West coast wrapper

Machine tool builder counts on stretch wrap technology to improve shipping operations

The FABRICATOR July 2006
July 11, 2006

Maching tool builder Haas Automation Inc. needed a new approach to minimize labor costs in its internal packaging and shipping operation. The company found its answer with the Yellow Jacket orbital stretch wrap technology.

Before parts are to be wrapped, they are laid on the pallet. A forklift transports the parts to the stretch wrapper.

It's not a stretch to say that Haas Automation Inc. is the largest machine tool builder in North America.

The Oxnard, Calif.-based company produced 10,000 CNC machines in 2005, shipping a large percentage to overseas machine shops. Haas Automation is able to compete on price with foreign machine tool builders because it relies on automated processes to help minimize labor requirements.

With the effort to remain competitive without increasing labor costs and keep up with its high-volume production demands, the company realized its internal packaging and shipping operation needed to be streamlined as well. Haas Automation turned to Yellow Jacket LLP and its automated orbital stretch wrap technology as an answer.

The Packaging Challenge

Established in 1983, Haas Automation is an international organization with distribution locations worldwide, but all of its machine tools are manufactured in the U.S. The company manufactures an extensive line of CNC machine tools, including vertical and horizontal machining centers, turning centers, and rotary tables.

The Oxnard location occupies 1 million square feet and employs more than 200 engineers. With such a large-scale operation, the internal process of moving parts, subassemblies, and assemblies to all the different areas in the plant is a crucial element of the operation.

On average, Haas Automation prepares 200 to 250 pallets a day for internal preparation and transportation.

"We move a lot of parts to and from our machine shop to our assembly line, inventory warehouse, and to other out-of-house processes. So, throughout the day we constantly have trucks coming and going, loading and unloading pallets of parts," said Joe McKenna, machine shop manager at Haas Automation. "And we were plastic-wrapping the parts by hand. It was a very slow process, very labor-intensive, and an old-fashioned method of doing it."

Operators can wrap loads right from the forklift's seat.

Pallet preparation by hand-wrapping was a lengthy process that required two men to hand off the stretch wrap under and over the pallet to secure the load.

The company also felt its internal packaging and shipping operation needed to improve on the quality side. Hand-wrapping lacked consistent quality in terms of the strength and durability of the plastic-wrapped pallets. Haas Automation wanted to make sure its parts were safe and secure to eliminate any damage.

"Not only does the film secure the part when shipping the pallets around, but it also protects the parts from weather conditions. Even if it is not raining, we are close to the coast and the humid, salt-filled air will cause parts to quickly rust just from the moisture in the air. So stretch wrapping our parts on the pallet protects them from the moisture as well, and we needed to find a better way to ensure consistent quality," McKenna said.

A securely wrapped pallet is very important because parts often are stored outside for a couple of days or stored in inventory for several weeks.

A Semiautomated Solution

How does the stretch wrapper work? A horizontally positioned stretch wrap dispenser moves around and under loads to secure parts to the pallet quickly.

To replace its "old-fashioned" method of hand-wrapping, Haas Automation purchased an 87-inch semiautomatic Yellow Jacket 110 orbital stretch wrap machine to secure standard, oversized, and odd-shaped loads. Operators can control the machine from the seat of a forklift, moving a horizontally positioned stretch wrap dispenser around and under loads quickly to secure parts to the pallets.

The technology has streamlined the company's pallet preparation process from a two-person, five-minute job to a single-person, one-minute job.

"We calculated that the Yellow Jacket saves us the work of half a person, or a yearly savings of $20,000," McKenna said.

Haas Automation solved some other problems with the new technology.

"Our labor savings is just the minimum, there is also improved quality," McKenna said.

The automatic tension control on the machine secures the load right on the forks of the forklift, locking the load to the pallet and helping to provide secure, safe pack-to-ship performance.

"This machine ... is going to package your product in a much more consistent and professional manner," McKenna said.

This applies to the largest of parts. The stretch wrap machine provides a way to wrap large products securely on pallets, while also protecting them from damage that often occurs during transportation.

"We wrap parts up to 500 pounds on a pallet with the stretch wrap and it holds it very stable. It is amazing how strong it is with the correct tension and amount of revolutions. We often transport our parts 60 to 70 miles to outside vendors in an open flatbed truck, and we don't have a problem with the parts breaking loose," McKenna said.

Prepainted parts also are getting the protection they need. McKenna said traditional metal or plastic banding or straps often left a mark on the parts and did not protect the entire part from getting scratched.

Wrapping It Up

Haas Automation is now looking into purchasing another Yellow Jacket for its shipping department.

"I showed the machine to the shipping department manager and he showed some interest. So there is a good possibility we will have a Yellow Jacket machine in that type of application, for wrapping parts to ship direct to our customers," McKenna said. "Products are already shipped in cardboard boxes, but it seems to be more secure and more professional to stretch-wrap the boxes."

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The FABRICATOR is North America's leading magazine for the metal forming and fabricating industry. The magazine delivers the news, technical articles, and case histories that enable fabricators to do their jobs more efficiently. The FABRICATOR has served the industry since 1971.

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