What should you consider when buying a stretch wrapper? Do you need one? Have you ever even heard of such a thing before Googling it? What’s the best stretch wrapper for your needs?
In the sea of packaging machinery and manufacturers it can get scary for warehouse managers and facility buyers to pick the right machine that is going to save them money on labor, material and product losses. Stretch wrap machines are no exception so we’ve put together a brief history of stretch wrap machines and what considerations to make when buying one.
The history of stretch wrappers
Lantech lays claim to being the inventor of the stretch wrap machine. Brothers Pat and Bill Lancaster displayed the first stretch wrapper at the 1973 Packaging Machinery Manufacturer’s trade show and ever since then the name Lantech has been synonymous with stretch wrapping and secondary packaging.
Despite the Lancaster brothers having been the original inventors of the stretch wrapper and spawning a hugely successful company, other manufacturers have rose to claim their rightful spots in the packaging pantheon with unique features and build qualities – and others…have not. A bit of a pollution of the market with many manufacturers selling structurally weak and under performing machines to customers making short sighted and uneducated purchases.
That one old saying…you get what you pay for
Customers of cheap and “too good to be true” priced wrapping solutions then go on to experience a number of issues over the years they use these machines. Whether it be something they are aware of like constant film breaks, part issues and losses during shipment – or things not so apparent to the untrained eye, like how many revolutions of film are being used to achieve the right amount of tension on a pallet – and how long that wrapping process takes.
Blindly choosing what you think you need based off of the first page of some search results or a machine you saw in another warehouse or distribution center doesn’t guarantee you’re purchasing a machine that will meet your needs or benefit your company as much as it could. Finding the proper machine for your space requirements, workflow and volume can change the entire dynamic of your day to day operations.
To get where you’re going, you must first know where you come from
To know what is going to be ideal for your specific packaging application you will want to evaluate your current wrapping process and figure out what you are spending across the board. So what are the costs of wrapping your products?
- Labor – The largest expense when stretch wrapping is the labor that goes into it. If you’re wrapping by hand, a stretch wrap machine will drastically cut labor costs, but there are still many factors to consider when purchasing your first stretch wrapper
- Are your employees crouch walking like crabs around your pallets 18 times each for hours on end?
- How long does it take a single employee to wrap a single pallet?
- How many wrapped pallets are going out your door per day?
- If you have a stretch wrapper, how long does it take to complete a wrap sequence?
- Are you constantly having to reapply the film after a break
- Is there a number of employees sort of just standing around at a single machine?
- Are you spending too much time re-configuring the machine to wrap a different product?
- Film – If you don’t know what you’re doing, especially with a cheap machine, you’re likely going to waste money on film. Probably a lot in the grand scheme of things. If you have multiple machines, multiply – you get the drift.
- How many times are your employees going around a pallet to ship a secure load?
- How many revolutions is your machine making?
- Are you even using the right type of stretch wrap film?
- Does your machine have a film carriage with proper pre-stretch capabilities for maximum film efficiency?
- Loss – Product lost during shipment due to insecure loads is another loss factor that can be quite large for some and without knowing what to look for, you may do more damage than good by taking a shot in the dark. While there could be error on behalf of the carrier, consistent damage at the destination is a sign that something is wrong during your wrap process. Wrapping by hand? Wrapping technique and the tenacity of the employee may be at fault. It could just be your product is too heavy or oddly shaped. Using a stretch wrapper? That horizon is much broader.
- Are you getting the proper pre-stretch on your film as it is applied to the pallet?
- Is your machine programmed properly to prioritize wraps to a specific region of a pallet?
- Would your pallets benefit from a banding and or strapping solution?
- Would you benefit from a film knotting solution?
Those are the three main ongoing factors to the cost of stretch wrapping. If you take the time to do the numbers, you will see that a lot of money can be lost if you are not stretch wrapping efficiently. A good machine can drastically reduce and even eliminate much of these costs, which brings us to the cost of the machine itself and upkeep.
Stretch Wrapper Build Quality
When choosing a stretch wrapper, build quality is where biggest margin for loss is. For instance, you may be a small company and not need a machine that that can move 70 pallets an hour with a robust all steel build. You’re more likely to see the cost of a high speed, high quality build machine and wonder why you would need that when you can buy Machine X for less. Which takes us back to what we said earlier – you get what you pay for.
Cheaper machines may be able to meet your daily quotas but over time your investment may take on a new life as a money pit. As parts fail and the machine fails to accommodate your growth – you will keep needing to replace parts and have your machine serviced – and that means down time. Eventually ending with you needing to buy a new machine. You have to ask yourself if spending a little more now is going to benefit your business more than saving a little now.
- Build Material – Machines built with steel construction are going to last longer and accommodate the growth of your company. Plastics beyond buttons and things like that may be a sign of poor build quality.
- Is the machines structure all steel?
- Are the electronic housings plastic?
- What quality are the electrical components?
- Warranty – Manufacturers will offer warranties on their machines and even the parts and components to them. Finding a manufacturer that can guarantee a warranty on its machine and components is going to save you from any headaches in the future. With a well built machine, you will rarely if ever even need to use your warranty, but having it is a lifesaver.
Lastly, when purchasing a stretch wrapper, you have to consider the quality of service offered by the distributor/manufacturer. Do they know what they are doing? Do they have a track record and are you able to see past examples of their work that are similar to what you need? Are their installations clean and professional looking or do they even share that with you?
Service technicians that know what they are doing will help you dial in your machine and help prevent future issues with the machine, saving you time and money, reducing possibility of down days where you’re waiting to get a new machine or get your machine fixed.
Take the time to evaluate your current stretch wrapping situation. It won’t take you long to determine if you’re losing money or not – and when you decide it is time to purchase a new machine, look for a high quality build and a distributor that has a proven track record who is going to offer you a warranty on not just the machine but its components as well.