Stretch Wrap Solutions: Versatile Products, Diverse Applications

Mike Kerr, Contributor

Not all stretch wrap is created equal, and each type is designed to serve a different purpose. As a packaging solution, stretch wrap is also incredibly versatile and can work with a wide range of products in all sizes, shapes and materials. For material handling operations looking to increase efficiency, improve safety and lower operating costs, the right stretch wrap could be a game changer. Here’s what to consider when switching to stretch wrap packaging.

First Things First: Why Stretch Wrap?

More and more, material handling businesses are improving the safety and efficiency of their operations by unitizing products. Tightly binding products into units helps reduce opportunities for product damage, keeps warehouses organized and streamlines transport. All these benefits make transitioning to unitizing one of the top reasons companies switch to stretch wrap, according to Norkol, a large independently-owned provider of industrial packaging supplies.

Stretch wrap is one of the most popular ways to unitize materials for a number of reasons. It’s more cost effective than other binding materials and is flexible enough to serve a wide range of shapes and sizes. Stretch wrap also securely protects products from moisture, dirt and abrasion. It’s simple to apply; easy to remove; and, for companies interested in reducing their environmental impact, it’s recyclable.

Another benefit of stretch wrap is its see-through quality. Products and materials are better organized and maintained when workers can see what they’re working with. In the event that products are defective or damaged, an operation can also be more proactive in addressing the issue, when problems are easy to spot through stretch wrap.

Stretch wrap is also suitable for both highly automated and hand-packaging processes, which gives it broad appeal. For fully or partially automated material handling systems, stretch wrap is applied using industrial wrapping machines. This method typically involves the use of conveyors or rollers to carry materials in high-volume jobs. In hand-wrapping processes, a variety of simple, cost-effective tools are used to smoothly unitize products with stretch wrap. Automated systems are very efficient at high-volume, fast-paced work. Hand wrapping is more beneficial for highly unusual shapes and sizes, or lower quantity and slower processes.

Regardless of how it’s applied, unitizing products with stretch wrap reduces the total amount of packaging needed to secure items. Scaling down the amount of packaging products an operation uses helps lower overhead, improve turnaround time and reduce the overall environmental footprint. Combined, the benefits of using any type of stretch wrap can measurably improve the sustainability of material handling businesses. For companies searching for new ways to stay lean, switching from other types of binding methods to stretch wrap can help.

Stretch Wrap: Different Grades, Colors, Functions and Applications

Stretch wrap is a diverse packaging product category designed to serve a wide range of needs in all kinds of industries. It is most commonly produced using two methods: blowing and casting.

Blown stretch wrap is produced when resin is melted and extruded through an annular die, then air-cooled. This process creates a stretch wrap of premier quality, strength and level of cling. According to Norkol, blown stretch wrap is perfect for jobs where higher load and stretch is needed, because it is extra puncture-resistant and protective. For example, moving heavy unitized products via forklift is much safer using blown stretch wrap, because its durability and cling strength secures loads more tightly. However, the same process that improves the strength of blown stretch wrap also gives it a cloudy appearance and prevents RFID scanning technology from passing through.

For material handling work that requires RFID scanning, it can be best to choose cast stretch wrap instead. Cast stretch wrap is made using a much faster process, where the film is extruded through a slot die, then passed over cooling rollers. The speed of the cooling process gives cast stretch wrap a clearer, thinner quality. Though not as robust as blown stretch wrap, cast wrap also unwinds more quietly and is more cost effective.

Hybrid stretch films also exist as an intermediate option between blown and cast wrapping. Made using a super-strong resin formula, the thin, clear stretch film can hold together units that weigh up to 1,800lbs. For heavy-duty material handling companies that also need transparent, scanner-friendly binding, hybrid stretch films are often a convenient solution.

Beyond blown, cast or hybrid stretch wrap formulas, other specialty features are also widely available. Stretch wrap can be imbued with UV-blocking technology to protect products from sun damage during outdoor storage. Stretch wrap packaging also comes in a range of colors, which can aid in warehouse organization or align with company branding. Some stretch films are even produced in an opaque black color, which helps conceal high-value materials during shipping. This type of black stretch film also outlasts standard stretch wrap when exposed to the elements.

Whether the goal is to improve workplace safety, increase efficiency or reduce overhead costs, investigating the various types of stretch films may be worth your time. Navigating the wide range of options, with the guidance of an industrial packaging expert, is a great way to take your material handling process to the next level. WMHS

About the Author:

Mike Kerr is the Executive Vice President and COO at Norkol, Inc. He and his team work hard to find sustainable, creative solutions to the packaging industry. Norkol is proud to be one of the largest independently owned converters of commercial printing and packaging papers companies in the U.S.