Secure unit loads reduce product damage

Stainless steel distributor protects valuable fittings, speeds packaging and cuts costs with new orbital wrapping machine.

By ·

Ta Chen International is a master distributor of stainless, aluminum and nickel alloy coils, sheets, plates, long products, tubes and fittings, handling more than 1 million pounds of stainless steel per day. To prevent product damage, the company installed a new stretch wrapper that cut costs throughout warehousing and transportation.

Bob Hunter is branch manager for the company’s Houston, Texas operations, where high-grade metal is specified in sanitary and corrosive environments where even a single scratch renders the product useless. It is also subject to contamination from contact with many types of steel or iron. A rejected shipment could cost the company upwards of tens of thousands of dollars, according to Hunter. “It’s critical for our customers that every product arrives on spec, secure and intact,” Hunter says, “so we’ve always had to take extra precautions to prevent any damage.”

Until recently, orders were picked from the warehouse, set on pallet and wrapped in plastic, either manually or using a semi-automatic, turntable stretch-wrapping machine. Two workers typically spent two to three minutes per pallet load wrapping each carton to the other cartons.

“The machine couldn’t wrap the load to the pallet so we would try it by hand and use a huge amount of extra plastic film just in case,” Hunter says. Metal or plastic banding was also used for extra confidence. The plastic banding often popped loose in transit and the metal banding occasionally tore through the corrugated packaging, putting the product at risk. Thanks to the extra precautions, Hunter enjoyed a high rate of customer satisfaction. In fact, Hunter didn’t realize he had a problem until he toured another company’s plant and saw how easily they handled their shipments.

“I watched their forklift drivers take the loaded pallets to a new kind of orbital wrapping machine and it was wrapping the entire load to the pallet automatically with the pallet on the forklift,” Hunter recalls. “They loved it and I had to have one for our plant.”

The new machine (TAB Industries, automatically wraps plastic stretch film 360 degrees around and under a pallet load in multiple layers to create a single, unitized, secure load. It protects the cartons from exposure, ensures they stay in place and intact during warehousing and transportation.

Hunter purchased the 80-inch model, the middle size of three standard models. It has eliminated the need for manual wrapping, made the turntable wrapper obsolete and cut the time to wrap each pallet load to 30 seconds while allowing one person to handle the process instead of two people. It has also eliminated the need for banding and cut the amount of plastic film used since the overwrapping “just in case” is no longer needed.

“Financially, the wrapper paid for itself in a little more than a year,” Hunter says. “Most importantly, it does an outstanding job securing our product to the pallet and it has really made our lives easier. Now I feel good when a pallet goes on the truck and our customers appreciate it, too. It’s a phenomenal piece of equipment.”

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