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issue: February 2004 APPLIANCE Magazine

Production: Packaging
The Stretch for Success

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MSK Covertech, a manufacturer of film-packaging equipment, successfully installed two high-speed stretch-hood packaging lines at appliance maker Mabe's Saltillo, Mexico plant.

Two new stretch-hood packaging systems from MSK helped Mexican appliance maker Mabe reduce costs and container damage.

Mabe, an associate of the General Electric Company, is an appliance market leader in Mexico. The company's Saltillo plant produces washing machines for the Mexican appliance market.

In August 2002, Mabe approached MSK Covertech (Kleve, Germany) about the possibility of using stretch-hood technology to package washing machines for transport from the Saltillo location. At that time, Mabe had been shrink wrapping its ClearView products. The program manager responsible for the implementation of the new manufacturing line wanted to integrate stretch hood technology. His objective was to eliminate the consumption of energy (gas) while maintaining the ClearView advantages Mabe had previously realized, such as reduced packaging cost and a reduction in damage return.

"At the beginning, there were many questions and concerns from our side as to whether or not this was a viable solution for this application," recalls Chris Hannen, vice president of MSK Covertech Inc. "For example, we knew from internal testing that many of the typical appliance packaging elements such as the top cap, the base, and the corner posts were deformed by the forces created by the tension of the film."

After exploring several possibilities, it was MSK's accurate analysis, thorough evaluation, and the realistic cost/performance justification that convinced Mabe to choose MSK as its packaging supplier for the project.

During the process, MSK worked very closely with several suppliers of interior packaging and stretch-film manufacturers in order to develop and provide the best overall packaging solution. Extensive tests were performed at Mabe in Queretaro, Mexico and at the German headquarters of MSK in Kleve. As a result of these tests, important improvements in the interior packaging and stretch-film performance were achieved.

The result: two high-speed stretch-hood systems that can pack up to 155 units per hr and are able to identify and accommodate four dimensionally different products in random order.

Mabe's two MSK Tensiontech-F Stretch Hood Systems were specifically designed for high-speed applications such as the appliance industry. For example, electric gear drives are used for the process of stretching the film, whereas some older systems use hydraulics for the same process. According to MSK, the advantage is higher flexibility in the stretch process itself, as well as a more precise operation, easier maintenance, and easier adjustment.

The new packaging systems function by, first, centering the washing machine on a conveyor, where its dimensions are automatically measured. While the appliance moves into the stretch hooder, the machine automatically selects the right film size/roll. The system then unwinds and cuts the film according to product size. Using the stretch hooder, the film is welded, closing the upper end of the film sleeve and forming a hood.

To apply the sleeve/hood to the appliance, it is fed and gathered onto four stretch corners above the product. The four corners then move outwards and stretch the film slightly further than the dimensions of the appliance product it will cover. The four corners and the film are then pulled over the appliance. When the bottom of the product is reached, the film sleeve is slipped off the four corners, and the packaging process is finished.

According to MSK, Mabe's new packaging systems were the first stretch-hood systems installed for the appliance industry. Since then, more than 10 additional MSK stretch-hood systems have been ordered by other leading international appliance producers, including Whirlpool and Electrolux.


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