By Derek Jones Marketing Manager at Robopac USA
Let’s face it, secondary packaging equipment is a broad category with multiple product lines and a variety of features with varying performance levels. From stretch wrappers, packers and palletizers to case equipment and laser guided vehicles, and with so many companies touting the benefits of their product, how do you decipher which is the right one for you?
The best way to determine the right equipment in each of the product lines is to understand the best fit for your application. Think of it this way. When you decide to purchase a new vehicle there are key “application” factors that come into play. If I have a family of four, then I probably need a vehicle that has four doors, more room, third row seating and maybe a built in DVD player to keep the kids occupied on long trips. If I live in a harsher environment or like to off road, then I may choose a more rugged vehicle with four wheel or all wheel drive. There are several application factors always in play when purchasing a vehicle. The same holds true for deciding on which secondary packaging equipment is right for your operation.
Let’s go through each of the product lines that make up secondary packaging equipment and uncover the key application decision factors.
Stretch wrappers are made up of two main categories: semi-automatics and automatics. Both categories are made up of sub-categories: turntable, vertical rotary arm and horizontal. Robots are a sub-category primary to semi-automatics. In most cases, if the loads you wrap are heavy (over 4,400 lbs.), very light or unstable, then they will need to remain stationary on a solid surface instead of a spinning turntable. If that is the case, you will need a vertical rotary arm stretch wrapper.
Turntable stretch wrappers are ideal for wrapping stable loads that weigh under 4,400 lbs. Since floor space is at a premium in most facilities, choosing a reliable turntable wrapper with a small footprint is key. Depending upon the number of loads you wrap per hour, you can determine which turntable in the product line is right for you.
If you wrap long products such as lumber, doors, windows, carpets, textiles, copper piping or corrugated tubing then a horizontal wrapper may be the right solution for you.
Flexibility is extremely important. Robot semi-automatic stretch wrappers are portable providing a 25 percent increase in productivity. Loads do not have to be taken to a set area to be wrapped, the machine comes to you. Plus, they can wrap loads of any weight, length and width.
Semi-automatics may require some human intervention like pushing a button to start the machine, attaching the film to the load before starting the wrap cycle, or cutting the film at the end of the load. Statistics show that the less the operator engages with the load directly, the safer and more productive they will be. For example, if your semi-automatic stretch wrapper includes an automatic film cutting and sealing device, then the equipment will cut and seal the film to the bottom of the load at then end of the wrap cycle automatically. Why is this important? It allows the operator to stay on the fork truck to stage other loads or perform other functions while the machine is wrapping the load increasing productivity. Keeping them on the fork truck keeps them safe, preventing injuries by bending over time and again to attach the film to the load or cut it at the end of the wrap cycle. Remote controls to start and stop the wrap cycle are also available to increase productivity. It is important to keep in mind that some manufacturers include extended wrap height, a remote control and other key features as standard, which is very important in determining total value in your purchase decision.
If you have more demanding, higher speed applications then an automatic stretch wrapper may be the right solution. Automatics can include conveyor systems to stage and run multiple loads, corner board placers to protect sides of loads and dual wrap arms for increased productivity.
Cutting edge manufacturers are now providing remote connectivity to stretch wrapper operations which allows managers to monitor and improve performance. Remote assistance minimizes machine downtime and permits better maintenance management. Remote assistance also includes an immediate troubleshooting procedure and full remote machine management software updates.
At the end of the day, the reason we stretch wrap loads is to protect the products that are being shipped. Choose a manufacturer who will deliver the right amount of film, at exactly the right position, with exactly the right amount of containment force to protect your products during shipment.
Most industrial manufacturing plants deal with large-scale production every day. Unreliable or incapable machinery may break down frequently. When this happens, production must cease, and costly downtimes are the result. The right wrap around case packer and shrink wrappers must be able to reliably handle heavy-duty production. To keep the packing process moving forward, wrapping goods tightly for intact delivery. Flexibility in product application, changeover time, machine capabilities (film, pad + film, film + tray, tray only), speed, reliability/uptime and the need for a packer, wrapper or combination will drive decision making.
Automatic palletizing eliminates unnecessary labor, improves productivity and increases safety in shipping operations. Floor space an issue? Then consider a palletizer manufacturer with small footprint machines that offer concurrent stretch wrapping within the palletizer. This reduces floor space requirement by palletizing and stretch wrapping in once process. Positive product handling that confirms proper load construction prior to layer deposit is vital in the purchase process. Safety is imperative in any operation. Identify manufacturers which build their palletizers to a minimum Category 3 safety standard.
Case erectors and sealers may be the most difficult product line to determine which manufacturer’s machine is the right for your application. Case erectors and sealers eliminate costly labor and ensure cases are square for unitization process during palletization and stretch wrapping process. There are a few questions you need answered when choosing a case erector or sealer:
- Can they at handle all types of flutes, double wall and single wall and most common case sizes?
- At the end of the day, does their machine have a proven track record of erecting square cases squarely so they don’t jam in the machine?
- And finally, can they reliability transition the box through the taper efficiently so that the box is squared and sealed correctly?
Laser Guided Vehicles
Laser Guided Vehicles (LGV) may be the coolest product in secondary packaging. It almost seems futuristic to see an army of unmanned forklifts in an operation working tirelessly 24/7 to meet shipping demands. The labor and safety savings for these machines are unmatched. When considering an LGV purchase, there are several key questions to consider as well:
- Will it be operating in narrow spaces and tight passages?
- Does the LGV need to handle multiple pallets?
- Do I have very heavy product loads?
- Do I need to move my products from one specific conveyor line to another?
Over time as an operation continues to grow, the end of line packaging strategy will become more diverse. Consider sourcing through one single provider to build consistency, trust and efficiencies.
About the Author:
Derek Jones is the marketing manager at Robopac USA. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.