sequence that cuts the
shrink wrap and ends the wrapping process.
Once an automated stretch wrapper is in place, a
metal fabricator can move labor to other more pertinent areas of the facility. Indirect labor costs once
associated with packaging can be eliminated, and
those resources can be applied to fabricating activities that customers are actually paying for.
Are products being damaged
Are customers complaining about it?
Because manual stretch wrapping in many cases
is only barely connecting the load to the pallet, the
metal products are not always secure. They can
shift during transportation, and that can lead to
The same thing can happen to those metal fabricators that use metal banding. When you strap an
irregular shape with metal banding, a simple shift
in the load can result in the band loosening. At that
point the band is useless, and the load is in jeopardy.
When a pallet with products is presented to the
automated stretch wrapper, it is secured thoroughly because the wrapping is horizontally applied
around the load and the pallet (see Figure 1). It’s
not a single thick layer of stretch wrap connecting
the payload to the pallet; it’s several layers. In fact,
the stretch wrap conforms to the shape of the load
questions can help
you to determine
if you need a new
Automated stretch-wrapping machinery secures a load to the pallet. When manually stretch wrapping, employees
get pretty good coverage around the load, but don’t typically secure the metal products to the pallet in a very