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Stretch film — also called stretch wrap — is one of the most common packaging materials used in shipping. It wraps and protects items on pallets, snugly securing them to each other and the pallet itself for both shipping and storage. The process helps reduce damage, minimize loss, and discourages tampering and theft. Lastly, stretch film comes in a wide range of weights (known as gauges) and is applied in one of two ways — either by hand or with a machine.

The proper use of stretch wrap provides two key advantages:

  • Cost Reduction. “Unitization” is the industry term for cargo that’s grouped or bundled into larger units. Those units are easier to handle than smaller, separate items. By unitizing products with stretch film, you can significantly decrease handling costs. This unitization also saves significant time in the handling of pallets of products. Moving individual boxes is far more time-consuming than handling a wrapped, unitized load.
  • Added Protection. Stretch wrap helps minimize product damage both inside and outside your facility, as wrapped goods moved by a forklift or pallet jack are less likely to sustain damage than loose boxes carried by hand. Enclosing products in stretch film also reduces the risk of theft.

Some common problems.

Despite the substantial benefits, the use of stretch film is not without potential problems. These are a few of the most common.

1. Tearing. By far, the most common problem businesses encounter with stretch film is breaks and tears. If tears occur, it means the stability, load containment, and safety of your wrapped pallet are compromised. Ignoring tears can lead to safety hazards, product damage, and downtime. Tearing can happen for a variety of reasons, whether wrapping by hand or by machine. Here are a few things you can do to help avoid them:

  • Avoid product overhang the pallet. Also, try to eliminate sharp corners.
  • Educate operators to correctly handle materials. Improper film threading is one of the leading causes of film breaks.
  • Watch for film rolls that have been dropped or otherwise mishandled. Damaged rolls result in nicks at the edge of the roll, which can lead to breaks.
  • Pay special attention to your wrap force. The correct wrap force will be the point at which the film doesn’t break, and there is no load distortion or crushing. Setting the proper wrap force not only helps you avoid film breaks but is also critical to achieving the appropriate containment force (the pressure the film applies to the load to hold it together) everywhere on your load. The right amount of containment force is key to keeping your cargo safe.

2. Using the wrong type and size of stretch wrap. There are several kinds of stretch film, and each of them has different applications in which they are used correctly. However, using the wrong stretch film not only results in wasted material but can also cause safety issues, injury, and costly repairs. Therefore, it is essential to learn about the different types of stretch wrap available and the correct applications and machinery they should be used with to avoid such mistakes.

After determining the proper type, it is crucial to ensure that the stretch wrap you plan to use is the right size. The size of stretch wrap you used should be decided by the shape and size of your products and the width and height of your pallets.

3. Poor stacking on the pallet. Another common mistake is to disregard proper stacking protocol. It’s not just about making the packages fit on the pallet. If you don’t evenly distribute the weight by putting the heaviest boxes at the bottom, you significantly increase your risk of damage. If your load is improperly balanced, there’s only so much stretch wrap can do. The same is true for the “pyramid stacking” approach — where items taper toward the top. Not only can this lead to crushed packaging from the stretch film application, but it also results in a less secure load.

Here are a few tips to ensure safer transit:

  • For the best stacking strength, arrange boxes in columns from corner to corner. If you choose to stagger your boxes, make sure to avoid interlocking or rotating layer patterns.
  • Don’t align box corners over empty spaces between pallet deck boards.
  • Ensure that the top layer is flat to prevent damage from any cargo that might be loaded above your pallet.
  • Visually inspect your pallet to make sure it appears balanced.
  • Place heavier boxes at the bottom and lighter parcels near the top to reduce the risk of damages.

At Gorgo Packaging, we’re not only experts in packaging, shipping, and handling; we’re also aligned with the largest and best packaging manufacturers in the industry. In addition to selling and servicing machinery for stretch film, we also provide expert guidance on the proper materials and techniques for successfully implementing a stretch wrap program.

If you’d like help determining how best to wrap your pallets, reach out to our specialists today.

We’re here to help in any way we can.