With right gauging, more sustainability and a lower TCO
The packaging industry likes to talk about down gauging. That means making stretch film thinner, for example from 34 micron film to 15 micron film. ‘That’s quite a simple way of trying to reduce material use because it’s supposed to be better for the environment,’ says Innovation and R&D manager at AFP, Jolien Stevels. ‘But if your pallet isn’t stable and your products are strewn all over the street, that doesn’t help the environment at all.’
The trend in the market is to minimise the use of film, using the thinnest possible film. According to Stevels, this is about the environment as well as about the costs for the customer. ‘But if the film’s too thin, it will keep tearing. You’ll then end up constantly starting again, using even more film in the process. Another thing is that you can’t stretch very thin film far enough. Again, that means you’re going to need more film.’
The intention may be good but not necessarily its effect on the environment. So, AFP is taking a different approach: how to limit the weight of plastic required to create stable pallets? And how do you ensure that the total costs of safely packing a pallet are kept as low as possible? ‘It’s not about the thickness of the film when you wrap a pallet, but about how far you can stretch the film, for example, and how many wraps you can make with it,’ Stevels explains. ‘Ultimately, your total costs of packing and transporting a pallet are also determined by how often you suffer a loss due to a pallet that has tipped over and how often your production process is disrupted.
More stability per gram
Right gauging, is what AFP calls it. We look at the overall picture, says Stevels. ‘Sometimes you can save more weight with a thicker film that has more stretch than with a thinner film with less stretch. With right gauging, you look for the right thickness to give the customer the best result, using as little plastic as possible to keep the pallet stable. We discuss with customers how they can use less weight per pallet.’
And in this way, it is possible to contribute to sustainability. ‘If you use less plastic on the pallet and you have fewer falling pallets, you can really reduce the impact on the environment.’
Right gauging requires extensive knowledge of the product and the wrapping process. AFP conducts research into this. ‘We try to make the film smarter, so that it provides more stability per gram. We use our knowledge to ensure that we choose the film characteristics and film thickness in such a way that you use as little material as possible.’
The optimal process
Some people still ask about the price of film per kilogramme, even though it does not tell you much about the price of packing the pallet. ‘It’s not a very sexy product,’ Stevels agrees. ‘Before I worked in this sector, I didn’t realise how crucial the characteristics of stretch film were. I often notice that people don’t think it matters. But it makes a huge difference. For the stability of your pallet, it already makes a difference whether your soft drink is carbonated or not.’
Right gauging allows you to manage these differences between the various loads, so that you always have pallet stability. Stevels: ‘Our approach is totally geared to optimising the customer’s process and their total costs, the TCO, rather than the costs per kilogramme.’
Read more articles of Jolien Stevels.