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Keeping Product Stacked Despite Load Abuse in Trucks, Railcars

Nothing is worse than a customer receiving a truck or railcar with 50-lb bags of talc falling off of pallets, shifting and interlocking, greatly increasing unloading time and the potential for broken bags.
    Barretts Minerals operates a talc production and processing facility, shipping about 8,000 bags a day, approximately one-third by rail and the balance by truck. Nestled high in the Rocky Mountains, elevation of about a mile, near Dillon, MT, Barretts found a novel, low-cost way to keep heavy bags in straight stacks and on the pallet during long distance truck, rail and export shipments. The process withstands the excessive vibration found in railcar shipments, with forces that have been measured in all six dimensions using a trans-axial linear accelerator and found to be in excess of 3-Gs.
    Bags of Talc are particularly difficult to handle, according to Lock n’Pop’s Bart Hansen, western regional representative. Even a slight layer of talc dust between layers of bags reduces friction sufficiently to cause loads to lean during shipment. When initially introduced to the problem, Hansen recalls, Lock n’Pop was introduced to keep bags from falling off of pallets while in the palletizer. Lock n’Pop has shear strength high enough to ensure that bags do not shift during palletization, in-house handling or shipment. It also has a low fracture tensile strength that allows packages to “pop” apart.
    Tom Waldorf, Maintenance Manager, confirms that printed bags separate with no fiber tear and with essentially no residue or evidence of its use.
    The resolution of the pallitization problem resulted in productivity improvements since the need to shut lines down to clear the palletizer was, in effect, eliminated. In addition, disoriented stacks in trucks and railcars that required restacking by hand in order to be unloaded were also eliminated.
    While Lock n’Pop resolved production and shipping problems, a new phenomenon occurred in railcars: unit loads of bags “walking off of pallets” due to excessive vibration. Initially, winged pallets were brought in and an attempt was made to secure loads by wrapping multiple layers of stretch wrap around the extended slats. When this process failed to work, Hansen was asked if other Lock n’Pop accounts had solved a similar problem. Upon learning that the application of Lock n’Pop directly to the pallet, the initial stage of a three-step process, had solved this problem for rail shipments elsewhere, Barretts installed the additional adhesive applicators. The new process not only eliminated the walking problem, it eliminated the need for winged pallets.
   
The three-step process starts with the application of Lock n’Pop to the pallet to secure a slip-sheet that is automatically laid on the pallet as it passes to the palletizer. The slip-sheet is also sprayed with adhesive to secure the bottom layer of bags. About 2.5 grams of Lock n’Pop is sprayed on each bag as it passes to the palletizer at rates in excess of 10 bags/minute. Pallet loads—typically five bags per layer, 10 layers high—are then moved to a stretch wrap machine. The initial tack is strong enough to unitize the pallet to maintain stability throughout the palletization and movement to the stretch wrapper.
    “The three adhesive applicators are easy to operate,” according to Waldorf. “They run on plant air, and have very little maintenance. What makes it really nice is the glue is water soluble.”
    The typical cost of the adhesive for a unitized pallet is about 25 cents and the application of adhesive to the pallet and slip-sheet for railcar shipments adds about a dime.
    Scott McDougal, Barretts production coordinator, feels that “Our efforts to minimize shipping problems—loading and unloading labor—not to mention damage and the resulting clean-up costs, have resulted in reduced customer complaints and satisfied customers.”
    For more information, contact Lock n’Pop at 800-225-3009 or www.locknpop.com.

    Morris Binder is a principal with BLC-Bottom Line Connection, a consulting firm that specializes in product research and promotion of unique, technical B-to-B products. He is an engineer with a background in product development and packaging.

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