25 March 2016 //
by Jim Campbell
Packaging large, rolled products like carpet padding, non-wovens, or TPO roofing can be difficult, labor intensive and potentially dangerous. An automated packaging line using LDPE film can simplify the process and also provide you with a variety of options to meet other goals, including shrink wrapping low-density polyethylene or bagging product in a non-shrunk solution.
A quick review of current manual industry practices is necessary in order to better understand the benefits of automated roll wrapping using LDPE film.
Manual Wrapping Practices
Curtain wrapping involves using a suspended roll of LDPE film to package a roll (most often carpeting). An operator affixes the film to the roll, rotates the rolled product a few revolutions, then seals and cuts the film to create a sleeve around the product. The open ends of the sleeve are either manually taped or the overhanging film is manually stuffed into the roll core. While a wide range of product dimensions can be wrapped using this method, it comes with the considerable disadvantage and cost of required manual labor on the part of one or more operators.
Manual pre-made bags
Manual pre-made bagging for items like rebond carpet padding is highly labor intensive. Rolls of padding are fed into a station where a pre-made bag is individually dispensed, manually applied around the roll by an operator (or two) and manually sealed. The arduous process takes a toll on operators throughout the course of a shift and it is usually out-of-sync with production capabilities. Lost production, labor costs and the nearly inevitable operator injury quickly creates a recipe for disaster.
Stretch wrapping is extremely versatile, which is a huge advantage when wrapping products of varying dimensions. It also simplifies ordering and maintaining film – a single SKU of stretch film replaces larger film inventories required by the other manual processes. However, stretch wrapping has its downsides. It can slow the speed of the line and create a bottleneck in production. Also, the friction generated by stretch film makes inventory picking a chore for plant operators and distributors. When rolls are inventoried they are frequently stacked on one another, which prohibits retrieval of a single roll from the pile because stretch film will not allow any sliding or slippage. Beyond being a headache to deal with, the situation could prove dangerous when rolls are stacked to the ceiling. Finally, stretch wrapping cannot create a total enclosure. This exposes the rolled product to potential damage from dust, moisture and other atmospheric contaminants. Likewise, the stretch film could be compromised because contact with these types of pollutants prevents it from clinging to itself and the product.
Benefits of Automated Roll Wrapping Using LDPE Film
Increased production through automation
Automated processes offer a consistent packaging operation that is right-sized relative to production. Removing the necessity and limitations of human intervention provides an immediate twofold benefit. Production bottlenecks happen less frequently and operators are freed from the daily monotony of manually packaging rolls to pursue more fulfilling tasks.
Ease of handling compared to stretch wrapping
The ability to efficiently warehouse and distribute goods is a significant part of any manufacturing operation, followed closely by the customer’s ease in product handling. LDPE wrap that can accommodate individual roll handling is an increasingly frequent customer request and a vital manufacturing consideration. With advances in the production of LDPE, slip and other agents can be added to the packaging material for easier and safer roll inventorying and picking. LDPE film can also be co-extruded to include dissimilar benefits on the interior and exterior of the roll, and treated to offer UV protection, antistatic properties or other value-adds not possible with other films.
Safety is an obvious factor when considering automation. Removing the human element when handling large products also removes the potential for an accident.
Space is usually at a premium in plants, which can dissuade use of large automated roll wrappers. However, if size is accounted for on the front end of an automated line installation, machines can be tailored to the plant environment.
Production costs are constantly being scrutinized by plant engineers looking for ways to operate a more efficient plant. The increased throughput, improved package quality, and safer work environment offered by automated packaging lines are sound arguments for a capital investment that should offer a quick return. Contact us today to discuss how a roll wrapping system could change your company’s future.