The role of roll handling is especially crucial as the need to maintain protection and positive control is increasing along with the value and size of film rolls.

Roll handling equipment is going to get beefier to accept the larger rolls the industry is moving toward.

New and improved roll handling equipment and components help flexible packaging converters keep a firm grasp on protecting their valuable products-and ultimately on their bottom line.

It’s a market that ranges from simple solutions including plastic plugs for roll cores to sophisticated, fully loaded automated systems, all designed and engineered to cumulatively meet every handling and protective need for roll products.

It’s also a market that has been impacted, as have so many, by the recession. One thing the faltering economy has done is to compel companies to place even more across-the-board scrutiny on costs related to labor and materials.

“Given the cost of both material and labor today, it’s more important than ever that roll products are damage-free upon delivery,” says Tom Duffy, national sales manager for Badger Plug Co. “Damaged rolls consume a converter’s time-either more time trying to run the roll, or more time to process a claim for damaged goods. All that time ideally should have been devoted to converting productivity. Unprotected rolls can be a real pain for the converter-and that pain is simply directed right back to the source in the way of unaccepted material, return shipping cost, claim handling headaches, even the loss of customer loyalty.”

Roll protection started with the use of core plugs to prevent crushed cores, Duffy notes. Today, many variations on this application are now offered to improve roll protection while also reducing application labor time. Badger Plug offers dozens of models of one-piece plastic pad plugs that combine a core plug with a “suspension end pad.” There’s a pad plug model for virtually any small- to medium-sized roll to suspend the material safely and securely off the ground during transit or storage.

Most recently, Badger Plug introduced two new roll suspension/protection products for larger rolls. The new Lock Box uses a unique interlocking wood frame to secure large, single rolls. The Roll Handler also uses interlocking wooden end boards and side rails to provide more secure bundling of rolls destined for long distance or overseas transit.

Reusable protection made of wood for shipping large rolls plays off a trend toward sustainability.

Rolls gaining in size and weight

Besides becoming more expensive, the rolls produced today are also getting bigger and bigger, notes Jerry Morton, general manager for Tilt-Lock.

“When I started here 10 years ago, most rolls were in the 1,200- to 1,500-pound range,” recalls Morton. “Now we’re consistently seeing customers wanting equipment to handle roll weights of 2,000 pounds and up.”

The reasoning behind the trend toward larger diameter rolls is a basic one.

“It’s simply more economical to move more material onto a roll,” explains Morton. “The more material on a roll, the less time spent to shut down and start a new roll. If you can handle one 1,800 pound roll rather than two 900-pound rolls, then you can cut your handling costs in half-that’s a benefit to the converter and end user.”

Those savings can carry through to shipping costs because, as Morton points out, you can get more material into roughly the same space.

The mainstay of Tilt-Lock’s product offerings is equipment to pick and handle rolls using a probe that goes securely into-and grasps-the roll’s core. “There’s no abrasion to a roll’s outer layers at all,” states Morton. Its equipment is used primarily to reorient rolls from the vertical axis to the horizontal, a position required by virtually all industry machinery.

In response to this trend, Tilt-Lock is developing new products that will handle rolls in the 3,000- to 4,000-pound range that should be available around the end of 2009. Before, the company targeted roll weights up to 2,000 lb. The change equates to roll diameters doubling from about 24 inches to 48 inches.

Badger’s Duffy concurs on the trend toward bigger rolls. “To improve customer run times, a lot of rolls are being produced larger than before,” he says. “As a result, the strength and integrity of roll suspension/protection products must increase accordingly.”

The trend toward larger rolls is converging with another ongoing trend: The value of the material per-unit on the roll is increasing.

“In addition, more web material is being produced with unique and sophisticated substrates,” Duffy says. “As the value of a roll increases, so does the interest in roll protection. And while the cost of a roll can increase significantly, the cost of the appropriate roll suspension/protection products will typically increase only a nominal amount.”

That equates to more bang for your buck at a period when bucks are harder to come by, thus making now the perfect time to reassess your company’s roll and roll handling strategies and tactics.

Badger Plug Company