Far from an afterthought, product packaging - if it’s done with
an eye for boosting profits - isn’t just about disposable shells
that protect 700-lb air-conditioning units from bumps, vibrations, and
stormy weather during transit. Packaging can aid in product branding - a
marketing tactic firms commission professionals to strategize that often
doesn’t come cheap.
Pictured is an appliance that was packaged using stretch-hood
equipment from Beumer
Corporation (Bridgewater, NJ,
U.S.). Inset is what Beumer calls "perfect corner
protection," which helps prevent any damage to
the appliance. In addition to product protection, the
supplier claims that OEMs using stretch-hood packaging
equipment can experience up to a 40-percent savings
in film cost compared to standard stretch-wrap operations.
Branding, basically, is something about a product that gets it some attention,
as any advertiser who has strategically placed items like a box of cereal
on Jerry Seinfeld’s sitcom breakfast table knows full well. In packaging,
branding is what some say happens when an appliance in storage is wrapped
in clear poly and its eye-catching color shows through. A customer is disinclined
to think of anonymous units when that happens, and is more likely to wonder
what brand name goes with that fetching, sunshine-yellow finish.
For this reason and more, the trend of clear packaging is expected to continue. “Converted
flexible packaging demand in the U.S. is forecast to expand 2.4 percent
yearly to 6.8 billion lbs in 2008, valued at $14 billion,” according
to The Freedonia Group, Inc., a Cleveland, OH, U.S.-based industrial market
research firm. “...Plastic films will continue to make inroads vis-à-vis
their paper and foil counterparts, with particularly good growth increases
for polypropylene film.” The firm also notes, however, that paper
packaging, despite marginal demand growth, will remain an important player
due to its low cost and environmental compatibility.
The Environment and Plastics Industry Council (EPIC) and the Plastics Film
Manufacturers Association of Canada (PFMAC), on a recently designed Web
site dedicated to plastic film, opine that shrink-wrap and stretch-wrap
dramatically reduce packaging weight and bulk, while contributing to
lower transportation and storage costs. In addition,
the two packaging techniques are said to be more in-line with current European
packaging waste legisla-tion, which is pressuring manufacturers to reduce
secondary packaging weight.
Although more popular in Europe, film packaging is starting to gain ground
in other markets as well. “There are big new markets opening up for
stretch hooding,” confirms Allan Thyssen, vice president of Sales
for Lachenmeier, a Sonderborg, Denmark-based supplier of packaging equipment. “Packaging
of appliances was [traditionally] cardboard boxes, which made handling
difficult, and there was a high product return rate because customers could
not see the product (and any scratches or other damage),” he explains. “With
stretch hooding, the return of products will fall. It cuts costs 40-percent
compared to boxes.”
Sven Borghoff, project engineer for packaging equipment supplier Beumer
Corporation (Bridgewater, NJ, U.S.), adds that the mere transparency of
film offers several advantages. “The films presently used are clear
and not only allow for perfect product display, but also the placement
of bar code information covering shipping and/or storage data under the
film, thereby protecting this data from damage or distortion,” Mr.
Borghoff says. “However, should the need arise, these transparent
films can also be imprinted with advertising or company identification
Another plus to packaging with film, Mr. Thyssen of Lachenmeier adds,
is that it is possible to stack more products for storage in warehouses.
Stretch-filmed products can be stacked eight deep, he says, compared
to stacks of boxed products, which can go six deep, at the most.
And, of course, the film is clean and environmentally “green,” he
adds. “The film used with stretch hooding is low-density poly.
You can burn it. It produces only water and air. It’s not sticky
on the pallet and doesn’t attract dust, so it’s easier to
recycle. Traditional stretch wrapping goes around the pallet, and that
film is sticky.”
While enviro-friendly disposal of plastics, in film and other forms,
is not exactly a hot-button issue in the U.S. yet, it could become so
in short order. “In 2001,” states the Environmental Protection
Agency, “U.S. residents, businesses, and institutions produced
more than 229 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW). That’s
4.4 lbs of waste per person, per day.”
Cutting costs, however, is probably a bigger plus to OEMs if they ponder
making changes to their packaging systems. To woo that market, Lachenmeier
notes that its new generation of stretch-hooding systems achieves lower
operating costs by down-gauging the film they use, while at the same
time securing optimal load stability. The company says its stretch units
are developed specifically to handle thinner film, without overstretching
it or destroying its holding power.
Other savvy packaging firms are also keeping cost in mind. “For
Orion Packaging Systems, goal number one is the proper matching of equipment.
We configure our systems to meet the customer’s need,” says
Mark Collins, vice president of Sales at Orion (Collierville, TN, U.S.),
which makes stretch-wrapping equipment. “You can actually pay 20-percent
less for a machine, and it will cost you 30-percent more to run it.”
He adds: “Other companies’ equipment stretches poly around
200 percent. Our (stretch-wrapping) machines stretch poly from 260 percent
to 275 percent at many installations. That means thousands per month
Whether branding and the environment are top concerns or an afterthought,
one thing is for sure: packaging suppliers are on top of their game,
ready to help OEMs save - and make - money in whatever ways possible.
Materials & Equipment -