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Is Downgauging the Answer?

Is Downgauging the Answer?

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.

Two Steps to Sustainability

Two Steps to Sustainability

One of the top business priorities for our customers is sustainability.  While you each have your own unique sustainability goals and strategies, there are a number of similarities in what you’re looking to achieve.  In the packaging space, you want to know how you can make your primary packaging recyclable or more environmentally friendly.  This includes cartons, pouches, bags, clamshells, bottles, and cans. 

You also want to know how you can make your manufacturing processes and materials used more earth-friendly.  This includes shrink bundling, stretch wrapping, and strapping.  It also includes optimizing logistics to reduce activity around trucking and transit.

At the Packaging Solution Center and with our work in stretch wrapping (see: MUST Stretch Management System), we’ve found a two-step solution to improving sustainability across the board.

1. Make sure that your manufactured goods arrive to the customer safely and securely.  Any damage that occurs in transit leads to lost product, excess waste, more trucking and logistics, re-working orders, and more materials used in the end.  Damaged product is inherently unsustainable.   If we can help you get your products to their destination safely, that’s the most sustainable impact we can have.

2. Optimize the amount of material being used. While we need to apply stretch film to create stable unit loads, we want to do so in the most efficient way possible. We may be able to down gauge, reduce the number of wraps, or apply more film ONLY to the areas where it’s needed on the load.  We’re always looking for the solution with the lowest material usage.

While these steps are complex and themselves involve a number of steps, you can point to these two goals as the centerpiece of a sustainable end-of-the-line packaging solution.

Want to see how you can improve your packaging to become more sustainable?  Schedule a tour of the Packaging Solution Center today.

The Most Sustainable Thing We Can Do in Stretch Packaging

The Most Sustainable Thing We Can Do in Stretch Packaging

Becoming sustainable means much more than checking a box for big corporations.  Executives and employees are aware of conversations around earth-friendly practices and products, of consumers’ sensitivity to recyclable and sustainably sourced products, and to their own measurable impact on the world stage of sustainability.

Sustainability initiatives are good for people, good for the environment, and good for business.

STEPS TO BECOMING MORE SUSTAINABLE

There are a number of specific steps companies can take to improve their sustainability.  First, you can develop a business case for your sustainability initiatives. This will help leaders communicate the goals and strategies with clear and positive outcomes for the business.

You can assess and audit your own internal practices of recycling and promoting green practices within the company.

If building or expanding, you can look into repurposing existing space or investing in LEED-certified building practices.

You can audit your energy usage and look for ways to be more energy efficient.

You can examine your supply chain and find opportunities for greater sustainability throughout.

WHAT ABOUT YOUR PRODUCT PACKAGING?

Packaging is often pinpointed as an opportunity where companies can reduce their footprint (See: Finding Our Way to Greener Packaging).

Using less material, whether on the primary packaging – like the bottle or carton – or with the secondary packaging – like the stretch, shrink, strapping, and cornerboard – seems an obvious place to improve sustainability. This is often true.  But if not done with a scientific approach that shows exactly how much you can reduce before jeopardizing the integrity of the packaging, these reductions can actually cause damage and waste far beyond what you saved in the first place.

In our work with stretch packaging and unit load testing at the Packaging Solution Center, we’ve found that the most sustainable thing we can possibly do is to make sure that manufactured goods arrive to the customer safely and securely.  The second any damage occurs, you have unsaleable product.  And that’s unsustainable. The transit and the energy required to either fix or repair those products is also unsustainable.

See also: The Big Picture of Sustainable Packaging

So, our first priority for you is to make sure that your product itself is protected as it travels from point to point.  This allows you to avoid rework, restocking, and repairs that are inefficient, expensive, and unsustainable.

If you’re interested in learning how you can reduce your packaging in a way that’s optimal and effective for both your product and your sustainability goals, schedule a visit to the Packaging Solution Center today and meet with our experts.

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.

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. 

See: Managing the Cost of Load Stability

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.

How to Use Less Stretch Film for Better Sustainability

How to Use Less Stretch Film for Better Sustainability

The first of the Three R’s in the popular waste hierarchy of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle is REDUCE

Individuals and corporations can follow the Three R’s as a basic guideline in achieving better sustainability.  When you start with the first R and make efforts to reduce waste, you’ll naturally examine your current consumption and usage and look for ways to cut back. Sometimes, this is as easy as opting for paperless electronic communications instead of traditional mail – as in how you receive statements from your bank. 

But in other areas, it will seem more difficult to find ways to reduce.  If you examine your more high volume usage, you’ll find it will take a bigger effort to make a change.  But that’s often where you can make the biggest impact in terms of sustainability.

When it comes to end-of-line packaging for consumer product manufacturers, stretch wrapping falls into the category of high volume usage.  Stretch wrapping is integral to protecting your products during transit and storage. Reducing usage in this area feels like it may put your products at risk (See: Load Damage Domino Effect).

With Atlantic’s MUST stretch management program, we help you examine your current usage – from the type of film you’re using, to your equipment and how it’s set up, to your stretch wrapping process.  With the results of this audit, we use the testing equipment at the Packaging Solution Center to test and verify a stretch wrapping method that will work for you.

Our goals are to optimize your stretch film usage and application – often by using a higher performance film that requires less film applied – and to ensure that your products are protected.  The results are often a reduction in the amount of film being used, cost savings on materials, and sustainability gains.

To learn more about Atlantic’s MUST Method and to tour the Packaging Solution Center, contact us today.