Long before a pallet of product ends up at the pallet wrap machine, there’s a lot that goes into the planning and building of a pallet load. How a pallet of product is built is a critical variable in the packaging process and ensuring the product successfully arrives at a customer’s location.
Pallet wrap machines are used in diverse packaging applications from high volume beverage distributors to garden and nursery suppliers. While the product often drives the form and shape of a pallet, there are some general guidelines. Let’s take a look:
1. It starts with the right-sized pallet.
The pallet itself – whether it’s made of wood or plastic – is the foundation of every pallet load. A standard pallet is 48 by 42 inches, but in specialized circumstances, pallets can be smaller or larger. If possible match the size of the pallet to the size of the cartons or containers to the size of the pallet to create a cube. In pallet loads comprised of multiple different types of product, this may not be possible.
Depending on your line of business, pallet stacks can be the same each and every time, or be a constant puzzle to put together. For example, a pick and pack distribution center can have unlimited variations in packages – in size and weight – that are placed on the same pallet heading for the same destination, while a beverage distribution center will likely have multiple cases of the same product on each pallet day in and day out.
There are several accepted and distinct ways to stack a pallet (see diagram).
“A” Profile: A perfect cube, these loads have no protrusions and a clean shape. Because of its uniform shape, it’s the simplest load to apply stretch wrap.
“B” Profile: Different sized boxes may necessitate this type of pallet load. The protruding edges increase the likelihood of punctured stretch film, so it may entail a different or more “engineered” application of stretch film.
“C” Profile: The most irregular shaped profile, with its many corners, sharp edges and protrusions, it is likely pallet wrapping is probably the only way it can be unitized. But it will likely require an engineered solution in both the application and film itself to be unitized for shipment.
Other “common sense” tips:
- Place heavier products on the bottom of the pallet,
- Inspect the pallet for quality and safety before placing product on it.
- Pack boxes/cartons tightly without space in between.
3. Choose the correct stretch film and application.
Stretch film is a raw material. It is the pallet stretch wrapper that takes this raw material and stretches it (and potentially other operations) to engineer the film to suit many applications – it’s what makes it such a versatile product. The characteristics of your product and overall pallet load will determine the type of “engineering” your pallet will need in the pallet wrapping process.
Our pallet wrap machines allow for customization of various elements, including film force, pre-stretch, wrap cycles (i.e. double wrap cycle, split wrap cycle, top banding) and wrap speed, among others. These controls allow for a standard stretch film to be used in most pallet wrapping applications, whether it’s a heavy load (a pallet of soda bottles), light load (PET bottles) or a pallet with multiple protruding corners.
The right film and application ensures the undamaged and safe shipment of the product.
4. Consider packaging add-ons.
With the pallet stretch wrapped, it’s likely ready for transport and delivery. But, some custom stretch wrapping applications require other packaging elements that can be built into the production line.
For example, some products/pallets require protection from the elements. Pallets of gardening supplies is a prime example – product is often shipped well ahead of the gardening season. A top sheet needs to be added to the pallet to ensure rain and snow don’t damage the product. This can be an in-line element to streamline the pallet wrapping process or done within the wrapping process to save valuable floor space.
Each time you build a pallet, you’re preparing your product for a customer. Although it’s one of the last elements in the production process, the condition of a pallet is the first impression your product makes on customers. Professional looking packaging is not only safe, it’s a reflection on how a company values its product and customers. Following these four guidelines will put you on the right path to pallet success.