November 30, 2012

Five ways to improve the stability of pallet loads

Following these basic tips can greatly reduce product damage, says Jim Lancaster, president and CEO of Lantech, a maker of stretch- and shrink-wrappers.

By Toby Gooley

To paraphrase a popular saying, product damage happens. Most companies simply accept it as a cost of doing business. That attitude mystifies Jim Lancaster, president and CEO of Lantech, a manufacturer of stretch- and shrink-wrapping and case-handling equipment. With handling-related damage estimated to cost U.S. businesses billions of dollars per year, that's a problem no company can afford to overlook, he said in an interview.

Lancaster, whom you might call the Jedi Master of stretch wrap—his company invented the material and wrapping technique back in the 1970s—says it would not be hard to reduce handling-related damage as well as the labor costs associated with manual restacking and sorting of damaged goods. Not surprisingly, he advocates stretch wrapping—but he's quick to add that it has to be done right. "The unfortunate thing about stretch wrap," he says, "is that it looks so simple, people think they already know how to do it. It's not complicated, but there's more to it than they think."

How can you consistently wrap pallet loads to minimize damage? Lancaster shares these tips:

  1. Establish the right containment and wrap forces. The containment force—the way in which the wrap squeezes the load—is more important than the amount of film, the number of layers, or the film gauge when it comes to load stability. This is separate from the force at which the wrap is applied. The two must work together to ensure load integrity.
  2. Apply minimum containment force everywhere on the load. It's not true that you can reduce damage by applying more stretch wrap to the top and bottom of pallets and less in the middle. Lancaster has seen the top layer of products on pallets wrapped this way simply "vibrate plumb off the pallet." To avoid such problems, be careful to apply at least the minimum containment force required to ensure your load is safe to ship.
  3. Fit the load to the pallet. More than a third of the loads Lancaster sees overhang the pallet. Ensuring that all unit loads fit within the confines of the pallet (up to 1.5 inches inset from the edge) makes a huge difference in reducing damage in transit and in the warehouse.
  4. Use the "cable" technique to attach the load to the pallet. Rolling up the bottom few inches of the film to form a cable and wrapping it around the pallet applies concentrated force that will help keep the load in place.
  5. Cut off the "tail." Don't allow the end of the wrap film to hang down like a tail. It can easily get caught in machinery and topple or pull product off the pallet.

Lantech has distilled some of this advice into a 10-step process. Click here to see the list.

About the Author

Toby Gooley
Contributing Editor
Contributing Editor Toby Gooley is a freelance writer and editor specializing in supply chain, logistics, material handling, and international trade. She previously was Senior Editor at DC VELOCITY and Editor of DCV's sister publication, CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly. Prior to joining AGiLE Business Media in 2007, she spent 20 years at Logistics Management magazine as Managing Editor and Senior Editor covering international trade and transportation. Prior to that she was an export traffic manager for 10 years. She holds a B.A. in Asian Studies from Cornell University.

More articles by Toby Gooley

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