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Pallet Wrap Machines Simplify Shipping Operations

Updated: Jan 20, 2023

The pallet never occurred to anyone until the forklift was invented in 1920. The first patent was filed in 1924 by Howard T. Hallowell for what he called a "Lift-truck Platform". But what has evolved into the standard four-way pallet that can be picked up from any side wasn't invented until 1945 by Robert Braun. Mr. Braun created the pallet in response to the need for increased shipping speed during WWII. His design could be easily handled by motorized transporters like pallet jacks and forklifts. Palletized loads were easier and quicker to handle and transfer effectively with less spillage and breakages.

Pallet wrap machines reduce breakage.

Although the pallet concept first started in the US, it wasn’t until the introduction of the Euro-pallet in the 1960s that palletization became a focus of even more innovation and refinement and ultimately led to the creation of the pallet wrap machine.

Most transport vehicles across Europe had usable cargo space that measured 2.40 meters wide. The Euro-pallet was designed to make the most of this space. It measured 1200 x 800 x 144 mm and was contractually required to contain 11 boards and 9 blocks. Each pallet was held together with exactly 78 nails. The transport vehicles in Europe could hold 3 or 4 of these pallets, depending on which direction they were loaded into the vehicle. The contracted uniformity of the pallets was for more reasons than maximizing shipping space though. It was also to speed up the movement of goods across Europe.

One European Shipping System

By making every pallet in Europe the same size and quality, they all had the same value. This made the pallet exchange program the most logical and fastest way to handle the transfer of goods across borders. Trucks would just unhook their trailers at the border, and then they would be hooked back up to a truck within the destination country to continue the journey. The trailers contained both the goods and the pallets the goods were stacked on.

This meant that by handing the former truck a number of empty pallets the same as the load contained, the pallet exchange program ensured the trucks didn't have to be unloaded every time a truck reached a European border. It speeded up the transfer across borders and ensured perishable items reached their markets in time. Today, the pallet exchange program is used by Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and The Netherlands.

Need for Increased Speed

Across the pond, the US has long had its own pallet exchange program. And it's now practiced between different states and shipments to Canada and Mexico.

With the focus on increasing speed as much as possible, scrutiny soon fell on the individual loads themselves. Palletized loads often suffered spillages and breakages when being loaded and unloaded from trucks and rail cars. This not only caused substantial losses that had to be covered by the shippers or their insurance, but also slowed down the shipments and caused late or missed connections down the line.

Using pallet wrap machines avoids slow hand-wrapping.

Partial Solution

Pallets that had loads taller than the pallet were particularly accident-prone and susceptible to breakages. For a while, smaller loads on pallets were stacked for shipping, but this often meant that the loads on the bottom suffered more damage from the accumulation of heavy pallets.

In the late 60s, rolls of plastic film started being used to wrap pallets by hand. Forklift operators and warehouse workers would carry a roll of the material with them and hand-wrap the pallet once they had finished stacking items on it. The film could be stretched, ensuring that everything was wrapped tightly, creating a bale that resisted toppling over and breaking. But hand-wrapping slowed down the shipping process.

Breakthrough in the Shipping Process

It wasn't until the 1970s that two brothers named Bill and Pat Lancaster finally solved the issue. They introduced the first mechanized wrapping machine at the 1973 Packaging Machinery Manufacturers trade show.

One person could wrap pallet after pallet while forklifts and pallet jacks delivered pallets to be wrapped and took away the wrapped pallets for shipment. The pallet wrap machine ensured a level of tightness to the wrapping that was superior to hand-wrapping, thus ensuring the security of the items on the pallet. The plastic wrap also afforded a measure of protection against rain and spilled liquids during shipping.

The machine also enabled items on the pallet to be stacked higher on the pallet. This enabled better utilization of the space in a truck or rail car. With more space being used per car, the cost per shipment came down in addition to the dramatic increase in speed and efficiency.

Today, a pallet wrap machine is a common sight in every warehouse that runs an efficient shipping operation. And you’ll find a roll of M Stretch film on an increasing number of these machines. M Stretch film comes in three grades: High Performance (HP), Premium Performance (PP) and High Toughness (HT), for all your shipping needs. To make the most of these modern advancements and reduce costly damage to your shipments, start using M Stretch film today.

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