Hand vs machine - the dilemma for wrapping freight

Wednesday, 12 March, 2014

A high percentage of businesses across the industry spectrum - including food, manufacturing, primary sector - continues to hand wrap palletised and skid-loaded goods, not realising the cost disadvantages it brings to the company.

Presentation, logistics problems, workplace strain injury and ineffective use of labour force are all potential casualties of persisting with manual options in this area of the business. Basically, unless yours is a company that palletises goods very infrequently, hand wrapping pallets is a productivity breaker, according to packaging specialist nelson Joyce & Co.

Even the simplest of machines can make a measurable difference.

“When you look at other perfunctory jobs in a business that have machines helping personnel in duties - such as cleaning, lifting, labelling among others - it is still a mystery why hand wrapping with stretch wrap or pallet wrap is so common,” said managing director Nelson Joyce.

“The amount of time it takes to hand wrap a pallet (often with substandard stretch wrap), the poor quality which it provides on corners, the amount of time it takes and the potential for injury it creates - these reasons should all be enough to consider a proper analysis of what is happening on the shop floor.

“It is taking at least one perfectly trained company employee away from more productive duties deployed elsewhere in the company.

“Overall, the risks of long-term injury have been identified by official bodies around Australia, but strangely it is still not a deterrent.

“Perhaps it is purely a lack of understanding or education on the issue and just how unproductive and costly hand wrapping is for a business.”

The argument put forward by Joyce is particularly relevant in light of a recent study made by WorkSafe Victoria on the potential problems caused by manual stretch wrapping of pallets.

When this is done manually, it requires poor postures and movements, and often high force according to WorkSafe Victoria.

The bureau notes that this can cause musculoskeletal injuries particularly to the back, shoulders, knees, wrists, fingers and forearms.

These injuries can occur suddenly or develop gradually over time. To reduce the risk of injuries when stretch wrapping, WorkSafe Victoria suggests:

  • installing an automatic pallet wrapper;
  • using a semi-automatic stretch wrapping machine; or
  • using a vacuum-sealing or shrink-wrapping device.

“It’s been a long time, but Australian industry is beginning to take notice of the potential dangers and the costs involved, otherwise a WorkCover body would not be making a study,” said Joyce.

“It’s all about safety and productivity, and what we have found by seeing thousands of packaging plants is that the two issues complement one another.

“Hand wrapping - apart from causing injuries in the long term - is often poorly deploying two workers from more useful activity within your business.”

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