By Maegan Johnston
Image credit: Pixabay
How would you like to speed up production while consistently delivering safe, sturdy and appealing pallet loads?
What if I told you that optimizing the Containment Force of your load is the secret to that uniformity you’ve been dreaming of?
Better yet, what if I showed you how to leverage this tactic while also reducing the amount of materials wasted?
what the heck is a containment force?
A Containment Force is the level of pull (tightness) at any given point on the load multiplied by the number of times the stretch film is wrapped around it.
Clear as mud?
Basically, it’s the hugging pressure that keeps your load from spazzing out during transportation, sending your customer into a mad rage and putting you into a frustrating, costly situation.
A true nightmare that can easily be avoided.
Needless to say, applying the appropriate Containment Force throughout your stretch wrapping application will prevent a few of those pesky grey hairs that keep haunting you like the New England Patriots winning yet another Super Bowl… I mean, really? Another one?
I’m not bitter, you are.
how to continuously deliver reliable shipments
It’s simple. You want the optimal amount of Containment Force while using the least amount of stretch film.
When your operation first began, you probably hand wrapped your pallets until the desired stableness was achieved; or until Billy Bob Joe got tired... poor Billy.
Now, I don’t know your exact situation or how you currently define load containment but maybe…
You’re still hand wrapping your pallets and if that’s the case, we need to talk.
You’re wrapping your pallets based on metrics that have worked in the past but may not be the best way in the present and certainly not the future.
You’re wrapping your pallets so compact that the excessive amount of stretch film you’re using can roll up to the size of a small meteorite that will eventually come crashing down directly on your bottom line, obliterating it all to pieces.
Sure, these methods might be “getting you by” but it’s time to be proactive, prepare a plan of action and institute full confidence that your products will arrive as promised.
Again, the solution is simple.
There is, in fact, a recommended amount of Containment Force for every load.
But how do you determine the “right” amount?
Let me show you.
step #1: measure your current containment force
Just like you learned in physics, force is measured in newtons equaling mass multiplied by acceleration, which is unitized by m/s squared… Ha! Just kidding.
Thanks to modern technology, defining Containment Force is a piece of cake.
First, you need to acquire a Containment Force measuring tool. We recommend the Lantech CFT-6, as it has been proven reliable, accurate and extremely easy to use.
Unless you’re having serious load failure issues, we advise you to use one of your current loads as a reference.
If you’re new to automating your stretch wrapping process, there is a Containment Force Recommendation Guide compiled by Lantech using the CFT-5 measuring tool. If you know the height and weight of your load, then this guide is a great place to start.
With the CFT-6, you must measure three areas on your already wrapped load - top, approximate middle, and bottom - to define your current Containment Force.
If possible, conduct this test on the long side of your load. For example, if your load is 40” x 48”, measure the 48” side.
Let's start at the top.
Don’t be shocked if your Containment Force isn’t distributed evenly throughout the load or if it varies from load to load, as it often does.
Do you have your three numbers recorded?
These values are important for finding your optimal Containment Force.
step #2: determine your optimal containment force
Again, the goal is to apply the "right" amount of Containment Force with the least amount of stretch film.
Like I mentioned before, you may be wrapping your loads super thick to ensure it’s “safe” but you don’t have to be excessive to be effective.
Similar to Ralphie’s little brother Randy in A Christmas Story, whose mother bundled him up so tight that he couldn’t (for the life of him) get up after falling down.
I think we can all agree when I say… Randy’s mom was a bit over-dramatic when dressing him that day. One less coat would have been just as protective.
In fact, as long as you have at least the lowest amount of Containment Force (found from the test above) all around the load, your shipment will be in good shape.
For example, if the top measured 11 pounds, the middle measured 10 pounds and the bottom measured 12 pounds, and it's shipping without complications, you need at least 10 pounds of Containment Force throughout the entire load to make certain it’s safe to ship. If it's not, the risk of an unsuccessful shipment increases.
Although the Containment Force Recommendation Guide is meant for those who aren’t sure what’s working, it wouldn’t hurt to double-check that your target “standard” is in the same ballpark.
But don’t be worried if it’s not!
Remember, if you already know what’s working well for your specific product, use the lowest value based on your test above as your "standard".
There are many variables to consider when determining the exact wrap force and number of wraps that best produce the optimal wrap pattern.
Some experimentation may be required.
Here are a few different options.
step #3: ADJUST your wrap pattern
You have choices in reaching your desired target "standard" in the stretch wrapper's settings - increasing the wrap force, the number of film revolutions or sometimes both.
The adjustments aren't always obvious. If you change one setting, you might have to adjust another.
Adding more revolutions of the film may increase your cost per load, so try turning up the wrap force first. If the film rips, the load twists or products are being crushed, you’ve wrapped it too tight. If it's not possible to increase the wrap force, then try adding more revolutions.
Each time you adjust the process, measure the load's Containment Force on the top, middle, and bottom to make sure you're getting closer to your goal. Once the correct settings have been confirmed, they become the settings that guarantee a safe-to-ship load with the “right” amount of Containment Force.
Run as many loads of that size as necessary before switching. Unfortunately, you'll have to start this process all over again when the dimensions of the load change.
The target Containment Force can be achieved if the "right" film properties (gauge and pre-stretch levels) are optimized.
With those factors aligned, you'll be able to reduce the number of film layers, eliminate costly downtime from film breaks and increase throughput. Although the price-per-roll of a higher quality film is more expensive, the savings may be drastic when you don't have to use or discard as much.
Charmin had it right all along when they said, "Less is More".
I understand how desirable a thinner, cheaper film sounds to a Purchasing Manager but here's a reality check... thinner film doesn't always result in a net film savings!
Thinner film typically results in an abundant amount of film breaks, which influences the operator to decrease the wrap force, therefore requiring more layers to recover and maintain the optimal Containment Force.
... it was a nice thought.
Pre-stretching film before it leaves the delivery system also saves you money.
Most of the time, pre-stretch comes standard on stretch wrappers but if it doesn't, it's an economy measure that you can't afford not to do.
According to Lantech, an average customer wrapping 50 loads a day wastes about $35,000 in film over five years when not using pre-stretch.
Spending a few bucks on film per pallet doesn’t seem like much at a glance but when you wrap hundreds of pallets a day, the costs are outrageous.
Not sure how much you're actually spending per pallet? A simple "cut-and-weigh" test will tell you that.
Lantech came out with a new Semi-Automatic Stretch Wrapper, the Lantech QL-400XT. All you have to do is replicate and enter the three Containment Force parameters from your current load into the machine.
Because of the higher yield and stretch, the application will result with the appropriate amount of Containment Force, using the exact same film with fewer revolutions.
tips and takeaways
If you’re going to take one thing away from the information above, it's that you need to make it a high-priority to apply the “right” amount of Containment Force throughout your load if you want to consistently deliver successful, safe shipments.
Although there is an optimal amount of Containment Force for each load, each wrap pattern and how to achieve it is different, therefore reaching out to an expert with the experience is suggested.
By implementing these standards, you will notice increased productivity and consistency as well as decreased damage and wasted materials.
Most importantly, you (and your boss) will feel on top of the world when savings start climbing and positive feedback from customers start pouring in.
In addition to that, I want to encourage you to measure the Containment Force of your loads periodically. Ideally, this process would be a “set and forget” operation, but accidents happen and settings could be changed.
As your business grows, keep an open mind about updating and fully automating your stretch wrapping process. Lantech manufactures fully-automatic stretch wrappers that measure Containment Force on every load, every day, so you don’t have to.
Let's be honest, it's late on a Friday afternoon... are your employees really paying attention to Containment Force settings?
If you need help determining your optimal Containment Force and wrap pattern, Ambrose would be happy to visit your facility and perform the tests for free, no commitments.
If it’s not your wrapping techniques that need improvements, it may be something else operating inefficiently and costing you thousands that you don’t even know about yet. We excel at delivering solutions with one objective in mind: to deliver top performance to your line in the most cost-effective way.
How to Figure Out the Right Containment Force for Your Loads by Paul Stewart
How to Check Your Containment Force by Allison Myers
What Are the Trade-Offs to Wrap My Pallet Load Effectively? by Allison Myers
Use The Force: Containment Force Is The Key to Safe Pallet Loads by Kelly Wathen
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