As manufacturers look to reduce costs and improve the sustainability of their operations, they target their packaging operations to see where they can make changes. This applies to primary product packaging like pouches, cartons, and bottles as well as secondary packaging like stretch wrapping, shrink bundling, and strapping.
Early in this process industry-wide, manufacturers looked for opportunities to downgauge and move to thinner films. A lesser gauge meant less material cost and ultimately less waste once the packaging was used and done.
They found an opportunity for downgauging with stretch film and stretch wrapping. At Atlantic, we could help our customers achieve this by optimizing the stretch wrapping equipment and ensuring that the thinner film had the proper prestretch properties and was applied with the correct tension and wrap patterns to make it work.
And by “work,” we mean that the stretch wrapping with thinner film contained the load without allowing the products to shift or the film to puncture or break. Because the very purpose of stretch wrapping is to provide load containment and protect the products in the load, this was the ultimate goal as we moved to thinner films.
Fast forward a few years and what we’re seeing now is that the stretch wrapper maintenance and the ability to maintain the optimization set at the start of the downgauging is beginning to fall off. Customers who saw great success at the time of the change are now starting to see more failures and more issues arise.
That’s because this is not a “set it and forget it” kind of operation.
Maintaining the level of optimization and the complete solution that we’re providing through the testing and work at our Packaging Solution Center takes time, attention, and collaboration.
Once you achieve the goals of downgauging and reducing costs, you have to dedicate resources to continuing that improvement. And this won’t happen overnight. Equipment and parts deteriorate. Operators may come and go. And there are a lot of people who interact with the stretch wrappers who have the freedom to make adjustments to the equipment.
You need a plan to educate and train the workforce as well as a strategy for identifying any changes or developments that might negatively affect the performance. You also need proper preventative maintenance and tools for getting back on track if performance does slip over time.
So, is downgauging the answer to cutting costs and improving sustainability?
What we’ve shown here is that it’s part of the answer. The complete solution is complex, ongoing, and collaborative. To really achieve your goals, you need a long term commitment from different parts of your organization, including operators, management, and procurement. And you need a packaging partner equally as committed to your success.