5 steps to load integrity

When securing loads for transit, companies are making mistakes that cost them – through time, product and material wastage. Industry expert Richard Layton shares his top tips for maintaining load integrity, while looking after the bottom line.

In his three decades manufacturing and supplying load unitisation solutions, Richard Layton – Managing Director of FROMM Australia – has seen stretch-wrap technology develop in leaps and bounds, though the mindsets of those using it have been slow to catch up.

“People tend to become set in their methods of using stretch wrap film and machines,” he explains. “If you embrace the new technology, you’ll find you’re using less film, getting a more secure load, saving money and having fewer loads ending up in the wrong place.”

Richard shares five steps to help companies optimise their stretch-wrap packaging.


Step 1: Use the right amount of film

“If you put too much film on a load, you’re not helping – the film’s not doing what it’s designed to do,” says Richard. “In the last 20 years, films have become more puncture resistant and more stretchy – though no thicker.”

He notes that using too much film is as bad as using too little. “The end result is the load has not got the integrity it needs – should there be an incident, it won’t perform as well as users might think,” he adds. “We can often show companies a 20–30 per cent drop in film consumption simply by putting the right film on the right load, in the right way.”

Richard shares that securing loads with too much film can also have another unwanted consequence, resulting in lost shipments. “Too much film will mean in many cases that clarity is lost,” he says. “In this day and age, people want to use barcode scanners to read product labels, where too much film is applied you may not be able to scan the barcode, so the load can be send to the wrong destination.”


Step 2: Check you’re stretching the film enough

“Stretch film is designed to be stretched, hence the name,” says Richard. “The film has got to be in its working range, known as the ‘shock reserve’, to enable it to function correctly. If you’re not stretching it enough, the load is not unitised properly.”

Certain films are designed to be stretched to 250 per cent, meaning a one-metre section of film should become 3.5 metres. “If you stretch that film to 100 per cent, you’re going to get two metres of film – but it’s like hugging someone and not hugging them enough,” he says. “If over- or under-stretched, the film won’t function under stress and a load may collapse, or get damaged.”


Step 3: Choose the right film for the application

If using a brake machine designed for minimal-stretch film, using film designed to stretch by 250 per cent will waste time and money, Richard explains. “You’re trying to make the film go from plastic to elastic,” he adds. “A small warehouse using a small machine, wrapping 10 pallets per day would need a different film than a large operation wrapping pallets continuously.”

He explains that FROMM Australia stocks around 15 different types of film, each optimised for clarity, stretch and other individual requirements. “We do a black film for security, printed film for marketing purposes, even films with a UV stabiliser so the load can be left outside until needed, for example,” he says.

Richard notes that particular industries can request specialised film formulas for their specific needs. “Australia is one of the largest exporters of hay in the world,” he says. “Hay is spiky, so we have a film that has a higher puncture resistance so it won’t pierce the film and make a mess.”


Step 4: Choose the right film for the transit mode

The type of transit a load will experience may impact the type of film used to secure it, Richard explains. “A pallet being shipped from Sydney to Cairns would require different treatment that one being shipped from Sydney to Parramatta,” he says. “On its way to Cairns, a load will likely go through more handling, being moved from truck to truck, while the Parramatta-destined load may be handled just once.

“It’s essential that the film and wrapping method chosen are fit for purpose, companies must understand the film’s ability to perform.”


Step 5: Avoid false economies

A cheaper roll will often prove to be more expensive in the long run, Richard notes. “In many cases, people will just look at the price of the roll,” he says. “But it is crucial to compare the length of the roll, and its full length once properly stretched.

“People are often hoodwinked by marketing techniques and are not buying the right unit of measure to make decisions. It’s the cost per pallet wrapped – that’s the true cost.”

The biggest mistake Richard sees companies making is focusing on the price of a roll of film rather than their cost of returns.

“The cost of returns in the industry is around four per cent,” he says. “If four per cent of every load you’re sending out is going to be wastage because you’re using the wrong stretch film, or the wrong load unitisation, that is a huge saving consideration for all companies.”

Richard predicts that in the future, companies will put a greater emphasis on studying what happens to their loads in transit. “They will start to think about how they can get their products from A to B in the best possible condition, tracking their damage ratios and environmental impact,” he says. “At present, there’s still too much guesswork.”

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