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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.

How to Adjust Packaging to Avoid Load Damage

How to Adjust Packaging to Avoid Load Damage

Sometimes change comes from within.  And sometimes, it’s handed down from the top. 

When an executive decision is made to change the formula in end-of-line packaging, there are usually sound business and sustainability goals at the heart of it. Removing packaging components, reducing packaging materials, or switching to a new component or material may help save money or take effective steps toward sustainability (See: The Balancing Act of Cost, Performance & Sustainability), but they also may wreak havoc on a packaging system that’s been working nicely for years.  

When you enact these changes, especially if you haven’t had enough time to test your new packaging configuration, you may find that you suddenly have products damaged during shipping and returned orders when you never had that before.

This is one of the challenges we see from customers at the Packaging Solution Center. Fortunately, we can work with them to analyze their packaging conditions (equipment, materials, and process) and test their new configuration to find and verify a solution that works.  (See: Fit2Ship Testing Process Video).

To learn more about this testing, please schedule a visit to the Packaging Solution Center today.

The Balancing Act of Cost, Performance & Sustainability

The Balancing Act of Cost, Performance & Sustainability

There are many factors that go into the science of load containment and load stability. But among some of the most important factors we have to consider are those just outside of the scientific or engineering equation.  These are the business factors of cost, performance, and sustainability.

At the Solution Center, we meet with customers in procurement who are super focused on cost.  We meet with engineers and operators whose priority is to make sure their products get from one facility to the next without damage.  And we meet with executives who are focused on meeting the goals of their Sustainability Program.

Our challenge is to balance each of these aspects – cost, performance, and sustainability – in a way that successfully meets all of these important business goals.

The Balancing Act of Cost, Performance, and Sustainability

Cost

We’ve had times where customers came to us wanting to put their stretch film out to bid in an effort to purchase the least expensive material they can get.  Often the cheapest film is thinner and lower quality in terms of the consistency of the film ( See: Commodity Grade Films vs. High Performance Stretch Film). Down gauging based on cost only can easily lead to load failure, increased cost because you try to use more film on every load, and unnecessary waste because of over-applied film and product damage.

A positive trend we’re seeing is that procurement and purchasing arms of companies are more aware of how stretch film will affect the manufacturing process, load stability, and product protection. They’re more concerned about the quality of the stretch film given the important role it plays in these areas.  So there’s more internal collaboration between procurement and engineering to choose the best stretch film at the lowest cost.

Performance

We discussed in earlier articles how important it is to choose the right stretch film and to figure out the right application in order to protect your products during transit from facility to facility (See: Unpacking the Problem of Unit Load Damage).  Engineers and operators who are hands-on with the stretch wrapping process are focused on load containment and load stability to ensure the products arrive on-time and intact.  This successful performance eliminates re-working of orders, unnecessary waste, and dings on productivity and efficiency in their operation.

If they’re working with the cheapest possible film, they’re not going to get the capability in the material that they need to achieve this performance. So we need to balance the needs of cost with performance. Fortunately, as mentioned above, we are seeing more collaboration happening between engineering, operations, and purchasing. Our goal is to expand on that collaboration and bring all parties together for programs like our Stretch University and for testing in our Packaging Solution Center.  This would bring everyone on board and deliver the best possible solution at the best possible cost and will ultimately benefit their company overall.

Sustainability

We’ve been talking a lot about sustainability in this Packaging Insights series because so many customers come to us with the goal of improving sustainability. Packaging is one area where they see a lot of potential for making improvements.  And the great news is that, with our testing capabilities, we can often find proven solutions that require less packaging material while still protecting the products, thereby eliminating damage and unnecessary waste. 

Many executives or marketing personnel are the guardians of their Sustainability Program. They’re monitoring how it’s carried out, how they are meeting goals, and how successful the program is overall. This is a critical business goal and, fortunately, we can often make improvements while still balancing the other goals of cost and performance.

The Balance

From our position working with all these teams and helping to find the path between cost, performance, and sustainability, we understand that these are not easy conversations to have. In some cases, they may question the very nature of how you operate. Seemingly different or even opposing priorities are at play. 

But what we can do at the Solution Center is prove that when we’re wrapping a load, we can do it cost efficiently while demonstrating that the dynamics of how well the load will survive the supply chain environment is also being covered.  These are not opposing issues.  We can find a balance where all parties will be working toward their goals. 

We’ve found that common education on these dynamics as well as involvement by all parties in the testing process itself can help everyone to get on the same page and work together to achieve their goals. 

If you’re trying to find the balance between cost, performance, and sustainability, reach out to us today to schedule a visit to the Packaging Solution Center and see how we can help.

Commodity Grade Films vs. High Performance Stretch Film

Commodity Grade Films vs. High Performance Stretch Film

When presented with choices about which type of stretch film to use in your packaging operation, you might think “Why should I pay more for a high performance film?  What’s the difference between this one and the lower-priced competitors?”

Based on our experience with a variety of applications over many years, we’ve come to understand that high performance films can accommodate a greater level of prestretch and still maintain optimal performance.  The result is that you use less film for the same application and, over time, you lower your costs and improve your sustainability (see How to use Less Stretch Film for Better Sustainability).

Now, with the Film Lab and testing equipment we have at the Packaging Solution Center, we’ve not only been able to prove out this theory, but we’ve also discovered some of the underlying reasons why high performance films outshine commodity films.

Our Film Lab specialists, John Cook and Jake Wyns, use the ESTL Film Performance Tester (FPT) to profile and pinpoint film properties and discern the differences in tear resistance between high performance and commodity grade films. They’re able to see how trends vary across film manufacturers at each of the different gauges and how films react at different tension settings.

They’ve found that consistency varies from lot to lot with commodity grade films because of the variety of resins used in manufacturing the film.  This results in inconsistent quality with the film and a broader range of puncture and tear resistance. 

In high performance films, however, the consistency falls within a smaller range because manufacturers are using specific types of resin to get specific film properties. This results in more consistent quality throughout the film and a higher chance of getting consistent output with your stretch wrapping.

So if you optimize and monitor your stretch wrapping using high performance films, you’re more likely to avoid product damage using the optimal amount of film time after time.  This is how you’ll realize the best cost savings and product protection over the long haul.

Learn more by scheduling a tour of our Packaging Solution Center in Charlotte, NC.