Many business owners start out with a conservative approach to production. Based on estimates, they are likely to invest in hand-wrapping pallets rather than automated variants. As the business grows, they realise that they need to upgrade to increase productivity. At some point, they have to acknowledge that hand-wrapping pallets are less cost-effective and invest in a pallet wrapping machine.
But lower productivity shouldn’t be the only concern for business owners. Other reasons are that relying on labour to wrap pallets could be losing you money right now – even if you’re a startup. Is it time to look into automation? Let’s look at the factors that could compel you to make the switch.
Issue 1: Load Damage
The reason you wrap pallets in the first place is to prevent loads from shifting during transport. If a load isn’t secured correctly, you’re facing shipping damage. This isn’t something that many shippers factor into their costs. However, these numbers absolutely need to factored into the overall costs of producing your product.
To break it down, these are the areas of production you need to consider when assessing your costs:
- the cost of the damaged goods
- the labour and energy required to produce the product
- the cost of pallet film and wrapping
- the cost of the original shipping
- the cost of re-shipping the damaged products
- the cost of replacing the product
- the cost of picking up and packing the product
It adds up, right? By automating pallet wrapping, you can minimise load damage thanks to the consistency and reliability of securing loads this way. If you consider the wrap forces needed to achieve a secure load for each type of palletised shipment, it makes sense. The containment force is actually more important than the number of times a pallet is wrapped – or the gauge of film used. Attempting to increase the security by applying more wrap to the top and the bottom of a pallet won’t work. You need to apply the correct containment force for a pallet that is loaded everywhere. Manual labour simply cannot achieve the proper load containment consistently. The human body cannot apply an even stretch force all the time – it’s as simple as that.
Issue 2: More Risk for Employees
Human error is unavoidable, and this makes the potential for work-related injuries a reality when wrapping pallets manually. Injured staff cut into productivity and can send your insurance premiums soaring. Accidents are only one factor. The body positions that hand wrapping pallets require put your team at risk for musculoskeletal disorders too. Up your game and automate, and you’ll have less work-related injury on your plant floors.
Issue 3: Higher Costs With Less Productivity
Once you start working with high volumes, it’s a fact that manual wrapping in your production line is no longer efficient. You may have finetuned your production output already. But it’s not really going to help if the product hits a blockage in the warehouse because it sits there waiting to be palletised by a team manually. Consider upgrading to a semi-automatic pallet wrapper, and you could see your productivity double. In real terms, let’s look at the numbers.
Estimated time for an employee to wrap a pallet manually = four minutes.
Estimated time for an employee to wrap a pallet using a semi-automatic pallet wrapper = two minutes.
This saving would add up to over eight hours per week in labour costs. Plus, you’d be getting your products out of the warehouse much faster.
Issue 4: Missed Opportunity To Reduce Waste
Automated wrappers can maximise the amount of stretch compared to what is achievable by hand because it can prestretch a roll. This means you need less film while keeping to a safe load containment. What does this lead to? Less wrap, which improves your environmental footprint, and of course, a saving in film usage.
Again, let’s look at the numbers:
Estimated stretch achievable when wrapping a pallet by hand = 25%-40%
Estimated stretch achievable when wrapping a pallet using an automated or semi-automated pallet wrapper = 250%
By upgrading to an automated wrapping, you can expect to save on film costs by up to two thirds.
In short: hand-wrapping pallets become less cost-effective at a certain point. Automated stretch-wrapping machinery will save on time, and on costs.
We’ve seen how relying on manual labour to protect your products in transit may be causing your business to lose money. The slow progress may also be causing you to miss orders. Having had a look at these factors, it may be time you consider automating your end of the line. If you send out more than 50 pallets per week, making the switch will undoubtedly give you a return on investment within a year. Plus, you’ve got happier customers and less waste. Everyone wins.