Expertise goes a long way
11 October 2018
Taking the right measures to ensure the best packaging can seem counter-intuitive at times, as Gavin Ashe, managing partner at Kite Packaging tells HSS editor Simon Duddy.
For many, the solution to secure load retention is wrapping pallets in as much plastic as possible. This sounds right doesn’t it? But a closer look at what is actually happening with packaging in transit and we see that not only is this approach costly and bad for the environment, it doesn’t necessarily work that well either.
“Stretch wrap is one of those very simple (yet very complicated) things,” explains Gavin Ashe, managing partner at Kite Packaging.
“A key factor is the elasticity of the packaging. If a thick film is stretched too far, it will loosen and there is greater chance of a falling pallet. Quite often, the more you put on, the less safe it is.”
The trick is to measure the characteristics of the load, and from there you can work out the best style of stretch film for the job.
Gavin continues: “The film should be stretched to glass point (just before it loses elasticity) so it is then rigid and exerts the right amount of force on the boxes.”
As well as making packaging safe and efficient, this little bit of prep and analysis can lead to firms saving money and reducing environmental impact through using less plastic.
“Thanks to David Attenborough (and The Blue Planet), warehouse managers are all much more receptive to looking closely at this,” explains Gavin.
“If a warehouse manager is despatching £1m of goods per day, he may say ‘I won’t change anything to save £5,000 a year on stretch film, it is not worth the effort and risk’. But if he realises ‘that’s saving 50,000 water bottles of waste’, a light bulb goes on.”
Another potential problem with pallet wrapping that is often misconstrued is boxes fluting being crumbled by stretch film. This occurs when the holding force applied to the boxes on the pallet is too great.
“Managers sometimes misdiagnose this as ‘my cardboard boxes are too cheap’, when the cause is overstretching of the pallet film.”
To solve this managers often buy a more expensive box or turn down the tension on the stretch wrapper which means loads can then become unstable.
“This can all be resolved by spending 10p a pallet more on a better grade of stretch film. In comparison, re-designing the boxes will cost way more – perhaps £15 a pallet and a collapsed load can cost tens of thousands of pounds as well as risking lives.”
While packaging is a relatively modest cost in itself, the impact it can have on other greater expenses can be considerable.
“We talk a lot about pack velocity. A better packing process can increase pack velocity and allow you to save on knock-on costs from labour to car parking.”
This also applies to distribution costs. Goods with well-designed packaging can be more efficiently packed in a lorry, for example.
In conclusion, Gavin says Kite does not just simply sell packaging, instead they design and create solutions.
The firm has one key account manager for every 20 customers, and for every 3 key account managers, they have a full time packing technologist, a full time in-the-box engineer, and a full time load retention engineer.
As well as innovation, and solution building, Kite wants to be known for reliability.
Gavin concludes: “The most important thing to a warehouse manager is reliability of service. They want packaging to turn up as ordered when it is supposed to. Some of our competitors are proud of a 92% on time and in full rating. Our expectation in key accounts is not less than 99.5% on time and in full.”
Kite Packaging dedicated two of its experienced pack technologists to a new specialist division focusing on aerospace and defence.
One of the differences in this sector is traceability requirements, with the sector having its own language and design software - SolidWorks.
Gavin explains: “We’ve trained our two guys in SolidWorks, so we can communicate live with our customers. This is important, because in aerospace, they can’t give you a jet engine thruster to build packaging for. We have done this, but it is all achieved via computer design.”
Packaging also needs to be ‘bullet-proof’. The tolerance to breakage is extremely low and the packaging design must reflect this. All of the above and more can be demonstrated at a customer site in Kite’s mobile packaging test centre.