Select Page
How Stack Patterns Affect Unit Load Stability

How Stack Patterns Affect Unit Load Stability

While pallets used in shipping and warehousing have become standardized in terms of size and structure, the products and packages stacked on top of them are ever-changing.  

In an ideal unit load, the products stacked on the pallet come to the very edges of the pallet and form a stable, symmetrical unit protected and bound with stretch wrap. 

In real life, however, we may be dealing with a variety of products stacked together. This variety may not present a uniform stack pattern and may result in inboard conditions where the products don’t come to the edge, or overhang on the pallet.  Or we have a product that once formed a stable unit load but now has a newly designed package and the cases don’t fit on the pallet the same way.

This kind of change and variety affects the stack pattern of the load –  how the products are arranged together – and the load may go from something that was stable and protected during transit to something that is inherently less stable and is at risk of damage during transit.

In the testing we’ve done at the Packaging Solution Center, we’ve found that the stack pattern is a critical factor in unit load stability.

Because the surface area of the standard pallet is a known factor, the size, shape, and arrangement of the cases can – and should – be considered during the package design process.  In the design phase, you can decide how many cases you can put per layer or determine if you’re looking at overhang or inboard conditions.  The decisions made at this stage will affect the success in getting your products shipped out to your customers at your target cost and without damage (see: The Load Damage Domino Effect).

To get this conversation started now, schedule a visit to the Packaging Solution Center.

Top 3 Reasons Package Testing Should be Part of Your Process

Top 3 Reasons Package Testing Should be Part of Your Process

Since we introduced the TruMotion testing equipment at the Packaging Solution Center, we’ve had customers from a wide range of industries come in to test with us, many with different reasons for why they needed testing.

CURRENT PACKAGING FAILS

Some customers are having issues with the current state of their packaging. They want to resolve those issues and fix the problems they’re facing, whether that’s load damage, rejection of loads due to leaning, safety issues, or brand perception issues.

Without the level of data collection and lab testing available before we brought TruMotion Load Containment Testing to Charlotte, these customers weren’t able to successfully zero in on the root cause of their issues and have been dealing with load damage and failure simply as a course of doing business.

After working with the team at Atlantic and employing the unit load testing available with the TruMotion Multi-Axis Transportation Simulator and the Braking & Impact Test Sled, customers were able to pinpoint the cause of the issues they’d been having, fix the problems by coming up with proper stretch wrap application, and eliminate future load damage and failure.

Problems they thought were inevitable turned out to be preventable.  Our ability to correct current packaging fails is one of the primary reasons that customers come to see us at the Packaging Solution Center.

CHANGES IN PACKAGING

We also have some customers use TruMotion testing because they are making a change to their product and are predicting that they’ll need to adjust or change their packaging to properly protect their new unit loads.

They may be changing bottle size, transitioning to a pouch or carton, or maybe introducing a new product altogether. These customers are trying to get ahead of the game and do the transit testing before they put product into the marketplace.

We embrace the challenge of starting from scratch to find the right stretch wrap application that will work for these changes. There are a lot of factors to consider, including stack patterns, wrap patterns, type of film being used, and equipment settings.  We can devise a new packaging strategy from start to finish right here in the Solution Center.

REDUCTIONS IN PACKAGING

Another reason our customers come to us for TruMotion Testing is to find out how they can achieve reduction in packaging while still maintaining unit load integrity. The product and the primary package may be staying the same, but there is a desire to reduce the cost of that total package as well as the packaging footprint. That can mean eliminating cornerboard, strapping, trays, or slip sheets.

The TruMotion testing equipment allows us to test the reduced packaging system in a controlled lab environment.  With the results from initial trials and tests, we can then refine, and test again until we verify that the packaging will perform as needed. 

Using this system, we’ve had success in reducing the amount of packaging while continuing to deliver unit loads intact and without damage.

Fit2Ship

The team of engineers and technicians we have here at Atlantic along with the TruMotion equipment and the tests that we have in place all help to validate the solutions proposed for each of the packaging scenarios we’ve described here.

If you find yourself with packaging that’s failing, a new product coming down the line, or a challenge to improve the sustainability impact at your company, contact us to schedule a visit to the Packaging Solution Center and see the TruMotion Testing equipment in action.

Eagle Award for Packaging Solution Center Building Project

Eagle Award for Packaging Solution Center Building Project

In August 2017, Atlantic celebrated the Grand Opening of the Packaging Solution Center in Charlotte. This event marked an incredible feat of dedication to the outcome along with pure hard work. We measured success both in the scope of the testing and equipment we were introducing to the marketplace, and also in the actual building and completion of the facility.

The building process involved intensive planning, demolition, building, and installation of interior structure, finishes, and the testing and packaging equipment, all completed in a fast-track and condensed 4 month schedule.

Our building partner on the Packaging Solution Center, Choate Interior Construction Company, submitted the project to the American Builders and Contractors for the Carolinas and it was granted the Eagle Award for the Top Interior Project $5-$10M by that association.

To reach our goal of offering the most advanced packaging testing facility outside the academic field – and having a sophisticated building to match – we opted to have the existing lobby and exterior walls completely demolished and to start fresh with flat, level floors, a whole new structure, and a beautiful and welcoming front entrance.

We also had significant technical requirements for housing the TruMotion Transportation Simulator, a vibration rig installed several feet beneath the main floor and rising several feet above to test and refine load containment integrity.

Choate came through on all fronts, from reconstruction planning and scheduling, to handling a two month delay on an already tight timeline, to managing quality control and safety, and, ultimately, coming through to closeout the project with great success.

Since its opening, the Packaging Solution Center has served an important service for our customers and partners in the packaging industry. With our ability to simulate real-world transportation conditions in a lab environment with the TruMotion equipment, we help our customers optimize their load integrity to eliminate break, damage, and loss in transit.

Our full approach to stretch wrapping is our patented MUST Method and includes four critical components: audit, test, optimize, and monitor load integrity over the long term. With all of these pieces in place, our customers are confident that their loads are Fit2Ship, each and every time.

Making Strides with Pallets, Productivity, and Packaging Standards

Making Strides with Pallets, Productivity, and Packaging Standards

Atlantic was privileged to host the GMA Supply Chain Committee Meeting at our Packaging Solution Center in Charlotte, NC.

This group is made up of food industry professionals on the manufacturer and retailer side, as well as the packaging and platform side, with a focus on distribution. All parties are members of the GMA (Grocery Manufacturer’s Association) and are committed to improvement and progress in packaging and distribution.

The Supply Chain Committee is tasked with some tough but important goals:

  • Identifying the challenges faced at every step along the distribution chain
  • Discussing and brainstorming ideas that could help
  • Proposing solutions that would ease these challenges on all sides

This particular meeting was coordinated by Atlantic Packaging & CHEP, the global leader in pooling and supply chain management solutions.

The primary focus of the meeting was how to optimize unit loads, which then created discussions around variations and inconsistencies in pallet stacking, what’s causing them, how it impacts distribution centers (especially high velocity operations), and what manufacturers and retailers can do about it.

Barriers to Optimizing Unit Load

It seems straightforward. Stack it, wrap it, ship it. But there are a ton of factors contributing to optimizing a unit load. And because perfection is so elusive, we find ourselves facing a multitude of barriers when trying to palletize our products and move them through the supply chain in an effective, efficient manner.

What are these barriers?  A few of these include the variety of products being packed, changes in primary product design and packaging, and changes in secondary packaging to meet sustainability goals.  Any of these factors can cause overhang or underhang on the pallets and affect the integrity of the load as it moves through the supply chain as well as efficiency and productivity in distribution centers.

Another challenge is that manufacturers on the shipping side and retailers on the receiving side often have different needs and objectives when it comes to how a unit load is built. And then these needs can vary with every vendor and every end user customer.  A lack of clear standards industry-wide is one of the biggest barriers we face.  And defining these standards is one of the objectives of the GMA Supply Chain Committee.

Standards also come into play when stretch wrapping these pallets for shipment.  This stage of packaging is often the last line of defense for protecting the products, preventing damage, and promoting safety. But the lack of understanding of the science of stretch wrapping and all the factors that contribute to wrapping a successful load leads to inconsistency with almost every pallet shipped.  And that leads to increased damage, unsaleables, out-of-stock items, and safety risks.

Defining standards in stretch wrapping for the food and beverage industry is also something that the GMA Supply Chain Committee is tackling.

What Did We Learn?

The Solution Center proved to be a worthy environment for this meeting, as members had the chance to learn firsthand the intricacies of stretch wrapping for pallets.  With Atlantic’s Stretch University session and demonstrations of our TruMotion testing equipment, we learned that it matters how much film is pre-stretched, how the tension it set, and how the products are stacked, wrapped, and secured to the pallet.  We also learned that, even with the optimal stretch wrapping applied, it also matters how we monitor the machines to maintain that optimal application over time.

With sustainability initiatives cutting down on secondary (and even primary) packaging, stretch wrapping can play a critical role in making sure the products arrive at the shelves intact and undamaged.

Damaged product is a big problem for retailers. When they have to reject a pallet of products due to product damage, it affects the efficiency of their distribution centers and their in-stock, on-shelf supply.

It’s also a problem for manufacturers who are faced with costly returns, re-works and pallets of unsaleable goods.

Other critical factors that affect both manufacturers and retailers are stack patterns on a pallet, labeling applications, and over-packaging.  With outdated and non-enforceable Industry Standard Guidelines, inconsistencies abound in all these areas, causing inefficiencies in both manual and automated distribution centers.

When we can solve the problem of damage and inconsistencies, unsaleables go way down and sales go way up.

Communication is Key

Through in-depth discussions and input from all sides at the GMA Supply Chain Committee Meeting, it was clear that productive communication is the key that could help to address the cause of most inefficiencies.  This applies to all parties involved in product development and distribution – from sales and marketing, to R&D, package design, packaging, logistics, receiving, and distribution.

With a clearer understanding of how each decision affects every step of the supply chain, we can develop better industry-wide standardized processes and best practices that work for everyone up and down the chain.

Developing these guidelines is a goal of the GMA Supply Chain Committee and they are making steady progress in the right direction.

What to Do Next

Part of the objective of this committee meeting in March was to prepare for a break out session at the TPA Supply Chain Conference in Orlando on Tuesday, April 17th from 1-2:45pm.

The session is titled: Best Practices for Building, Handling & Transporting Unit Loads. We strongly encourage everyone to attend this meeting to gain context and to provide input on unit load optimization, particularly for highly automated operations.

Conversations with Customers – How Expertise, Urgency and Inventory Can Save the Day

Conversations with Customers – How Expertise, Urgency and Inventory Can Save the Day

In the last several months, we’ve directed a lot of attention to Atlantic’s headline investment of 2017 — the Packaging Solution Center. There’s a lot to be excited about with new opportunities for package testing and process automation, in a space that’s the first of its kind.

In light of all that’s new, we’re maintaining perspective into all avenues of our business by talking with our customers to learn what they value the most in their vendor relationships and what kind of opportunities they envision with the Solution Center as an added resource.

Pete Artemenko from Atlantic’s marketing team recently sat down with Mark Gossage, a customer with Stanley Black & Decker, who has worked closely with Atlantic sales rep. TJ Little for the last three years.

We spoke with our customer, Mark Gossage, about challenges he faces and the services that bring the most value to his operations.

Mark told Pete that he finds value not only in opportunities the Packaging Solution Center can provide, like reducing risk and material cost, but also in other investments Atlantic makes to ensure process efficiency, technical support, and customer service. 

These investments may not be as headline-worthy as the Packaging Solution Center, but for Mark, they’ve been just as valuable.

They’re part of Atlantic’s continuous commitment to investment, not only in research and development, but in the entire customer experience.

Interview with Mark Gossage

Pete Artemenko with Atlantic Packaging (PA): You’ve been at Stanley Black & Decker for about five years. You’ve been partnering with Atlantic and with TJ Little on some of your projects. Tell me a little bit about these projects.

Mark Gossage (MG): Back in 2013, when I was in the Stanley Leadership Program at Greenfield, we used to wrap with strapping and corner boards and our cost was about five dollars a pallet. By optimizing production through the use of Wulftec gears and partnering up with Atlantic, we dropped the cost down to about sixty-eight cents. So, with the amount of volume we did in the plant at that time, it was about $150,000 worth of savings for Stanley Black & Decker.

We did a similar project at our plant in Maryland and were able to cut our stretch film usage in half. We now only have purchase film once per year!

Stretch Wrapping at Stanley Black and Decker

PA: How did you achieve 50% less usage?

MG: We used the Atlantic yellow high-performance film, and then we optimized the wrappers. This allowed us to use less ounces of film per pallet. We also did the same thing in our plant right outside of Montreal. The first wrapper we added was so successful, we actually added a second in that facility. We’ve also got conveyors with Atlantic.

Recently, we did a Kaizen event at our plant in Shelbyville, Kentucky.

PA: When you say Kaizen, what does that mean?

MG: It’s a lean, focused event. It comes from the Japanese word for continuous improvement— looking at a process, and how to improve it.

We teamed up with Atlantic because we knew there were many costs on the packaging material side, and there was also automation where we could pick different components to improve packaging and transport.

We broke into two different groups, one focused on getting savings from materials, and one on the equipment side that was focused on how to acquire and improve automation. Because Atlantic can actually do both, I think that was the first time a company partnered with us on both sides.

Partnering on Materials AND Equipment

PA: Stanley Black & Decker represents a huge amount of volume, where one small change in optimizing efficiency represents huge cost savings. How does that get you excited about new partnerships and opportunities to create new cost savings?

MG: We have multiple plants around the United States.. We’re constantly growing — just like Atlantic.

Partnering with someone like Atlantic, it’s a little different than companies we’ve worked with in the past. Usually we partner with a materials company and a separate automation company. If something goes wrong with a label or a bag, they always point fingers at the other company. With Atlantic, you can do labels and equipment. So if something doesn’t print, or it doesn’t fit, or something else is wrong, there’s no one to point fingers at. It’s a one-stop shop. That aligns with a lot of our plants, where we’re becoming a more vertically integrated one-stop shop that focuses around efficiency.

Delivering Automation and Integration

PA: The best place for us to be at Atlantic is to be in a seat where we are accountable to the customers for their most critical applications. We want to be there because that’s where the most opportunity is, but also, we want to be in the fight with the customer. We want to be in this together.

MG: And it adds more value. Because instead of the customer feeling like we’re all alone, we’re actually in it with someone else next to us helping us solve the issues. It’s something that Atlantic can offer that some other companies can’t. The major difference is in being able to provide the equipment and the material. Other companies can’t do that.

PA: What are the pieces that come together for you on the Atlantic side that are valuable to you as a customer of Atlantic? Is there a specific project you have in mind?

There were two instances. With our Automatic Autobagger, we had Don Stewart, Mike Christie, Chip Bennett, and Nick Ott from Atlantic working on this. We had a hard deadline to have it up and running and these guys literally flew out there to fix the machine. All the Atlantic experts were there to make sure it was working.

Don Stewart, Atlantic’s Labeling Expert

We came in with the Factory Acceptance Test and there were issues that we found that had to be fixed. In a short timeframe, Atlantic disassembled, shipped, and reassembled the machine to have it fully operational..

The other instance was a Kaizen event. We had Eric Farmer and TJ Little from sales doing the material side. We had Chip Bennett, and we had Nick Ott on the equipment side. And we had transportation, where Atlantic actually created a warehouse next to our facility to do vendor-managed inventory only two miles away from our plant.

So instead of having to store all the extra labels and take storage spaces out of our plant, or having to wait for shipping all the way from Charlotte or Wilmington, the labels could be stored right down the street. It was vendor-managed inventory, so we would pay for it right when it hit our dock. It was very efficient and very beneficial for us.

Offering a robust inventory management program

PA: It’s really interesting talking to you about it to hear the customer side. One of the things we hear from leadership of the company is that we listen to the customer, we learn from the customer, and we invest in the customer. I see that in the just-in-time delivery, and like you said, that’s a huge deal.

MG: It is. It’s a great partnership and alignment. It allows our plants to use that square footage to keep growing, and as we keep growing, we keep buying more labels. So in the long run, there’s more room for building a bigger relationship with Atlantic as well.

PA: When you walk into the Packaging Solution Center, how does it make you feel as a customer of Atlantic? What are you excited about seeing?

Engineers operating the TruMotion Transportation Simulator

MG: It will be very beneficial to have our products running on some of this equipment, and to see how some of those proposals that Chip and Nick make will actually work. Because there’s always a bit of a risk on our side, on the customer’s side, of how successful we think a change is going to be, how likely we are to get payback or savings, and what the rate is going to be. This will help us minimize risk on our end.

PA: Normally you have concept and proposal, to factory acceptance test. It’s not a big risk, but there’s nothing in between. This provides something in between.

MG: There’s normally a couple of months in between, so we base off a video, or a YouTube clip we get sent that shows what the machine is doing. Or it’s a complete concept. Like that Autobagger machine, there were a lot of moving pieces. It wasn’t an off the shelf item. There were a lot of custom pieces because we were retrofitting it to an existing piece of equipment. Since the heights were different, it made it sort of a custom job.

Well, that was a little bit harder to envision. It took a lot conference calls to be able to do those things. It’s one thing to kind of read about it, but then you have to hear about it and picture it in your head, so it’s a longer project.

So if we’re able to test at the Packaging Solution Center, it will be a lot easier to envision what we need it to do. That will turn around and help us complete the idea and move forward.

Thank you to Mark Gossage for sitting down and talking with us about all the nuances of your relationship with Atlantic.  We learned a great deal about the challenges you face and the services that bring value to your operations.

Want to learn more? Here are some links for further reading and research:

A Bright Future for Packaging

A Bright Future for Packaging

As the true method of knowledge is experiment, the true faculty of knowing must be the faculty which experiences. ~ William Blake

Atlantic celebrated the Grand Opening of the Packaging Solution Center in Charlotte earlier this month.  During the event, we demonstrated the first ever Multi-Axis Transportation System used in the packaging industry.

This system shows how we can test, refine, and validate shipping solutions to eliminate the potential for damaging products in transit.

This level of testing resonated with so many of our customers who have experienced damage and dealt with the consequences – whether it was cost, added time, waste, or a combination of all of these.

The ability to test for damage in a lab environment means they no longer have to make guesses and try at their own packaging solutions.  We can re-create the issue in our facility and find the right packaging to fix it.

Other customers found new ideas to solve existing problems or streamline current processes through demonstrations of our automated and integrated equipment for end-of-pack lines, stretch, shrink, and e-commerce.

What’s so exciting for Atlantic is to work closely with our partners – equipment manufacturers, material innovators and suppliers – to share these solutions with our customers all in one place.  It is truly the future of the packaging world.

We’re grateful to all our customers and vendors who came to Charlotte to tour the Solution Center. It’s your passion and drive that inspired us to build this center and work toward a bright future for the packaging industry.

Learn More about the Packaging Solution Center