Lock-a-Load

Wrap-to-pallet system helps concrete products company secure loads.

Packaging concrete is not a simple job. The stuff is heavy and hard on equipment. And when customers make demands on how a product should be delivered, transport packaging choices can be limited, at best.

Basalite Concrete Products LLC (Dixon, Calif.) needed a better way to wrap loads to pallets. Its home center customers wanted the load delivered that way. With loads beginning at 3,500 pounds and up, the lift tables required to raise the load as the film is attached were expensive and required constant maintenance.

Basalite is the largest producer of concrete products on the West Coast with 11 locations, including some retail yards and mining operations. It produces bagged dry concrete and many types of block, retaining wall stone, pavers, etc., sold to major home centers and independent dealers.

When planning a new facility, the choice for Fritz Anthes, Basalite's special projects manager, was a "no lift" alternative. He opted for Lantech's (Louisville, Ky.) new Pallet-Grip system. The patented Pallet-Grip, maintenance-free system locks a load to a pallet with a "cable" of film formed on the bottom edge of the lowest wraps.

"What's even more important," says Anthes, "is that the cable is just an inch or so below the deck of the pallet. This leaves the lift truck tine holes open, so load containment can't be compromised by forks ripping through the film."

Basalite's new facility in Dixon includes two production lines for bagged product. One is among the early adopters in the United States to use form/fill/seal packaging for concrete. Made by Premier Tech (Quebec), the form/fill/seal line can churn out 1,000-1,300 bags per hour, depending on size, using 5.5 mil packaging material. The other line uses conventional-sealing paper packaging. This line runs at similar speeds. Products range from 50-lb. bags of fence post mix to 94-lb. bags of type S mortar. Bags are robotically palletized, then conveyed to the stretch wrappers.

"When we planned this facility," says Anthes, "we expected to use automatic overhead stretch wrappers because we already had 15 Lantechs at the time."

However, that plan changed when a major customer specified loads be wrapped onto the pallet. To get the film below the deck of the pallet, it would be necessary to use a lift table for the film pay-out and get below the deck.

How it works
The film cable is wrapped to the pallet with 50% higher wrap force as it is secured below the deck, while the remaining film web stays above the deck and secures the load. Machines equipped with the system maintain a full 250% stretch to ensure lowest operating cost, so there's no film penalty.

"This manner of wrapping leaves the tine entries open, which makes more sense because load containment is the goal," says Anthes. "If you wrap the load to the pallet using a lift table, the forks will puncture the film."

Puncturing the film degrades the containment force and will allow the film to flap in the wind. The two machines used at the new facility have another option designed to bring a better product to customers: midwrap top sheeting.

The top-sheet dispenser permits high-throughput wrapping of 30-35 loads per hour with five-sided protection. "We top-sheet during the winter months," says Anthes, "as a service to our customers. By applying it in the middle of the wrap cycle, it's probably as close as you can get to making the load waterproof." The top-sheet dispenser is fully automatic, requiring no operator intervention or heat-sealing. The protective 2-mil. top sheet goes on after one layer of stretch film has been applied to four sides of the load.

Wrapping then continues and traps the edges of the top sheet between layers of stretch film. The system automatically senses load height, positions the film head at the correct height, then cuts it.

As a final touch to secure the load, Basalite uses Lantech's optional hot-air sealing system that fuses the film tail to the load. "Film tails can cause loads to snag, photoeyes to misread, or loads to unravel during shipping. Holding them down is another value-added benefit for our customers," says Anthes.

Using an innovative approach to wrapping a basic commodity, Basalite achieved better containment of its loads, and reduced expenses on machinery purchases.

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