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Not All Films Are Equal

Not All Films Are Equal

Choosing the right film for your packaging is not as easy as picking a roll off the shelf.  From the outside, most films look the same. It can be difficult to appreciate what sets a high performance film apart from a commodity film (See: Commodity Grade Films vs. High Performance Stretch Film) – and why you’re paying more for that film.

In reality, not all films are equal.

At our Packaging Film Lab, we can quantify for you the value of the film you’re choosing.  We can evaluate the properties of the film, match those properties with the needs of your application, and then test on the TruMotion Transportation Simulator and Braking & Impact Sled.  

We’ll provide you with an inside look at your film, giving you confidence that what you’re choosing is the exact right film for your operation.

How To Navigate the Complexities of Packaging

How To Navigate the Complexities of Packaging

There’s a prevailing myth out there that stretch packaging is a fairly simple process.  So much time, energy, and money has been invested in the primary packaging, the sales, inventory, and logistics, and now you need to get it wrapped up and out the door. 

Shine it and ship it, as they say.

Well, our packaging engineers beg to differ. With their top-to-bottom understanding of the science of stretch wrapping – from the film properties, to the stack pattern, to the machine settings and application – they’ve set out to correct this misconception. And what they’ve learned in the last decade working with our customers – not to mention in the last 2 years working at the Packaging Solution Center – is that when it comes to stretch wrapping, it’s not always all about stretch wrapping!

More than a Band-Aid Solution

We’ve been stretch film people from the beginning. We thought we could solve most of our customers’ unit load issues with stretch film alone. But with the testing we’re doing at the Packaging Solution Center, we’ve learned  that there are a number of different factors that add up to a solution all together.

We’re looking at shrink film and shrink bundling; at stack patterns and pallet quality; and at material and equipment conditions at the customer facility to make sure it’s easy for our customer to implement the packaging solution we came up with.  In addition to performance and load stability, we’re also looking at the impacts of packaging on sustainability and cost (See: The Balancing Act of Cost, Performance & Sustainability).

As our Lead Packaging Engineer, Kyle Pischel, remarked, “If we don’t consider each of those factors carefully, we end up trying to create a band-Aid solution in just one area of the entire unit load.”

So as we continue to test and to learn new insights with each case study, we’ve started to open up to possibilities about the other factors in play that can ultimately hurt or help load stability (See: The Big Picture of Sustainable Packaging).  We’re also continuing to invest in new testing equipment that will help us gather the data we need to analyze those factors.

This approach together with our testing capabilities allows us to look more systematically at how we can improve each component individually as well as the entire unit load as a whole. 

Flipping the Script on Load Stability

Flipping the Script on Load Stability

A practice has developed in stretch wrapping where products are stacked inside the pallet so they’re not flush with the edge.  The intention with this inboard pattern is to protect the product by using the pallet as a barrier while it’s handled on forklifts and moves in and out of racking. 

However, this practice has made it harder to apply the stretch film, specifically around the bottom of the load.  And the stretch film – when it’s applied properly – is ultimately what will protect the products from damage.

So this is where we’re flipping the script.  We want to stress the importance of creating an environment where you can successfully apply stretch film at appropriate tensions to protect the load.  The practice of inboarding, while intended to protect the product, is actually leading to load failure and load instability.

Let’s start the conversation early.  We’re here to help you protect your product and protect your brand. To do that, we have to eliminate load damage and load failure.  And that process begins long before stretch film is ever applied.  We need to consider primary package design, stack patterns, product variety, sustainability goals and other factors in determining the best way to protect your product.

Come visit us at the Packaging Solution Center to learn more about the strategies we use to make sure you have successfully wrapped loads time after time.

The Managed System Approach

The Managed System Approach

When we launched the MUST monitoring hardware and software system in 2008, we recognized the need to keep track of performance over time so we would know how and when to troubleshoot any issues. Machines naturally degrade over time, operators change, film rolls may vary in quality and consistency.

Tracking the metrics of ounces of film applied, number of revolutions per applications, and number of loads wrapped allowed us to see when the wrapper was performing outside of the spec we had established during the initial audit and optimization.

But just knowing the problem wasn’t enough to help us solve the problem.

Since that time, we’ve been able to use the data collected to evolve our MUST system and further develop our approach to stretch wrapping.

One of our biggest takeaways from all we’ve learned is the confirmation that stretch packaging is complex and to do it right requires a managed system approach.

As partners in your packaging, we can’t just come in and install the MUST hardware, change your film, or make a tweak to your machine and expect to maintain performance standards. To be truly effective — and by effective, we mean cost-saving, efficient, and sustainable (See: The Balancing Act of Cost, Performance & Sustainability) — we have to understand your process, get to know your people, understand your goals, be familiar with your facility, know your equipment and capabilities. Only then can we start to design a stretch wrapping solution that will work for you.

Based on this, we’ve honed our approach to start from the ground up. It’s called the MUST Method and it looks like this:

Audit –> Test –> Optimize –> Monitor

The audit is where we come to you and learn all we can about your current process, equipment, material, and your goals with stretch wrapping. Does it just have to get from point A to point B undamaged? Does it need to look presentable for the end user? Will your loads be stored outside, in a hot warehouse, or in cold storage? What are the problems we’re trying to solve?

We take the information gathered from this audit back to our Packaging Solution Center for testing and verification. To learn more about this process from start to finish, see our 2 min. video on the Fit2Ship Testing Process. This is where and how we design the solution that will work for you.

Once we have your solution, we take it back to your facility and optimize to make it work for you there, on your own equipment, and with your own operators. It’s one thing to make it work consistently in the lab environment, but it has to work for you in your plant.

And if MUST Monitoring is part of your contract, we install the hardware on your equipment to monitor its performance over time. You get access to the MUST software so you can know exactly how it’s performing. Even better, our engineers and technicians with 15 – 20 years of experience in the field will know how it’s performing and will respond when action needs to be taken to correct or improve when it gets out of spec.

This managed system approach has revolutionized the way we gain visibility into the whole process, glean insights, and get cost-saving, efficient, and sustainable results for you.

We invite you to visit the Packaging Solution Center in Charlotte to learn more about how we can help.

The Big Picture of Sustainable Packaging

The Big Picture of Sustainable Packaging

Achieving sustainability is not as easy as following a straightforward formula. We talked in an earlier post about the balancing act of cost, performance, and sustainability and how striking that balance is tricky yet attainable. 

Success in sustainability is similar. 

While we can certainly take steps such as using a reduced amount of higher performance stretch film (See: How To Use Less Stretch Film for Better Sustainability), we’ll find more success in achieving your goals when we move beyond isolating one single factor at a time.

In the video above, we discuss the value of evaluating your whole packaging system rather than isolating single factors like your stretch film or your shrink bundling film. If we can look at the big picture – from your actual product packaging to the way it’s unitized and everything in between – we have the opportunity to find more creative solutions that can yield significant sustainability gains.

If you haven’t been to the Packaging Solution Center in Charlotte, we invite you to come take a tour and see how our scientific approach to end-of-packaging can benefit your operation.

Why We Can’t Just Set It and Forget It

Why We Can’t Just Set It and Forget It

An ideal scenario with your end-of-line packaging operation would be to find a solution that works and stick to it.  And by “works” you need equipment that doesn’t fail and materials that can protect your product.  And all at the lowest possible cost.

Over ten years ago, we adopted a scientific approach to stretch wrapping to help our customers achieve this ideal scenario.  We brought in advanced packaging engineers with a focus on stretch wrapping application and scientists with a focus on resins and films.  We started Stretch University to bring our customers in and to help educate them on this approach. And we launched the MUST Monitoring hardware and software system to get real-world data on every load wrapped on the monitored stretch wrappers.

Then, in 2017, we brought all of this together and invested in a critical piece of the approach – the testing that could help us verify our solutions. With the TruMotion Transportation Simulator and Braking & Impact Sled we installed at the Packaging Solution Center, we’ve been able to pinpoint problems, test our approach, and verify solutions that provide successful load containment for our customers.

But with all the data we’ve collected over the years, and all the facilities we’ve visited, and all the customers we’ve worked so closely with, we’ve also learned that these solutions aren’t a permanent fix.  There’s no “set it and forget it” button we can press.

Products evolve and change. Packaging components change. Stretch wrappers get worn down.  New operators are hired.  Summer heat settles in at the warehouse.  So may factors affect your stretch wrapping operation.  

The truth is, stretch wrapping is a complex system that requires a complex solution. And that solution has to shift and evolve as the environment changes, or people change, or materials change.

The best way we can approach this ever-evolving scenario is to be there for you over time.  And we do this through our MUST Monitoring, engineering analysis on that monitoring data, on-site audits, and with our field technicians.  

There is no easy fix, no single solution.  However, with the right approach, the right tools, and the right people looking out for you, you can have a successful stretch wrapping operation that protects your products and your brand over the long term.

If you have questions about your stretch wrapping operation, or want to learn more about our testing and programs, reach out to us today to schedule a visit to the Packaging Solution Center and see how we can help.