A stretch wrapping machine can be a great asset to a business, and in many cases, can pay itself off within a few short years. If you plan your purchase carefully, a stretch wrapper will actually be a profitable asset to your company.
When you factor in the major savings on consumable usage and the drastic reduction in manual labour hours, a stretch wrapper becomes an obvious purchase. But what type of stretch wrapper is right for you, and what questions do you need to answer before purchasing?
Identify Areas for Improvement
Take a close look at your processes and identify areas that could benefit the most from optimisation or look for areas that will suffer the most if your current process was to fail. If you can identify your most important objectives and pain-points, you can start to optimise for them.
For most people, labour reduction and operator safety tend to be higher level objectives. Speed, in contrast, is a by-product of customer demand and volume.
You also need to design your processes around your peak hours of operation - Too frequently, people calculate throughput requirements based on required daily output. Of course, most loading docks have peak periods of trucks arriving, loading and departing, but the output required during peak periods is almost always much higher than the average for the entire day.
A Wrapper that can process 200 pallets in a day isn’t much help if 150 of those pallets need to be processed in a 2-3 hour window.
Time and motion studies are a great place to start. Carefully observe your process – both during quiet & peak time periods – you’ll quickly gain valuable insight into which steps are problematic from a consistency, safety or quality point-of-view. Put those steps on a short list for closer analysis. As you grow, and volume increases, labour and safety will be the first areas where ‘corners are cut’ and waste and/or injuries occur.
Optimising Around the Objective
Let’s take a closer look at what really matters – reducing labour cost, increasing efficiency and safety.
Realistically, you aren’t always able to control production rates, and you’ll certainly never have control over when trucks arrive. This means, you can’t plan your future processes around daily averages, but instead you need to plan around your peak times.
Say you invest in a wrapper based on your average daily output, then 4 trucks arrive simultaneously, representing 80% of the pallets you will process for the entire day – Your workers are capable of getting everything in order quite quickly, but they are stuck waiting for the wrapper to process every pallet – This leads to trucks waiting, employees waiting (instead of working) and eventually leads to customers waiting. This is not an efficient use of an automatic wrapping process.
If you’re main objective is to create a safer work environment, then you need to focus on creating a consistent work environment. Most workplace injuries will occur during your peak times – forklifts are driving faster, more people are moving about and more people are watching the clock. Create a process that allows for a consistent workflow at all points throughout the day to avoid accidents.
Areas of focus
For most operations, the highest risk for injuries tends to cluster around transitions. For example, when operators move from forklifts to machines to perform certain functions, they tend to move quickly.
This may save a bit of time, but operators may skip safety steps. OSHA requires an operator to set his forklift, set the parking brake and fasten the seatbelt. These steps are often missed if a process requires operators to repeatedly get on and off the forklift.
Adding automation adds more value than simple efficiency – if designed to integrate seamlessly with your existing workforce it can complement efficiency, safety and quality.
Consider the True Value of Automation
Wrapping automation can often carry a hefty upfront cost to your business, but in almost every case, pay themselves off, and then some.
When deciding how much automation you need for your application, it is worth considering the material savings and safety features that are offered – You aren’t simply increasing throughput, you’re using less film, less labour and are reducing workplace risks.
Buying an automatic pallet wrapping machine is much like buying a new car – This is a machine you may use every single day and although unitizing your products is a small part of your business, it is a crucial part – Buying the cheapest car in the lot might be an attractive concept at first, but when it breaks down every day on your way to work, you’ll be regretting your decision.
This is not one of those ‘near enough is good enough’ situations – If you’re adding automation to your business, the machines you pick need to be a perfect fit.
We can’t stress enough how important it is to consult knowledgeable experts in the field whom can evaluate your individual needs. Fromm Packaging Australia will visit your business and hand-pick the perfect machine for your business, often giving free consultations to ensure you get exactly what you need.