Producing and finishing metal products takes manufacturing expertise to ensure a high-quality product, but finished goods still need to be packaged and protected for shipment, which can be critical for powder-coated metal parts that need careful wrapping and palletizing to guard against damage.
For Oregon Powder Coating, a regional supplier of powder coating and sandblasting services, wrapping and palletizing finished goods was becoming a time-consuming, labor-intensive process that the Tangent, Ore., based company wanted to automate. The company’s staff of 16 employees serves a range of automotive, agricultural and other customers.
As the company’s production volume of powder-coated metal parts and other finished products increased so did the demands on its packaging department. An average of 30 pallet loads per day needs to be wrapped and secured for delivery on the company’s fleet of
As standard procedure, pallet loads were raised by forklift and two workers hand-wrapped plastic film around and under the pallet load, bending and reaching as they passed the roll back and forth, carefully keeping the load from falling while avoiding contact with the pallet. Though no one suffered a serious, reportable injury, owner Steve Lewis fielded a number of complaints about how this manual process was causing back soreness. While this procedure is common in the metals industry, he set out to preemptively address the situation.
“As we got busier, I could see our guys were working faster, and it was only a matter of time before something happened,” says Lewis.
Lewis needed to protect his finished products as well as his workers. Powder coating is a metal finishing process using dry, powder-based paint that adds color as a durable, protective layer that is tougher than conventional paint. Though the process provides extended wear and weather resistance, powder-coated parts are sensitive to scratches and scuffs, especially when a part slides or rubs up against another part.
Of the approximately 600 pallet loads delivered each month, an average of one per month would be rejected due to damage caused by the pallet load shifting in transit. At an average of $200 per part with 12 parts per pallet, the cost to recoat a rejected order could exceed $2,000, on top of the cost of delaying other orders and paying overtime that cannot be billed to the customer.
Lewis recognized the manual wrapping process invited inconsistencies that allowed this damage to happen. “Sometimes, the wrap was too tight and would allow the film to tear, other times the wrap wasn’t tight enough and would allow the parts to slide about,” says Lewis. “We need to keep the parts secure in place to ensure they arrive safely in the same pristine condition as when they left the building.”
Lewis was also concerned that as volume increased, the time and labor required to palletize, wrap and package each order needed to be addressed. Two to three workers typically spent five minutes to wrap each pallet load, sometimes longer, depending on the shape or type of product.
Lewis investigated a variety of packaging solutions such as horizontal, turntable wrappers and orbital wrappers, and after reading about a new type of orbital wrapper (TAB Industries), he came across it at a trade event and liked its ability to wrap the product to the pallet and its one-person operation.
“I immediately liked the idea that one lift truck driver could manage the entire wrapping process without leaving the seat,” says Lewis.
The TAB Wrapper Tornado orbital wrapping machine automatically wraps plastic film 360 degrees around and under the pallet to affix the load to the pallet, creating a single, secure, weather-resistant load that resists shifting in transit. The lift truck driver centers the pallet load in the wrapping ring and presses the start button on the optional wireless remote control from inside the cab. The machine then automatically wraps the pallet load in multiple layers of film, cuts the end, and signals the end of the cycle, while the pallet load is raised on the forks. Then the forklift driver moves the wrapped pallet to the delivery truck or to the rack for temporary staging.
Since installing the wrapper nearly three years ago, the company has not incurred a single injury in its packaging department and Lewis hasn’t heard a single complaint about back issues from any of the operators.
Lewis estimates the new wrapper, by cutting the wrapping process from five minutes or more to one minute or less, saves 1.5 hours per day per person. “Now we can focus more time and attention on part inspections to catch and resolve problems before they become costly problems,” says Lewis, “and we’ve done this without hiring anyone. We put so much work into the powder-coating process up front that it’s critical our efforts aren’t lost at the end of the line in packaging and delivery.
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