Getting the Most From Your Stretch Film

stretch filmAs shippers focus on taking costs out of their supply chains and reducing the amount of material that goes to the landfill, they are also taking packaging material out of their loads. “The corrugated is thinner, we’re taking product out of cases and putting it in trays, or in some cases, the primary package is now supporting the load,” says Jim Lancaster, president and CEO of Lantech, the maker of stretch film systems. “At the same time, they’re not thinking about the secondary package, such as the stretch wrap. That’s when they end up with damage.” Lancaster says shippers can no longer look at just their pallet – or the stretch film going on their load – in isolation. They have to understand the eco-system in which the unit load will operate, and the biggest impact on that today is sustainability. Paper towels and bottled water are two examples of products whose shipping methods have been modified to fit this sustainable mold. They both used to be shipped in cartons and now they’re just stretch-wrapped to a pallet. Bottled water has especially been affected by this change; the bottles themselves are manufactured from a thinner gauge plastic and are assembled with smaller screw tops.

So how do you wrap a load so that it arrives at its destination in the same way it left the factory? Here are several tips Lancaster shared that Lantech defines as lean wrap:

Focus on containment force, not the gauge of the stretch film: Containment force is a function of the amount of force applied as the load is rotated and the number of layers of film. (Ten wraps of a thick film provide the same containment force as 20 wraps of a proportionately thinner film if both are applied with the same force.)

Create a uniform wrap: Some customers mistakenly believe that putting more film at the top and bottom of the loads, then skimping in the middle will hold an unstable or top heavy load in place. As packaging moves in moving trucks, the stretch film shifts from vibration, exposing the weakest point and causing the seal to fail. For this reason, Lancaster suggests that shippers uniformly distribute the film around the load.

Tuck in your tails: Have you ever tripped over your own untied shoelaces? There’s a similar consequence when it comes to stretch film, which is the tail of film that’s left after wrapping a load. Make sure then that you tuck in your tail. Not only does this not look professional, but the tail can get stuck under a forklift or in a conveyor roller and cause your package serious damage.

Attach the unit load to the pallet: If the stretch film does not lock the load to the pallet, it can vibrate off the edge. Past incline tests show that when the bottom 20% to 30% of the web of film is rolled into a cable just above the fork opening, there is a dramatic improvement in load performance.

Although it is important for a company to practice eco-friendly measures, it is also imperative not to skimp out on important packaging procedures for the sake of its sustainability goals. In the end, if your package is not delivered in one piece, your customers are not going to care if you are an environmentally friendly business or not.