Down to the last screw, the average car contains an astounding 30,000-plus parts. To supply those parts, components and materials, the automotive industry brings together thousands of companies. In fact, no other industry in America has such an expansive reach. According to the Auto Alliance, automotive suppliers are located in all 50 states.
When multiplied by the number of cars on the road, it’s clear just how vast the industry truly is, and it’s still growing. Employment in the auto sector is also growing. As reported by the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association, more than 871,000 Americans are directly employed by the automotive parts manufacturing industry alone, up from 734,000 in 2012.
While this growth is good news for industry veterans, it also poses new challenges. As demand continues to rise, manufacturers and suppliers must come up with creative solutions to ensure greater throughput at equal or better quality.
To address any growing pains, most companies look at their manufacturing equipment or raw material usage to achieve results. However, one often overlooked area is material handling – how a product gets from point A to point B. Whether moving parts or raw materials within the warehouse or shipping direct to customers, much of the upstream value can be lost if products aren’t properly secured.
Imagine a pallet stacked with brake pads or belts headed to a leading auto manufacturer for installation. On the way, the loosely secured pallet topples over and suddenly, thousands of dollars of product comes crashing down. The impact causes significant damage, and now the supplier must rush to provide a new order, losing precious time and money.
Similarly, imagine a metal fabricator moving steel tubes or aluminum sheets from one area of a shop to another. One wrong turn or jolt of the forklift could ruin the product before it’s even converted.
These scenarios are all too familiar to one industry supplier who plays a small but pivotal role: Muller LCS, a manufacturer of innovative equipment and material load containment solutions. Muller has spent decades solely focused on providing customers throughout the supply chain – including those within the auto parts manufacturing community – with unique solutions to properly secure palletized loads.
Known for its stretch-wrap film and equipment, Muller offers a range of solutions for varying budgets and needs. As an example, its Octopus automatic rotary ring stretch wrapper line provides a traditional horizontal ring application that can wrap between 60 and 150 loads per hour, depending on the model.
The high-throughput machines provide greater pallet security with full automation and ensure built-in savings. With multiple film tension settings and wrap patterns, Octopus machines offer users up to 25 percent in film savings alone.
The Yellow Jacket handles 20-in.-wide machine-grade film, and normally, 70- to 80-gauge, blown film is recommended. A tension carriage stretches the film as it is applied.
The Octopus equipment is ideal for wrapping standard pallets, but many products can’t be properly secured by traditional wrap methods. For that reason, the Yellow Jacket orbital stretch wrapper was born.
Built by fabricators for fabricators, the Yellow Jacket machine turned the process on its side – quite literally. Unlike the Octopus, the Yellow Jacket’s orbital ring is positioned vertically so that the film wraps up and over the product to secure it directly on the pallet. This process enables manufacturers to easily wrap heavy, odd shaped loads.
It’s also virtually limitless in its ability to wrap at any length. Because the product remains on the forklift during the wrap cycle, the driver can simply back up to achieve a greater wrapping area. It also wraps a standard pallet size up to 68-in. diagonal.
The system instantly offers fabricators a quicker, safer and more efficient load containment method. Most fab shops today use stretch-wrap film in a similar way to secure their products, but often times, they’re doing it manually requiring at least two workers to pass the heavy rolls of film up and over the pallet. Typically, the process takes roughly 10 min. to achieve the desired effect.
Beyond the time-consuming aspect of it, the manual method can also be dangerous. Moving heavy film rolls manually can cause workers to suffer back injuries and head injuries from positioning the film under the pallet load. In contrast, the Yellow Jacket can wrap a similar load with one worker in 1 min. In addition to reducing the labor required to wrap by at least 50 percent, the machine also eliminates the need for other strapping materials or expensive cartons to secure loads.
The Yellow Jacket 87M has a small footprint, requiring a space as small as 8 ft. by 9 ft. Running on 110-V AC, it’s also easy to install in virtually any plant.
“The labor savings created by incorporating the Yellow Jacket allows us to use our human capital in a better and more efficient way than simply wrapping the product,” says Chris Pinyan, plant manager at Bluff Mfg. “While it’s an important step, the machine does the work of three to four employees in less time with greater load containment and improved safety.”
The ease of use and quick setup of the Yellow Jacket machine meant Bluff Mfg. would reap benefits right away. Aside from the labor savings, the company was able to save roughly 25 percent film per year and reduce its steel banding from 1.25-in. bands to 0.75 in. In addition, the company reduced its freight claims by 12 percent. Bluff Mfg. provides steel and aluminum boards and plates, portable yard ramps, warehouse safety equipment and steel structures to companies throughout North, South and Central America.
Ideal for wrapping standard pallets, the Octopus S Series is shown here with a steady load.
But efficiency isn’t the only benefit afforded by the Yellow Jacket. Customers have also reported anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000 saved annually in labor costs alone. Factor in the increase in product integrity, reduction in material use and other hidden costs, and the savings only increase.
Tightly wrapped to the pallet, the load’s ability to shift, fall or slide in transit is nearly impossible. The Yellow Jacket effectively secures complex fabrications, metal parts and loose assemblies on a pallet while simultaneously minimizing the time and labor traditionally required to secure the load to a pallet.
It’s no secret that saving time and money are essential to any business, but for the automotive industry, which is constantly challenged with cutting costs and labor while increasing safety, finding better, more effective solutions is paramount.
The Yellow Jacket was designed to do what other machines fail to do, which is, secure shipments directly to the pallet and protect products throughout transit. Automotive manufacturers quickly find value with increased productivity and versatility and also benefit from better safety practices and ease of use.