The goal of choosing the best stretch film is to find one that fits your company’s specific needs without paying for unneeded properties. For example, loads that will spend most of their days in a warehouse or shipping container, don’t need a film with UV light protection. On the other hand, loads with a lightweight film that don’t fit snugly to the pallet corners are subject to punctured film and shifting loads. But if you’ve never used stretch film before or aren’t happy with the film you’re using, how do you know which one is right? Following are 6 considerations for choosing the best stretch film for the job.
Primary Cost Comparisons: Price/lb. vs. Price/ft. vs. Price/load
When talking to a stretch film salesperson, trying to figure out how their product compares to the product the consumer is currently using can be confusing. All film is sold by the pound. Traditional films that typically have higher gauges are less expensive per pound because they use less expensive plastic resins to make the film. The high-performance films are more expensive because they are manufactured with better quality resins and can be layered. This is a more expensive manufacturing process. The high-performance films generally end up costing less overall because the film’s lightweight offsets the more expensive price per pound
However, what matters to the consumer is how much the film costs per foot. Even more important than the cost per foot is the cost per load wrapped. The argument for the newer high-performance films is that even though they are expensive to make (cost more per pound) filme xxx they are much lighter in gauge and therefore lighter in weight. For example, a high-performance film designed to replace an 80-gauge traditional film might be 20% more expensive to make, but it might require 50% less film to hold the load because it works just as well as the material that is 50% thicker. The result in this example is that the user saves 30% on film costs by switching to the thinner high-performance film.
To precisely analyze price savings, wrap two loads. Then cut the film off of both loads and weigh it on a small sensitive scale. This will indicate the amount of film used for each load. Then multiply the weight of the film by the price per pound (ask your salesperson for the weight of the roll or the weight of the case if it is not marked) and divide by the roll or case price. This will yield the price per load. Multiply the price per load by the number of loads typical for each day, each week, and so on.
Because there are so many variables with film, users must be very cautious to understand and confirm the math themselves and not rely on the salesperson’s math. Part of the process should always be to adequately sample the new material before accepting any change. The bottom line is that the new material must contain the load as safely and effectively as the old material. Following are four additional considerations for choosing a stretch film.
1. Standard or High Performance
This is by far the most important decision. Much of the decision will be based on price, but it needs to be tempered by the requirements of the job. Not that long ago, before the advent of highly innovative stretch films, gauge (thickness) was just about the only thing that mattered. Now it is just one of many considerations.
Standard/true-gauged stretch film offers a great amount of stretch, tear resistance, and strength. The main drawback is waste because the average worker can’t apply enough force to reach the maximum stretch potential of the film.
Economy/micron stretch film is a step down from true-gauged stretch film and often comes in a 57, 60, or 63 gauge. The main difference is the thickness and the amount of stretch potential. It is often stiffer and will not stretch as much as a true-gauged film. On the other hand, it is strong, more affordable, and can produce less waste.
Hybrid/multilayer stretch film is commonly used in place of lighter gauge film. It is manufactured in 47, 51, and 53 gauges. It has more layers, is stiffer, and has less tear resistance than micron stretch film. Benefits include lower cost, lighter rolls, and the need for less physical force during application.
The latest and greatest lighter-gauged (less expensive) high-performance films are ideal for light to moderate, regular-shaped loads that won’t encounter challenging transit or storage conditions. The high-performance stretch film offers excellent load retention, highly elastic film recovery, high-strength formulation, and reduced film neck-down. In the high-performance category, even light film gauges have elevated tear and puncture resistance, and excellent cling properties.
But where any or a combination of those conditions are present, heavier (more expensive) traditional films will be the better option and will save money in the long run (less risk of worker injury and damage to loads). Traditional films are considered foolproof and often result in fewer complaints from the warehouse. The precision with which they are applied is not as critical because the weight of the film may help offset a poor application by the worker.
Carefully consider the type of load and even the skill level of warehouse staff. Generally speaking, in a well-controlled environment with nicely cubed loads, the less expensive high-performance films will save money.
2. Hand Film or Machine Film
Hand-held dispensers can be as inexpensive as a few dollars while fully-automatic wrappers run well into the 1,000s of dollars. The general rule is that if the consumer is wrapping 15 or more loads per day, it’s more cost-effective to use a machine than to wrap by hand. At that level, machines justify their costs by reducing manual labor expenses and the possibility of injuries. In addition to the productivity and liability issues, most machines pull the stretch wrap at least 200% before applying it to the load.