While packaging’s prime necessity is to protect goods in storage and transit, carefully designed, well- chosen packaging can offer much more besides in lowering handling and transit costs and fulfil obligations to meet EUwide directives to cut packaging waste sharply by 2030. Sometimes this might involve bespoke designs to suit one’s own specific needs but all B2B packaging users should take a holistic view of their entire supply chains so as to avoid improving your own packaging efficiency at the expense of causing problems for others down the line. Such a task may best be handled by calling in packaging experts with world-wide experience of how a global view of packaging in the supply chain can pay big dividends.

In certain industries packaging and its playmates of pallets can have a much greater importance owing to its disruptive potential and perhaps nowhere is there more so than in automated warehouses, where high investment can be plagued by poorly-chosen packaging machines and materials. Packaging heavily influences the design process for warehouse automation and thus requires a great deal of data input. If arriving production materials vary widely in size, weight and method of load restraint on equally diverse pallets then such data is crucial to the design process and so requires detailed investigation.

Automated warehouse operators must liaise closely with their suppliers over wrapping, pallets and labelling at an early stage but the ability to influence them depends on buyers’ sizes and thus packaging clout. It would admittedly be more difficult for SME’s to influence their packaging suppliers to make big changes because suppliers would be reluctant to cooperate if it means that such demand is only a small part of their business.

Some problems posed by poor packaging and pallets can be eased by considering the handling equipment. Consider, for example, the type of conveyor to use. For some time there has been a trend over moving more to belt conveyors and away from rollers because it cuts down any snagging problems with loose stretchwrap or banding. Loose, flapping wrapping can also send false signals to sensors on stacker cranes and conveyors, leading to rejects. A sensible move here would be to consider using a stretchwrapper with a positive tailend sealing system to prevent any loose film tails being left.

Stretchwrappers, too, need some thought in terms of their method, of which there are two basic powered types: the rotating head type, where the load stands still, and the turntable type which spins the pallet load. The latter could cause load bulge during the spinning process which subsequent wrapping might not fully rein in. Such bulging could lead to rejection at the pallet profile gauge. The solution of using soft-start motors would slow the handling process.

This leads on to the problem of carton quality. Strong cartons are important, especially if banded together. If there are mixed pallet loads then the heavy cartons should be placed at the bottom. To maintain integrity, users might consider humidifiers. Damp, cold warehouses should be avoided.

Any company installing automated handling must realize that labelling is critical to product tracking. Poor quality barcodes and careless placement which leads to coverage by stretchwrap will cause misreads.

BILL REDMOND

Features Editor