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How to Reduce Product Theft Using Stretch Wrappers

how to reduce product theft using stretch wrappers

Stretch wrap is by far the most effective way to unitize and secure pallet loads. Plastic stretch wrap has been the mainstream form of pallet containment in the warehouse and shipping industry since the 1970s, when linear low-density polyethylene resin film was invented. Stretch wrap’s value has long been proven.

You can significantly reduce product theft by using stretch wrappers. Industry experts know stretch wrap is the perfect way to bind packages together and secure valuables to the pallet base. Stretch wrap protects pallet contents from moisture, as well as dust and dirt. Stretch wrapping is excellent insurance against product breakage from pallets dislodging when they’re damaged, but not everybody realizes just how well stretch wrappers reduce product theft.

stretch-wrapping benefits can protect property from theft and damage

The list of stretch-wrapping benefits is endless, but the main advantage is the protection of your property from theft and damage. Theft prevention is a huge issue for many companies worldwide. Managers take many measures to deter and detect product theft, such as anti-theft programs, monitoring systems, security personnel and inventory control procedures.

These anti-theft efforts are all effective, but one of the simplest and most foolproof ways of stopping theft is by making it difficult for thieves to get at products. Items are most vulnerable when they’re being packaged and shipped. This is when an opportunity to steal is readily available. Pallet loads are especially at risk, unless they’re securely bound with stretch wrap.

How Stretch Wrappers Reduce Product Theft

There’s more to preventing product theft than just wrapping stretch film around your pallet loads. A lot relies on the manner in which they’re wrapped. Certain wrapping techniques are necessary to give the highest protection from being illegally opened. Hand-wrapping can only achieve a certain level of strength, while stretch wrapper machines more effectively secure palletized products in a tight and controlled fashion. Buying the right type of stretch wrapper is one of the best anti-theft investments you can make.

There are two main principles involved in preventing product thefts. One is to target hardening, where you make it difficult for thieves to access goods. The second is to target identification, where you make it hard for thieves to identify what’s contained in the packaging. Stretch wrapping can help with both by securely binding items into one large mass that’s hard to penetrate and making it difficult to see what’s inside the stretch-wrapped pallet.

There are two more product protection principles to be aware of – deterrence and detection. Deterrence is where you do everything possible to deter thieves from getting access to products. Detection involves quickly identifying if something is out of order and a theft has likely taken place. This is where stretch wrappers come to the rescue – tightly wrapped loads deter theft and make it easier to detect. It takes too long to get into a stretch-wrapped pallet, and it’s easy to see if a stretch-wrapped pallet has been tampered with.

Hand-wrapping can’t bind unitized loads anywhere near tightly enough to provide proper security and theft protection. Machine wrapping does the job better and also significantly reduces employee fatigue and expensive loss from product theft.

machine wrapping reduces employee fatigue

Stronger wrapping, easier product identification, improved crime deterrence and faster theft detection are a few of the main benefits you get from using a stretch wrapper. Choosing the best type of stretch-wrap machine for your company maximizes the safety of your products even further.

Three Types of Theft-Preventing Stretch Wrappers

hand-rolling stretch wrap can only apply a limited amount of tension

Regardless of how skilled a worker is with hand-rolling stretch wrap around a pallet, they can only apply a limited amount of tension. That’s the main value in using a stretch wrap machine. There has to be a certain tension force used in wrapping. Too little tension results in a loose and sloppy package that’s easy to look inside and open illegally. Too much tension causes product damage by crushing the contents. It also puts high elasticity on the wrap, making it difficult — if not dangerous — to open.

These risks are limited when you use a stretch-wrap machine. With a machine, you can achieve consistency in the amount of wrap tension being applied. Wrapped pallets are uniformly secured with the proper amount of material and in sufficient layers to protect against visibility and wrongful access. You can also be sure of reducing or even eliminating tampering opportunities.

At Cherry’s Industrial Equipment, we offer three different types of stretch wrap machines . They’re all excellent at uniformly wrapping your valuable products and giving them the best theft protection possible. Below is a quick look at what we provide. Then, we’ll explore more about what gives thieves motives and opportunities to steal your products. Combined with this knowledge and top-quality stretch wrappers, you’ll have the best chance at reducing thefts from your shipments.

  • Turntable Stretch Wrappers are the easiest to use. They’re dependable and designed to last. They work by placing your loaded pallet on a table that turns and essentially wraps itself by advancing stretch-wrap material from a spinning spool. The operator controls the tension, rate of speed and amount of wrap used. The operator has no physical contact with the load.
  • Overhead Stretch Wrappers are more advanced pieces of automated equipment. Here, the pallet sits stationary while an overhead arm with a spool revolves around the pallet and wraps it. Like turntable wrappers, the machine operator controls the feed, tension and amount of wrapping.
  • Robotic and Automated Stretch Wrappers are new technology and highly sophisticated tools. These are used in larger manufacturing and warehouse operations where pallet wrapping is a continual, ongoing process and time is of the essence. An operator oversees the wrapping procedure, but tension and rate issues are automatically set.

Cherry’s Industrial distributes stretch-wrap machines made by the best manufacturers. We know from experience that you’ll get the best value of product protection from these durable machines. We also know a bit about protecting products from thieves. Let’s discuss how big a problem product theft is.

The Problem of Product Theft

Direct theft from warehouses, shipping docks and trailers in transit costs companies millions in lost product each year. Companies that suffer high loss from theft also have the following costs:

  • Paying higher insurance fees
  • Incurring investigation costs
  • Losing customers from poor satisfaction when goods go missing
  • Higher personnel turnover
  • Lower employee morale
the problem of product theft

Most thefts target high-value items. The thief then either consumes the stolen products directly, or converts them into cash by selling, trading or pawning. Some thieves are selective, while others are opportunistic. Ultimately, what prevents theft is making it harder for thieves to get at goods, as well as not letting them know what’s contained inside packages. Stretch-wrapping pallets is a great way to make it more difficult for thieves to steal your company’s goods.

Practicing Active Theft Prevention

Although stretch-wrapping your pallets hardens your target products and masks the contents, it’s only one step in your entire loss-prevention program. Stretch-wrapping is highly effective, but you must practice active theft-prevention strategies in all aspects of your business. There are six main ways you can proactively fight product theft:

  • Proper Hiring : Employees should be thoroughly screened before being offered employment. “Hire slow, fire fast” is an old slogan. In reality, it’s much easier not to let a potential risk in than it is to remove employees only after they victimize the business.
  • Defending the Perimeter : In practice, this goes along with target hardening. You can use a stretch-wrapped pallet as the perfect analogy. A pallet that’s securely wrapped is just as important as surrounding your facility with a fence or walls.
  • Access Protection : Access points for entry and exit need to be properly located and secured. To continue with the stretch-wrapped pallet example, it’s extremely hard to get inside a wrapped pallet when there’s no convenient access point.
  • Facility Audits : You need to know what’s in your inventory at all times. That way, you’ll know when something is missing. It’s the same with a stretch-wrapped and loaded pallet. Once it’s assembled and securely wrapped, you know exactly what’s inside. Thieves also know you’ll discover if something is missing.
  • Scrutiny in Shipping and Receiving Procedures : This limits opportunity for collusion between inside and outside parties. Make sure there’s an inventory list with each wrapped pallet load, and that both the shipping and receiving parties sign off on the delivery.
  • Involving Employees: Making your employees an active part in your packaging and shipping process is critical to building an effective theft-prevention program. Employees who are fairly treated and compensated are your first line of defense in deterring the workers who just need the right opportunity for stealing.
stretch-wrapping is your first line of defense

Employees should be more than just involved. They need to be trained and understand the process. That goes for training the right people to properly operate stretch-wrap machines so your pallets are target-hardened and visibility is addressed. This way, thieves are deterred and detection is advanced.

Stretch-Wrapping Is Your First Line of Defense

Stretch-wrapping doesn’t only secure pallets from shipping damage. Stretch wrap is also your first line of defense against unauthorized access and removal of valued goods. But there’s even more value in stretch-wrapping your products before shipping and having them arrive intact to the end user. Stretch wrap is like an early-warning alarm protecting your pallets.

Pallets that are professionally stretch-wrapped immediately show signs of tampering. They shout a warning that something’s not right. The only way to penetrate a properly wrapped load is by puncturing the stretch wrap —  either by popping a hole or slashing the wrap. This is very difficult, if not nearly impossible, to disguise.

penetrate a properly wrapped load by puncturing the stretch wrap

One of the common tricks thieves use to steal from loaded pallets is to unwrap the load and steal from the center. Then, they re-wrap the pallet and try to make it look undisturbed. This method is possible with hand-wrapped pallets, as there’s no uniformity to hand-wrapping patterns.

That’s not the case with machine stretch wrapping. Machines produce an even and consistent wrapping pattern that’s impossible to duplicate by hand. Stretch-wrapping machines also produce a seal that can’t be replicated by undoing the seams and attempting to recreate them. With machine stretch wrapping, there’s no doubt whether someone’s stolen from your load.

When a shipper or receiver observes a machine-wrapped load that looks less than pristine, they know something’s up. They’ll investigate immediately and detect a loss or attempted theft. This line of defense deters opportunistic thieves, as the risk of being detected is far too great.

There’s also the issue of time. Machine-wrapped pallets take a lot of time and effort to compromise. For thieves, time is not their friend. The more time a theft takes, the greater the chance of getting caught.

Clear, Opaque and Colored Stretch Wrap

There are differing opinions on whether it’s best to use clear, opaque or colored stretch wrap. All three have their pros and cons. Clear stretch wrap makes it easy to inspect the load’s contents. That’s handy for checking SKU numbers and bar codes. Clear wrap also makes it easy to identify contents from a distance, while opaque and solid-colored wrap blocks visibility.

Deferring back to one of the core principles of product theft prevention, making it difficult for a thief to identify targeted items is a sound part of reducing opportunity. Solid-colored wraps are much better for hiding what’s in the pallet load. Companies committed to security prefer solid-colored wrap over clear stretch wrap.

On the other hand, solid-colored stretch wrap tends to respond badly in sunlight. These wraps break down easier in harsh ultraviolet rays and offer less-than-optimal performance in outdoor conditions. This is where opaque stretch wrap excels. Opaque wraps have good privacy protection and still stand up to the sun.

Another security measure to consider in selecting what type of stretch wrap to use is having your company name and logo embossed in the wrap. It’s not just a good branding move – using personalized stretch wrap is a sound security strategy.

emboss stretch wrap with company name and logo for security measure

Thieves can remove your original stretch wrap, pilfer from the contents and then re-wrap it to make it appear undisturbed. Once a pallet has been machine-wrapped with your company’s personalized wrap, there’s no way of opening it and making things appear original. That’s one more tool in your theft prevention program, and it’s one more visible warning against any tampering.

How to Properly Stretch Wrap

There are some specific techniques to know about stretch wrapping that’ll make properly wrapped pallets less attractive to thieves. The secret is in getting the proper tension as you wrap a load.

Stretch wrap has an elastic memory. That’s the chemical ability to stretch and then attempt to contract back to its original size. Making the most of stretch wrapping’s ability to bind loads is hard to do by hand. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to get the exact amount of stretch tension without using a machine.

Hand wrapping is inconsistent, loose and ineffective for large pallet loads. A stretch wrapping machine, on the other hand, is designed and constructed to give a uniform tension and consistent pattern of overlaps. This makes it much more difficult to cut into a machine wrapped load. That’s a big deterrence to theft.

Using a stretch wrapper machine has a learning curve, but can easily be mastered by any worker with average motor skills. Depending on the type of stretch wrapper, any employee can learn how to use it in as little as one day and can certainly become proficient in a week. There are four distinct steps in knowing how to properly stretch wrap using a machine:

  • Step One – Load the pallet onto the stretch wrapper. With a turntable wrapper , the readied pallet is set on the machine table. You usually do this with a forklift. Getting the pallet centrally positioned is critical otherwise there will be wobbles as the table spins which will affect the wrapping consistency. Overhead stretch wrappers also need the pallet to be positioned correctly. The difference is that overhead wrappers allow the pallet to remain stationary while the wrapper head circles and wraps the load. Automated robotic stretch wrappers do most of the work for the operator. All three types of stretch wrapping machines are designed to make even overlaps with a consistent tension preset by the operator. You simply can’t get this security by hand.
  • Step Two – Properly tie the wrap’s leading edge to the pallet. This is crucial. Not only are you securing your valuable load within itself, but you're binding it tightly to the pallet base. As an anti-theft precaution, your leading edge knot should be as inaccessible as possible. This prevents a thief from untying the knot and getting ahold of the products. Once the leading edge knot is established, the rotation of wrap application hides it. With each overlapping layer, the load gets more secure and difficult to get inside without cutting the wrap. This requires a sharp edge, which a thief has to obtain in advance — making spontaneous stealing less likely.
  • Step Three – Properly apply the right amount of tension. This will vary depending on what’s in the load. You need to consider the crush factor. Softer packages like those in cardboard boxes can’t withstand as much stretch wrap tension as hard objects such as machinery, pipes or hard building supplies. This, again, is where a stretch wrapping machine is far superior to hand wrapping. While having more wrap tension makes unauthorized entry more difficult than loose wrapping, certain loads simply can’t be tightly bound. This is where wrapping machines are versatile. The operator simply adjusts the tension, number of wraps, and the distance of overlaps.
  • Step Four – Use a turntable , overhead or automatic robotic stretch wrapper to apply numerous, sufficiently overlapped wraps. With all three stretch wrapping machine types, the operator is in full control of how many revolutions of wrap are applied and the distance between overlaps. A normal pallet wrap for one business may be three complete revolutions with a 50 percent overlap. However, for loads that need more security, the number of wraps may be increased to five, six or even 10 while the overlaps are greater. This creates a much more secure load that’s tough to break into.
  • Step Five – Tie off the trailing end. After the operator finishes the desired number of turns and the overlap, and has the desired tension applied, the cut-off or trailing end needs securing. Otherwise, a thief can simply untie the wrapped load. Most stretch wrap machines leave this task up to the operator who has the liberty to get quite creative. Some trailing ends are disguised by tucking them into an overlap. But for security insurance, it’s most effective to loop trailing edges back to the bottom of the pallet and hide them underneath.
how to properly stretch wrap

Contact Cherry’s Industrial Equipment for Your Stretch Wrap Needs

Cherry’s Industrial Equipment is your leading supplier for all your stretch wrap needs. We understand the risks associated with product theft and how that can affect your profits. We also understand how these risks can affect the large percentage of people who may be tempted to help themselves unless you reduce the opportunity for theft and minimize your company weaknesses.

Investing in a stretch-wrapping machine goes a long way in asset protection. Machine-wrapped pallet loads are tough to tamper with, and it’s easy to tell at a glance if they’ve been touched. Your loads will be safer and they’ll look better too.

Our knowledgeable and experienced staff can help with your stretch-wrapping requirements. Choose from a turntable stretch-wrap machine , a semi-automatic overhead model or a fully automatic robotic wrapper . If you require a more customized pallet wrapping solution then we are here to help as well.   Contact Cherry’s Industrial today for more information.

contact cherry's industrial equipment