Let’s face it, machines are typically better than humans at doing repetitive, rote tasks. Humans, on the other hand, excel in areas where intellectual decisions and creativity are needed. When it comes to stretch wrapping, most of the process of stretch wrapping consists of a repetitive motion (the wrapping) that is best done by machines. And, machines really are better at it than their human counterparts.
The Containment Problem
Despite the superiority of machines at repetitive tasks like stretch wrapping, companies around the world wrap a staggering amount of loads every day by hand. Most of these loads arrive at their destinations just fine, without damage. But many fail during shipping because the loads aren’t wrapped tight enough.
When loads fail, it is often because they fall apart from vibration during the journey to their destinations. Many recipients will reject damaged loads, return them to the manufacturers, or worse, dump them in a landfill. On average, about .5 percent of loads are damaged during shipment. When you are talking about millions of loads, the damage and loss adds up quickly.
The biggest problem with hand wrapping is that operators aren’t as consistent at wrapping loads with enough containment force, as machines. Don’t get us wrong, an operator has the potential to wrap several, good loads in a row, but it’s hard to do it well, and tight enough, each and every time.
A machine, on the other hand, doesn’t get tired or distracted or care how many loads in a row it has wrapped. A machine will consistently wrap loads, with a set amount of film tension, so that the last load wrapped during a shift is wrapped in exactly the same way as the first load.
The Pallet Bond Problem
Another challenge that faces hand wrapping is the process of securing loads to pallets. When loads aren’t secured, they may slide off their pallets, hit another load and damage the secondary and primary packaging and, sometimes, even the product inside. It’s difficult for people to bend over and wrap film all the way down to the bottom of the pallet over and over again.
Hand wrapped loads that have film applied all the way down to the bottom are at risk for failure. Most pallets are moved with either a fork truck or pallet jack that relies on metal arms inserted into the pallet to move the pallet around. Bad things happen to these loads when forklifts pick them up. The process of inserting the metal forks can puncture film if it is wrapped too low. Punctures, in turn, can lead to rips in the film that travel up the load, compromising the integrity of the load and leading to failures.
Some stretch wrappers, though, are able to lock the load to the pallet with a tight film cable applied only about an inch below the top board of the pallet. Now, there’s plenty of room for the forks to pick up the load without puncturing the film. The load is significantly more secure this way and has less chance of a film puncture.
The Cost Problem
Finally, when it comes to saving costs, hand wrapping doesn't cut it. Machines can significantly cut down on film usage. Stretch wrappers with powered film delivery systems stretch film up to 300 percent, which decreases film consumption by at least half. It's almost impossible for a person hand wrapping a load to stretch the film at the same levels as powered film delivery systems.
So why do so many people still wrap loads by hand when a machine can do it safer, cheaper and more efficiently? That’s one of the many mysteries of life – or at least of the secondary packaging industry.
- The Hidden Costs of Hand Wrapping Pallets
- 5 Fundamentals of Stretch Wrapping You've Probably Forgotten
- Stretch Film Calculator: How Much Can Automation Save You?