“Set it and forget it” is no longer the mantra of the day when it comes to stretch wrapping. With smart technology and high speed production lines fast becoming the norm, stretch wrapping has evolved into a sophisticated operation able to keep up with even the most complex applications.
And it’s not just the keeping up that’s so impressive. Stretch wrapping equipment and films are engineered along with custom wrap patterns so that only the minimal amount of material is needed to protect the products on the load.
Atlantic has been on the forefront of this stretch wrapping evolution, working to ensure that our customers can reduce materials, cut costs, and reduce load damage through careful and intelligent planning, execution, and monitoring of their stretch wrapping operations.
At the AMI conference, Stretch & Shrink Film 2016, our very own Ric Lee joined more than a dozen presenters from the industry’s leading companies to discuss the latest trends, technology, challenges and improvements in film and film application.
Ric’s talk was part of a session dedicated to testing and performance. He introduced Atlantic’s approach to setting and holding standards in stretch that’s proven to reduce break, damage, and loss.
We spoke to Ric about this approach and what makes it such a great success.
Q&A with Ric Lee
AP: What are the most serious problems caused by failure of improperly wrapped loads?
RL: There are 4 major problem areas that arise from improperly wrapped loads:
- Product Damage
- Safety Risks
- Unnecessary Film Costs
- Sustainability Issues
The first and most costly is product damage. According to the latest research, manufacturers suffer losses equal to between 1/2% and 4% of their total annual revenue. This represents over $7.2 Billion in losses in the US annually in the Food & Beverage and Health & Beauty industries. The vast majority of this damage comes during the shipping, handling and warehousing of their products. This damage can be reduced or eliminated simply by stacking and wrapping loads correctly.
Safety is another critical area impacted by improperly wrapped loads. According to a recent ABC 20/20 report, there were 17,000 falling-merchandise incidents in a 5 year period at one big box retailer. Another big box retailer currently averages 185 injury claims per week. Many of these accidents could be prevented if loads of product are stretch wrapped correctly.
Unnecessary film cost is another major problem. We find that most customers will dramatically reduce the amount of film they use by wrapping their loads correctly. The average MUST Method customer finds that they reduce their stretch film costs by 15 to 20%.
Reducing unnecessary stretch film usage while at the same time reducing or eliminating load damage addresses the fourth area of sustainability. Our current MUST Method customers are finding this to be very rewarding on both a financial and social level.
AP: How have companies traditionally approached their stretch wrapping operation?
RL: I spoke to a Fortune 500 CPG customer recently and they told me that they and all of the other Fortune 500 CPG companies that they are in contact with, simply do not engage the resources necessary to correctly operate and manage stretch wrapping. Although they acknowledged that this was the leading cause of break, damage and loss and that it was costing their company multiple million dollars a year, they did not have nor were there any plans for them to address this problem.
They were very intrigued with exploring the opportunity for Atlantic to take ownership for helping them establish the correct standard in their plants and then helping them maintain those standards.
What we find in the field is that most customers do not have any meaningful standards on how to stretch wrap their loads. Most customers do not properly maintain their stretch wrappers. And their current suppliers are not providing any help in solving these issues. This leaves their operators in control of how loads are wrapped. Because there are no standards set for how to wrap the loads, the operators are on their own to decide how to overcome issues like film breaks and obviously unsteady loads. Their job is further hindered by the fact that the fleet of stretch wrappers in US plants are getting a significant amount of age on them and many of these wrappers are not equipped with control of the key variables that allow them to correctly wrap their loads.
AP: What is Atlantic doing differently?
RL: I have heard many people in our industry say things like “stretch wrapping is more art than science.” We at Atlantic know that is the farthest thing from the truth.
Others in our industry have come up with simplified, non-data based solutions that have no bearing on successfully containing and protecting a customers product. We are the only organization in the world offering an end to end, fully comprehensive load containment system. The Atlantic MUST Method is a holistic four step approach to ensuring that our customers set the correct load containment standard and hold that correct standard load after load day after day.
The first step is an audit of each of the customer’s current packaging lines to get a clear picture of the current condition of their loads, their stretch wrapping equipment and their production challenges.
The second step is testing and training. We perform advanced and extensive load testing in the Atlantic Packaging Solution Center in Charlotte. There, we can put customer loads through extensive lab tests based on the real world acceleration, declaration and vibration dynamics that their loads experience on the road or on the rails. We test the loads until we come up with a wrap menu that will allow the load to survive and pass the extensive tests and are certified Fit 2 Ship. At the same time we train their key resources on the science of stretch wrapping so that we have a shared knowledge base with our customers when it comes to proper load containment.
In the third step we optimize the customers current stretch wrap equipment to current technology so that we can wrap each of their loads to the exact standard that we tested and established during the testing phase. As we are optimizing their current equipment, we also add the patented MUST Monitoring system to their load.
The final phase is ongoing monitoring. Highly trained Atlantic MUST technicians monitor every load, every day to ensure that each load is wrapped to the correct standard.
AP: Tell us about the testing equipment that Atlantic will have in the new Packaging Solution Center in Charlotte.
RL: Atlantic’s Packaging Solution Center will house the most sophisticated pallet load testing equipment in the world. In addition, it will be staffed by some of the best critical application packaging experts in the industry who are equipped to solve the problems with customer loads that we will identify in our testing.
We’re working with Lansmont, the global leader in the design and manufacture of testing and vibration devices and equipment. They’ve designed the highly sophisticated vibration testing equipment used by NASA, the Armed Forces and many others. This equipment will allow us to identify the types of vibration that our customers’ products will be exposed to. They also design and build equipment that will then replicate those exact impacts and vibration frequencies in a lab setting.
Our center will have a Multi Access Transportation Simulator designed to exactly replicate the recorded, real world pitch, yaw and roll that your loads are exposed to when shipped on either a truck or a train. We’ll even have the capability to record a customer’s specific shipping route and replicate those shipping dynamics in a lab setting.
We’ll also have a very sophisticated Horizontal Acceleration and Impact Sled that will allow us to replicate the lateral impact energy that customer loads are exposed to in emergency stops and high speed starts and turns in the back of a truck. In addition to this product load testing equipment, we just purchased the most sophisticated film test stand in the industry.
Combine these new tools with our secret weapons – Atlantic’s experts. John Cook is the most respected stretch film poly chemist in our industry. Along with his research team, we can give you the most accurate and important data about all of the most popular and most important films in the industry.
Kyle Dunno, Ph.D. has been a leader in the area of transport and protection packaging for more than a decade. He managed Clemson University’s Transport Packaging Laboratory from 2006 through 2014 where he designed and developed packaging solutions for customers looking to certify packages for transit through a variety of distribution channels. Kyle chairs the Certification Council of the International Safe Transit Association (ISTA).
AP: How will this data-driven approach benefit our customers?
RL: It ensures that each of our customers’ loads are wrapped to the correct standard on every line, in every plant, every day. This will reduce or eliminate their break, damage and loss.
AP: Atlantic’s MUST Monitoring System has been around for 10 years. How has this program changed the standard operating procedure in the industry?
RL: For the first time since stretch wrapping was introduced back in the mid-1970’s, customers now have have a proven method to ensure that they are setting and holding the correct standards for stretch wrapping every load that leaves their facilities.
Having systems in place to set and hold standards is fundamental in all phases of manufacturing. You cannot manufacture a quality product if you don’t follow this basic tenet.
The same holds true in stretch wrapping. If you want to make sure that the great product that you’ve painstakingly produced makes it through the logistics process and gets to your customer damage free, you have to follow the same principle. Customers who have turned over the care and monitoring of their stretch wrapping systems to Atlantic Packaging and the MUST Method are seeing their break, damage and loss dramatically reduced. Now they can concentrate on what they are great at…making great products.
AP: In attending the Stretch & Shrink Film 2016 conference, what developments are you seeing in films? And how are the conversations around film and film application evolving?
RL: There is a growing group of resin producers, performance film manufacturers and extruding equipment manufacturers who understand that we need to move forward as an industry and provide our customers a valuable and a complete solution to their problem. We need cutting edge, very consistent high performance stretch films. We need these films to run on stretch film equipment in our customers’ locations that are optimized and maintained in top condition and we need a method to ensure that every single load, every single day is wrapped to a tested and proven standard.