chaz1Correctly chosen, end-of-line and transit packaging may not directly add value to the goods wrapped but it can do much to cut packaging waste, protect goods and improve efficiency and health and safety issues.Moreover, it can cut transport and line side production costs, allow external storage and even improve the environment. Yet much money is still wasted at the machine specifying level, believes Paddy McCartney, national sales manager for Aetnagroup, which sells over 350 semi automatic stretch film wrappers each year. As with forklifts, many machine specifiers are too fixated on initial machine costs and often plump for imported machines from the Far East where dubious quality means a shortened lifespan.

The decision on which type of film wrapping operation to choose depends on factors like pallet throughput rates, product shapes and sizes and fragility. Homogenous loads would favour stretchwrap over shrinkwrap, so the latter is often used for heavier loads in the brick, block, glass, paper and board industries, with better load holding as the key determinant. Sanitary ware, for example, would be almost impossible to stretchwrap, while other products, like roofing felt, are easily crushed.

Shrinkwrap is also useful with sacked and boxed materials in that it does not require palletised loads, as with Moellers palletless shrinkwrapping system. By dispensing with pallets, savings can also be made in shipping costs through greater density of container storage.

Remarkably, the cost of semi automatic stretchwrappers has changed little over the last 10 years and they begin to look attractive very early. Paddy McCartney says semi-automatics are typically in the £3,000 to £7,000 price range, while fully automatics start at around £30,000. By reducing film wrapping costs in many cases by over 50% against hand-held wrappers, he claims the semis can give a payback in four months, though 1-2 years would be more typical.

Film wrappers are only part of the supply chain packaging equation. Automated warehouses, for example, require better quality packaging and pallets and more care over palletising and labelling. Loads must be assembled on pallets squarely and uniformly, and for this purpose a layer palletiser is often preferable to pick and place palletisers. It would not be unreasonable to say that packaging should heavily influence the design process for automated warehousing. ,

There is also pressure from compliance with packaging waste reduction legislation and time compression techniques. Today, there is more demand for direct line side deliveries in re-usable, one-touch packaging to cut down on wasteful handling, storage, packaging disposal and paperwork. Sometimes the approach to this is simple and at other times more complex, involving bespoke-designed containers.

Roll containers are especially favoured by food retailers when fitted with slots to carry plastic food trays. They allow much faster vehicle loading/discharge without forklifts for movement directly to shop shelves This eliminates all timber pallets and cardboard containers, leaving only food contact wrapping for consumer disposal.

From this brief look at the transit packaging industry it is clear that the more thought that goes into packaging techniques the more likely will  the savings be higher, not just in packaging materials but, more importantly, the entire supply chain cost structure.

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