Sooner or later, established firms reach the point where they need to boost productivity. Existing equipment no longer meets output and efficiency requirements because of higher volume, excessive downtime or other issues. 

Glass Gardens ShopRite stores, which operate in New Jersey and New York under the Wakefern umbrella, and Tony O’s Supermarket and Catering in Kingsville, Ohio, found themselves in this situation and decided to upgrade overwrapping. 

Today’s most advanced overwrappers consistently produce tightly wrapped packages at speeds up to 120 trays per minute; feature stainless steel, easy-to-clean construction; handle a range of tray sizes; change over in a few minutes; and are easy to set up, operate and troubleshoot. Resulting packages are tight, leak-free and case-ready. 

Other machine features include automatic recognition of tray dimensions and selection of film length and width, film pre-stretch capability and self-diagnostics. Many units can be customized with extended infeed conveyors and sealing modules, applicators for pre-printed bands, front film loading and sensors for centering trays and printed film and detecting transparent trays and oversize packages. 

Even mid- and entry-level machines offer a user-friendly operator interface with memory for dozens of package options and easy access for cleaning and maintenance plus quick-changeover features such as dual film reels. Whether basic or advanced, virtually all overwrappers integrate easily with weighing and labeling modules.

For Glass Gardens ShopRite, the upgrade involved four out of its 11 stores. The new overwrappers allow the stores to customize and precisely apply labels. The overwrappers also meet a number of goals: higher speed, improved ergonomics, lower noise level, reduced manpower, compact footprint, a tighter and more professional looking wrap, and less time spent on film roll replacement, cleanup and repackaging. The new machines not only are a lot more efficient, but also timesavers, according to Bill Scorzetti, manager of the retailer’s Meat Department. Manpower needs have been halved. One operator now loads and unloads the compact, 20-square-foot machine from one position instead of dedicating an operator to each function.

Removable trays and under-carriage release doors collect and contain debris to prevent product contamination. On-screen tutorials guide users through operation, changeover and troubleshooting, while a tactile keyboard, internal memory and visual display help maximize ease of use. Because the operator interface displays information about any error with guidance about how to resolve it, operators solve nearly all glitches on their own, greatly reducing the need for service calls. As a result, the overwrappers typically run several hundred thousand packages between service calls.  

Tony O’s Supermarket and Catering — an independent store that specializes in high-quality, competitively priced meats and homemade deli products — experienced similar benefits when it replaced a 20-year-old overwrapper. Wrapping time has improved more than 80 percent. A tray of cuts now can be wrapped in seven minutes versus 40 minutes on the previous machine. In addition, film usage has dropped and packages are consistently tight, leak-proof, uniform and attractive. 

Operators spend less time changing film rolls, replacing label rolls and cleaning. Leslie Byrd, head meat wrapper, reports, “Changing the labels and film out is so easy. With the step-by-step instructions on the machine, it just walks you right through it. It takes almost no time at all.” In addition, the intuitive interface and tactile keypad simplify changing price and item information. 

“I did extensive research on products available …,” says owner Tony Orlando. “There is a whole host of things that this machine can do that simply couldn’t be done 10 years ago.” In fact, larger packages that previously could only be wrapped by hand now can be handled on the machine.

Upgrading overwrapping not only boosts efficiency, safety and productivity, but also quickly pays for itself and generates a return on investment for years to come. NP