Distribution centers are a key component of the eCommerce supply chain. Much like a typical warehouse, they receive and store products from multiple manufacturers. But unlike a warehouse, distribution centers offer value-added services such as combining random products into one shipment – known as product mixing – and order fulfillment.
Understanding the Packaging Challenges Faced by Distribution Centers
The order-picked loads created from product mixing are difficult to stretch wrap consistently because each load is unique. And if those random products greatly vary in size and shape, the loads can become very unstable, which is an even bigger challenge.
Furthermore, the ability to pick up and move these unstable loads to a stretch wrapper is almost impossible to do without the products toppling over, potentially causing damage and safety hazards. So, to mitigate that risk, many distribution centers create a decentralized shipping environment by installing stretch wrappers at multiple locations throughout the warehouse.
But the challenges don’t stop once you get order-picked or unstable loads to the stretch wrapper:
- Unstable loads are at a greater risk of falling apart during the wrap cycle, especially at the start.
- It’s difficult to find the right machine settings that deliver the proper amount of containment force on the load.
- Once wrapped, unstable loads can still shift or slide off during transit if they are not locked to the pallet.
Finding the Right Machine
Finding the right stretch equipment to overcome the challenges of wrapping order-picked and unstable loads isn’t impossible, but it takes some research and planning.
Ideally, the equipment needs to intuitively take into consideration the characteristics of each unique load configuration, and consistently deliver a safe-to-ship load. Look for features specifically designed to protect your order-picked loads from start to finish, at the lowest cost.
If floor space is an issue, semi-automatic turntable stretch wrappers are smaller in size and can be strategically placed in a decentralized shipping environment.
But if the majority of the loads are unstable, a turntable wrapper may not be the best solution. Instead, look for an overhead, rotary arm semi-automatic stretch wrapper that allows the load to stand still while it’s being wrapped.
If warehouse space is not an issue, automatic stretch wrappers paired with a floor loaded conveyor option is a great solution, especially for beverage distribution centers.
We’ve explored some of the most common challenges associated with packaging and shipping products in the eCommerce environment. To learn more about those challenges and solutions, visit our new resource page: https://www.lantech.com/the-ability-to-effectively-wrap-unstable-or-order-picked-loads/