Oftentimes, customers evaluate the purchase of stretch film based on the cost of the roll. But in reality, the main driver of stretch film costs is actually the cost of wrapping the pallet instead. If you have not evaluated the stretch wrapping process in your warehouse, your company could be missing out potential savings.
To identify those potential areas for cost savings, you first need to consider:
- Common misconceptions about stretch film
- Types of stretch film
- Matching the stretch film to the application
- Optimal times for switching to automation with stretch film equipment
This article addresses all of these factors and highlights two case studies where Landsberg Orora offered solutions to reduce stretch film costs for two of its customers.
Common Misconceptions about Stretch Film
Despite the variety of gauges, lengths and styles of stretch film available, customers often use the same stretch film for multiple applications or a less effective stretch film for a single application. This is in part due to the following common misconceptions about stretch film:
|Misconception||The Reality is…|
|The higher the gauge, the stronger the film and fewer revolutions required||Advanced resins and multi-layer technology in lower gauge films can actually deliver greater strength, comparable performance and do not require more revolutions compared to conventional films. This leads to greater yield from the roll and lower overall costs.|
|The more revolutions of film on the pallet, the greater the tension and load security||Wrapping a pallet with too many unnecessary revolutions can actually lead to wasted film and paying for more film than you need.|
|One film fits all applications||Certain stretch films are better than others for certain applications. Choosing the right film for the right application reduces waste, overall costs and overwrapping.|
|The greater the stretch, the better the film||The stretch capability of the film does not determine how well it will contain the load. In fact, too much stretch (if not properly oriented) can diminish effective palletization.|
Types of Stretch Film
There are generally two types of stretch film, blown and cast. Blown films use older, inefficient technology and tend to be louder when applied. Cast film technology, on the other hand, produces stretch film with more uniform thickness for better load containment and performance. As a result, the industry has moved almost exclusively to cast stretch films. But there are a variety of cast films to choose from as well:
Standard Stretch Film
It is the most common in the market and has an application for almost every load. Its multi-layer technology provides greater strength over basic economy films and has a quiet release when wrapped (unlike blown stretch films).
Engineered film has at least twice as many film layers as standard films, which increases the strength of the film so you can use a lower gauge. This feature is similar to how layers in plywood increase its strength so you do not have to use more wood. Engineered film is also created using a blend of high grade poly resins for superior performance. As a result, engineered films cling to loads tightly and are puncture and tear-resistant. These features enable users to switch to lower gauge films to reduce costs without sacrificing performance.
This film is even thinner and lighter than engineered films. But, it is fast wrapping, requires 10-15 times less pull for optimal torque and provides greater coverage of the pallet. Pre-stretch also provides excellent containment pressure and superior cling to reduce unraveling and tension. It is also easier to handle and more ergonomically friendly to apply, which reduces worker injuries.
Most importantly, unlike conventional stretch films, pre-stretch is nick-resistant and extremely durable. About 25% of a conventional roll of stretch film is wasted because it becomes damaged. But you can bounce pre-stretch film on the ground and it won’t incur damage. Therefore, companies usually experience excellent costs savings as a result of the greater efficiency.
Hand vs. Machine Wrapping
Standard and engineered films are available for both hand and machine applications, so you need to consider your wrapping process before selecting a film. But pre-stretch film is a hand film only, so you should evaluate it as an option if you are using a manual wrapping process in your warehouse.
Matching the Stretch Film to the Application
As you begin to consider new stretch films, it is critical that you consider your application first. As previously stated, there is not one stretch film that is perfect for every application. To find the right stretch film, you need to consider:
- The shape and weight of your load
- The speed and efficiency of your current process
- How much force is required to retain the load
- Your current volumes
- Material, labor and time costs
Load type is perhaps the most important factor for choosing the right stretch film for your application. As you can see from the images below, there are 3 main load types that shipments are usually configured in:
- A: Uniform with clean edges
- B: Irregular load with uneven edges
- C: No conformity with sharp edges
The shape of your load will help determine the type of film you need and the gauge required to contain the load efficiently.
The weight of the pallet load is another important consideration. Light loads are usually 1,000 pounds or less, medium loads are 1,000-2,000 pounds and heavy loads are 2,000 pounds or more. The chart below details the optimal gauges of stretch film to consider according to performance for various pallet weights.
Speed and efficiency
When evaluating stretch film to improve speed and efficiency, look around your warehouse to see where your current wrapping stations are, the throughput you require and the workers currently supporting your operations.
Load Containment and Protection
Then consider what is being shipped, how it is being shipped and how much force is required to ship the pallets without damage to determine what stretch film you will need for optimal load containment.
Volume and Cost
Next, consider how many pallets you ship per day, per week and per month. What material, time and labor costs are you currently incurring with those volumes? Once you have this data, you can compare films to find the most efficient solution.
This Lantech stretch wrapper is an example of a rotary stretch wrapper.
Optimal Times for Switching to Automation with Stretch Film Equipment
If you wrap more than 25 pallets per day, automating your stretch wrapping process could provide a substantial cost savings for your company. There is a variety of stretch film machines available, namely rotary stretch wrappers and orbital stretch wrappers.
There is also a variety of sizes and features for each model, including but not limited to automatic or semi-automatic machines with arms or turntables. You can check out examples of rotary stretch wrappers from our partners at Lantech and Wulftec as well as an orbital stretch wrapper like the Tab Wrapper Tornado from Tab Industries.
The Tab Wrapper Tornado is an example of an orbital stretch wrapper.
#1: Hand vs. Automated
The Customer’s Existing Process
One of Landsberg Orora’s customers was using a traditional 18” 80 gauge stretch film to wrap 200 pallets a day by hand. Landsberg Orora analyzed the performance of the 80 gauge film, the material and labor costs associated with that film and offered two options to replace the 80 gauge stretch film.
Option 1: Pre-Stretch Film
Though the customer would have to purchase more rolls of pre-stretch film, the cost per roll was significantly less than the cost of a standard roll of film. Moreover, it took less time to wrap the pallet, which increased the productivity of the labor force and ultimately led to a total annual savings of 27%.
Option 2: Automation and machine grade engineered film
Automating the stretch wrapping process and switching to a machine film was the second option Landsberg Orora presented. Though sold by the roll (thereby making the solution appear more expensive), the customer received 7 times the length of a hand film roll as well as a greater width. The yield per roll wrapped 4 times more pallets than the hand film, so the customer saved money by purchasing fewer rolls overall. The time to wrap the pallet decreased to 45 seconds, which led to significant labor cost savings as well. Overall, this solution generated a total annual savings of 60% and the customer received a return on investment for the machine in less than 2 months.
#2: High Material and Labor Costs
The Customer’s Existing Process
This customer was using a 33 gauge hand film to wrap 125,000 pallet loads a year. The warehouse workers would wrap each load with 20 revolutions of film (the equivalent of walking 17 miles a day) and the company had an extremely high cost per load of $1.08.
Landsberg Orora’s Solution
Landsberg Orora recommended that the customer transition to installing an automatic stretch wrap machine that used a 7,500’ roll of 55 gauge film. After comparing material costs between the two films as well as the labor costs and a number of other factors, Landsberg Orora’s solution lowered the customer’s cost per load from $1.08 to $0.45. This resulted in a 60% cost per load savings for a total load savings of $62,000 per year.