Safer, stronger, faster: custom auger manufacturer switches to faster pallet wrapping
It is challenging to fabricate thousands of custom metal augers each year while adhering to exact specifications. Each auger must be able to withstand heavy wear-and-tear in the mining, concrete, and construction industries. But the bigger problem stems from wrapping and transporting oddly shaped augers and screws for packaging and delivery.
Falcon Industries manufactures helicoid, ribbon, sectional, shaftless and other types of spiral helical flighting used for a wide range of applications. Customers use such flighting for dewatering sludge, conveying aggregates, extruding foods and plastics, as well as for mixing chemicals, digging and boring deep holes, and transporting water for sustainable power generation. Falcon creates its spiral helical flighting from stainless steel, titanium, aluminum and a variety of steel alloys.
Custom sizes and shapes require custom packaging requirements, says Steve Sogor, general manager. Since each order differs from the next, Sogor’s team of shop staffers design and build a custom pallet to fit the dimensions of the auger and carry the weight of heavy material. Sometimes these pallets reach 10 ft. long. Augers are round and smooth and therefore prone to rolling off of the pallets. To secure augers to the pallet, staffers needed to snake metal and/or plastic banding and strapping around and under the pallet at floor level, tighten it around the product with a tensioner, and then fasten it down with a crimper. This process was necessary several times per pallet to keep the auger in place. Given that a pallet load may carry upwards of $5,000.00 of product, the safe arrival of every order is paramount.
Horizontal vs. orbital
Previously, staffers needed to apply the banding and strapping while suspending the pallet load from the forks of a lift truck. Though easier on the back, this manual method did not achieve the consistent, secure wrap needed to prevent loss of products during transport. Bothered by the physical toll this was taking on his staff, Sogor considered options that could wrap 20 or more pallet loads on a busy day without sacrificing quality.
“We were lucky that no one had a serious injury over the years but this situation had to change,” Sogor says.“I want to make things as easy as possible for people to get their jobs done.”
Sogor researched a variety of wrapping options and found that an orbital wrapping machine would achieve a more secure wrap on the augers, compared to a horizontal wrapper. “A traditional horizontal turntable wrapper works fine for stacked cartons on a standard pallet but it won’t do anything to keep our product on the skid,” Sogor says. After reviewing available options, Sogor decided on an orbital wrapper from TAB Industries. The TAB Wrapper Tornado can wrap around the product and the pallet to cover all six sides of a load. Horizontal wrapping machines can only wrap around the product itself without addressing the top and bottom of the load.
Designed and manufactured by TAB Industries, Reading, Pennsylvania, the TAB Wrapper Tornado automatically applies plastic stretch film 360 degrees around and under the pallet and load to create a secure, stable, categorized load that resists shifting during transit and storage. It allows heavy, round, and oddly shaped products like these augers to be safely transported without banding, strapping, or crates.
Sogor’s model features an 80-inch wrapping ring with optional wireless automation package. A forklift driver can safely manage the entire packaging process without touching the pallet, the augers, or the machine while it’s in operation and without leaving his/her seat.
To operate, the forklift driver raises the pallet load and moves it into the center of the wrapping ring, then presses the start button on the wireless remote control. The TAB Wrapper Tornado automatically wraps the film around the pallet load as the driver gradually moves forward until the pallet load is encased in plastic. After pressing the stop button on the remote, the automated cut and wrap system cuts the film and readies it for the next pallet. The driver may set the wrapped pallet on a delivery truck, on a storage rack, or staged on the dock. The compression force of the tight film wrap keeps the product firmly in place and the plastic cocoon keeps it protected from the elements. For extra strength, Sogor uses a thicker than usual, 120-gauge clear stretch film manufactured specifically for TAB Industries.
Since installing the patent-pending orbital wrapper, the company has not experienced a single product loss in transit. “We’re getting an extremely secure wrap now, every time, with a lot less effort,” says Sogor. “We’re getting more done much faster.”
Based on manually wrapping up to 20 pallet loads per day at an average of five minutes per pallet load versus one minute or less with the TAB Wrapper Tornado, Falcon is saving nearly 450 hours each year in the packaging department alone, while also eliminating the safety and ergonomic concerns of banding, strapping, cutting, and wrapping by hand. Now, instead of dedicating two workers for 20 percent of its wrapping jobs, these can now be performed faster with one worker using the automated wrapping machine. “We did a time study of the manual process and intended to do a comparison with the TAB Wrapper but after wrapping the first pallet load, the speed difference was so obvious that we didn’t bother,” says Sogor.
Several staffers were trained to use the machine in a matter of minutes. “Everybody is happier in the packaging department now,” says Sogor. “People touring the plant have been very impressed by the professional approach.” The professional quality wrap also makes the augers look better on the skid. After witnessing firsthand the results of automating the wrapping process in Ohio, Falcon Industries managers purchased an identical model TAB Wrapper Tornado for its Cosmos, Minnesota, facility and anticipate comparable savings and returns. FFJ