How strapping works to secure loads

In today’s time-poor commercial environment, it is vital to remove bottlenecks in the packaging process. Whether your goods arriving in the packing area are intended to be shipped swiftly or to be stored for later processes, few machines will do that work faster than an electric strapping machine. If you need to collate a number of packages into one, closing single boxes, or adding external protection – all in a timely and secure manner everyday – then read on!

What’s on the strapping machine market?

Have you had an initial look around, only to think the various different options are baffling? On the one hand, some machines are large enough to fill a small room. You’ll see other businesses benefiting most from using hand-held apparatus. Let us help you by categorising the main types of strapping machine. They all serve a purpose, so working out the best one for you requires some analysis of the numbers in your own operation.

Automatic strapping machines

Fully automatic strapping machine

Fully automatic strapping machine

Do you handle hundreds of small-to-medium packs say from the size of small, fat book up to a boxed domestic microwave? Adding a fully automatic strapping machine to the end of the line is likely to be hugely rewarding in terms of labour saved and efficiency. Output in excess of 35 straps per minute can be achieved, while high speed machines offer around 50 per minute. Warranty is for 12 months and reliability is good. Operators should not need to be involved with any more than the most basic maintenance.

Will the budget stretch to something around £4000? Spreading the cost may be an option. There’s finance up to 3 years available to successful applicants, along with possible tax relief on capital expenditure. You could save money by having a model with button or foot control instead of a magic eye to activate the sealing cycle. Strap widths range from 9 mm-15 mm.

Semi-automatic strapping machines

Semi automatic strapping machine

Semi automatic strapping machine

Choosing a semi-automatic machine is not necessarily a poor option at all. For those with a huge variation in package sizes (here the ceiling’s the limit, just so long are able to move the item safely and directly against the ‘stop’ of the machine’s loading position. This can be tricky if the item is an irregular shape). Feeding the strap out and back in will take longer – and the sealing cycle could also add a second or two, subject to the gauge of strap and settings. The shear versatility is what wins here.

Packages per day could be counted in tens rather than hundreds to be viable and one machine could conceivably be shared by a few of operators. They can be moved around too on 4 lockable castors to minimise the distances for packs to be transported. Moderately fragile items may be accommodated (such as boxed fresh flowers) thanks to adjustable tension control. Strap widths from 5 mm-15.5 mm. Depending on model, prices start around £700.

Hand held strapping machines

Why use a hand-held strapping machine? These are cordless and so can be carried to the product that needs to be packaged, saving loads of time, energy and machine handling. Employed vertically or horizontally they tension, heat-seal and cut at the squeeze of a trigger once you have fed both ends of the plastic strap into the machine. Expect up to 400 straps per charge of a new battery, subject to variables such as the prevailing temperature. Components may wear and need replacing and regular servicing is advisable.

They are favourites in timber yards for example, where long lengths of cut timber can be bundled speedily, ensuring orders are collated and made rigid. Any number of bulky items may be handled just as well. These are best not lost in the yard though. Expect to pay something around £2000 per unit.

Manual strapping machines

Let’s go back to basics with a manual machine. This is where it all began, with sealing achieved using metal clips that have to be crimped onto the strapping where both ends meet after tightly encompassing the package. The popular combination tool will tension, crimp the seal and sever the unused strap in one multi tool, but this operation is many times slower than the electrical options above so best only for a handful of uses per day. These are best used on a horizontal surface such as the top of a carton or low, flat pallet. Where this is not possible, then the use of a separate tensioner and crimper-cutter is recommended. Expect to pay around £70+ for either kit, depending on quality.

Our own experience

In our own stores environment back in the early ‘90’s, we procrastinated for a while, but once we bought our own semi-automatic machine, we never looked back! Now we are two machines down the line. We found that delivery drivers much preferred taking our packages if they had 2 straps across the trunk and one across the length. They could carry a bundle in each hand by using the long strap as a handle. This speeded up loading and unloading times, as well as keeping orders for each site more accessible in transit and greatly reduced the number of instances where items became lost or forgotten. Quite a win-win!

Strapping materials

The most popular strapping material by metres consumed is polypropylene, being both tough and economical. It is suitable for light to medium weight packages and pallets. Generally, the thicker the band, the greater the breaking strain. Although quoted figures may sound high, starting around 130 KG for 12 mm strap, you must bear in mind the forces in a drop or collision will multiply the weight of the package by a factor of several times according to the terminal speed.

There are colours available in most sizes and where greater security and branding is required, then colour printing is available. Fact: Parcels and pallets secured with plain, un-printed packaging are more susceptible to pilferage. Bespoke printed strapping will not be opened it seems and resealed in transit!

Plastic or paper strapping?

For scenarios where greater tensional strength is required then polyester is superior to polypropylene banding. It has substantially higher retained tension and flexibility. Polyester has often been introduced in the packing of heavy items where in the past steel strap would have been the only option. (Environmental impact: packaging need not be single-use if we close the loop….!)

Polypropylene (PP) is a plastic that can be recycled for use in other items such as plant pots. Polyester (PET) strapping is available with recycled content. It can be effectively recycled for further use as strapping without the need to ever go to landfill. Paper strap is a recent addition for those seeking an environmental presentation. Suitable for both auto and semi-auto machinery, it can also be recycled.

At a glance

Strapping machines comparison

So what’s the right one for me?

In summing up, be assured that considerable amounts of time can be saved by using the above machines. When the (ever-rising) cost of labour is factored in, then the outlay is quite readily justifiable, subject to proper analysis. There is a right ‘horse for the course’ for you out there.

It is crucial to know your figures. For example, number of of packages to be processed per day/hour/minute, number of straps per parcel, usual weight per pack, size range of popular packs (to ensure you specify the correct arch dimensions for the automatic strapping machine). With sufficient space to circulate (or the adoption of conveyor belts) the flow rate can be little short of amazing.

We recommend you discuss your own challenge with a packaging professional, ideally on-site, before pressing the green button. The best use of resources will likely include a designated pathway from A to B, ensuring the minimum amount of labour to achieve the maximum throughput.

And remember, success brings success! Your happy customers will come back to you, so the chances are you’ll soon be exceeding your projected figures!

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