As beverage manufacturers and contract packaging companies see more SKUs entering the warehouse, operations professionals are tasked with ensuring that all processes are operating efficiently and effectively. Also crucial is ensuring that the products that leave the warehouse arrive at wholesaler and retailer locations in the same condition.

To put manufacturers’ minds at ease, stretch-wrap machine suppliers are innovating their product portfolios to make sure that the products are delivered to their final destination in pristine condition.

In an Aug. 19 blog post titled “How to Reduce Product Damage Through Better Stretch Wrapping” from Louisville, Ky.-based Lantech, the company notes that one of the main causes of product damage is poor stretch wrapping. To combat this problem, Lantech stresses the importance of developing standards for wrapping operations and always instituting that protocol. The company also gives some guidelines to consider when developing standards.

“The three key standards are applying proper containment force, locking the load to the pallet with a stretch film cable so it can’t slide off, and creating no long or dragging film tails,” the blog states.

When it comes to serving consumer packaged goods (CPG) manufacturers, Peter Vilardi, director of marketing for Alexandria, Minn.-based Orion Packaging, a Pro Mach company, explains that stretch-wrap equipment manufacturers must keep two trends in mind.

“In the realm of stretch film pallet load unitization equipment, there seems to be two trends emerging: reliability and reportability,” he says. “Reliability [is] because manufacturers need to keep equipment downtime to an absolute minimum for the best efficiency and profitability of their operation. Reportability [is] to monitor equipment and receive important information on material usage, which can directly impact bottom line profitability.”

Vilardi notes that Orion is addressing reliability by incorporating well-proven technologies in its machines. Its products are designed with long-term service performance in mind by utilizing heavy-gauge steel plates and tubes for the frames to prevent possible damage from other warehouse equipment like forklifts, he adds.

Several different remote monitoring solutions also allow Orion to provide its customers with the reportability that also is needed, Vilardi says. “Orion Sentinel uses patented technology to precisely weigh the stretch film supply roll before and after each wrap cycle and record the usage in memory,” he explains. “Users can easily monitor exactly how much film was used to wrap each load and adjust accordingly. The system also allows users to spot trends that may indicate wear on the pre-stretch rollers, which can dramatically increase stretch film costs over time.

“In addition, a new control package on Orion’s semi-automatic Flex models offers local Bluetooth monitoring for management to monitor all aspects of a machine’s operation from a mobile device,” he continues. “Both of these systems can send messages to users when the machine needs attention or service.”

Advancing operations

Like many aspects of the beverage warehouse, stretch wrapping has seen benefits from the advancements in automation.

Vilardi explains that the technological advancements with electronics has allowed stretch-wrap equipment to offer more sophisticated controls and monitoring while keeping costs in check.

“Probably the most advances will continue to be in the controls and electronics areas as technology continues to improve,” Vilardi explains. “Control packages will become smaller, less expensive and will have more features. Remote monitoring will continue to be an important feature to not only give production data, but alert users to maintenance and PM issues. The machines of the future will have self-diagnostics to the point that downtime will become virtually unknown.”

However, Vilardi notes that CPG manufacturers and contract packagers have varying degrees of wants and needs, as such, Orion offers a vast portfolio of products.

“Orion offers a complete range of stretch-wrapping equipment from entry level, budget priced models through high speed, highly customized systems capable of wrapping up to 120 loads per hour,” he says.

Similar to the way primary and secondary packaging materials manufacturers are coming up with more sustainable ways to deliver their products, Vilardi notes that stretch wrappers are doing the same.  For instance, Orion uses high-performance, powered pre-stretch film delivery systems, which can maximize the strength characteristics of stretch film while using the least amount of material, he notes.

 “InstThread film delivery system, which is used on 90 percent of Orion models, is offered with a standard 260 percent pre-stretch level and can be modified to give 300 percent pre-stretch,” Vilardi says. “These high levels of stretch assure that customers can get the maximum performance from their stretch film while using the least amount.”