When unitizing cartons of product with a strapper proved costly and inefficient, management at Sassy Baby Products knew a new system was in order. Customers were complaining about receiving damaged merchandise or orders that were short a box or two.
So in March of ’97, the Grand Rapids, MI, marketer of products for babies installed a Packmatic (Chicago, IL) shrink bundler. The new equipment saves Sassy Baby money while meeting customer needs and, as a bonus, employees like the new process better.
Sassy Baby buys baby products from around the world and repackages them, generally in blister packs, for shipment to retailers throughout the U.S. Primary packs are loaded into corrugated shippers in various quantities.
In the past, when a retailer placed an order, Sassy Baby workers pulled cases from storage and unitized each store’s order with up to eight straps. A shipping label identified each unitized load. While this worked reasonably well, there were several problems. For one thing, case sizes vary, and unlike carton sizes, couldn’t be strapped together, says Tom Winters, purchasing manager at Sassy Baby. So the company ended up sending two or more strapped bundles of product to a store. This increased shipping costs because UPS charges a base rate for each unit shipped.
Losing merchandise was another problem. “If we had seven similarly shaped cartons strapped together, there was a good chance the odd carton would slip out of the strapping,” says Winters.
The Packmatic bundler solves both of these problems. The bundler wraps a layer of polyethylene film, supplied by xpedx (Covington, KY), around cartons regardless of the number or varying sizes. The film is then shrunk down snugly around the load. Winters says shrink wrapping has cut shipping costs by 20% while reducing lost merchandise by about 90%.
The wrapping process is as follows: An employee sets the cases that make up an order on the wrapper collation table. The employee then manually pushes the cases forward, and the film is wrapped around them, forming a sleeve. A heated knife cuts and seals the two ends of the PE together. The wrapped pack sits on the outfeed of the machine until a subsequent set of cases is pushed through. Pushing the next set through advances the already-wrapped cases onto the shrink tunnel conveyor. Heat inside the tunnel shrinks the film around the cases. As the bundle exits the tunnel, it passes under a cooling arch, which helps set the plastic by blowing cooler ambient air onto it.
By including its employees in the decision-making process, Sassy Baby was able to make sure the new shrink wrapper was the right solution to the problem. “We sat down with all the people in the shipping department and asked them what they thought,” Winters says. “Nobody could see any downside to it. They went through the training, which took about 15 minutes.” Winters says employees like the new process because it’s not as noisy, and, after the packages are wrapped, they don’t shift around.
Having this new bundling system has brought at least a small bundle of joy to the employees of Sassy Baby and, Winters assumes, to its customers. “There hasn’t been a stampede of people telling us what a wonderful job we’ve done,” he says. “Of course, sometimes that’s best. No news is good news, I guess."