with Luke Venechuk, Sr Packaging Engineer
Unitized Load: one or more products or packaged-products usually on a skid or pallet, but always secured together or restrained for distribution as a single load.1
For this first post we wanted to start basic, very basic, to build the context of what we’re trying to achieve when we stretch wrap a load. Why do we unitize loads? What are our goals? Why do we do what we do?
We all want to save money, but very often saving money in the short term can create larger hidden costs which continue to take a toll until they’re discovered and corrected.
We unitize to make shipping and handling more efficient, and at the lowest total cost. Total cost not only includes packaging, but labor, damages, and several other factors that need to be considered when unitizing your load.
Before unitization was a concept in packaging, every box or product needed to be handled individually for shipping , and it wasn’t unusual for a truckload or railcar of product to take up to three days to unload, and sometimes longer.2 The introduction of unitization made this handling process much more efficient, saving time and money. Pallets gained widespread use during WWII, where it’s easy to imagine the advantages of saving 20+ man hours per railcar of supplies being shipped, this allowed the military to use their service members for more important tasks and bigger benefits. 2 It’s hard not draw a comparison with today’s competitive marketplace, where each company needs to take full advantage of their personnel’s capabilities and become more adept at increasing efficiency than ever before.
One of the biggest killers of efficiency is damage. A damaged load costs many times the packaging and shipping costs proper handling, and degrades a company’s reputation.
Damage is preventable, but a focus on lowering packaging costs rather than creating a successful system has lead to higher and higher damage rates. Today the average North American company spends 4 to 5 times more in product damages than they spend on stretch film each year.3, 4
The way to prevent damage and create good systems is simple: focus on the basics. When making changes to save on packaging and shipping costs, test the new system and evaluate for success.
In future blog articles we’ll discuss how to test for success, the building blocks of creating a successful system, and tips for making systematic improvements.
 2008 Joint Industry Unsaleable’s Report, authors: GMA, FMI, Deloitte
 Strategic challenges facing the stretch and shrink film markets,
presentation given Fall 2014, John Campin, AMI Consulting