“A safe working environment is of critical concern to employers. In addition to the human pain and suffering caused by injuries, there are bottom line factors to consider.” The simple truth is that when workplaces are safer, companies spend less on workers compensation. This is especially true for companies that have warehouses and shipping facilities. While companies are motivated to make the workplace safer for their workers, they don’t know the steps to take to make this happen. More and more manufacturing companies are finding the answer in ergonomically-designed shipping and packaging equipment, which increases the levels of safety and efficiency at the same time. Packaging, in particular, is an area of the warehouse which presents numerous challenges to employee safety. There are a number of products available that make mass packaging safer and more efficient, providing both peace of mind and ROI. Towards the beginning of the packaging process there are case erectors, machines that construct cases and seal their bottoms, saving employees the time and effort of this process. Case erectors increase the efficiency of case production and have become more ergonomic and risk-free, more or less eliminating the chance of repeated-use injuries. The latest case erector models, such as the 2-EZ Case Erector/Bottom Sealer, possess a number of ergonomic features, including a slide-out tapehead (allowing for easy tape roll changes and maintenance), a walk-in case magazine (permitting employees to safely load cases into the machine while it is still running), and an easy adjustment system that requires no tools. With the increased efficiency and safety of the new case erectors comes a shorter payback period – usually under one year. Following case erectors in the packaging process are case sealers, which automatically apply tamper evident security tape to packages, securing the contents against pilferage while also preventing repetitive use injury due to hand taping. After the case sealer, a labeling system could provide additional security to the carton by printing bar codes which would include specific information regarding the package’s contents. Thus a brief electronic scan on the receiving end could detect whether the carton had been breached, as there would be a description of the contents, along with the weight of the shipped carton, on the scanner’s readout. Automatic labeling systems provide financial security to the manufacturer/distributor and the receiver by accurately accounting for what is being shipped, and what should be received. Further down the packaging line are palletizers, which also contribute to both increased efficiency and safety. Palletizers, as their name suggests, load stocked and sealed cases onto pallets for shipment. Using palletizers eliminates injuries caused by lifting heavy boxes onto awaiting pallets, and speeds up the process of pallet loading by offering moderate to high product in-feed options. In addition to the benefits provided by palletizers, new cardboard pallets are a safer and cheaper alternative to traditional wooden pallets. Because cardboard pallets weigh less than twenty pounds (wooden pallets weigh nearly seventy), they provide almost no risk of injury due to lifting; they contain no splinters, dangerous edges, insects, or, most importantly, potentially toxic chemicals, which many wooden pallets do contain because of their need to be fumigated. And, because they are light, and easily deconstructed and reconstructed, their storage eliminates the potential hazard of teetering stacks of wooden pallets. At the end of the packaging process, there are stretch wrappers – machines that ensure loaded pallets are wrapped as securely as possible. Spinning on turntables at the end of the packaging line, pallets and their loads are bound tightly in stretch film, ensuring that loads are correctly maintained, and that employees will not be harmed in the event of pallet shifting. Owners and managers looking to automate with ergonomic machinery – consequently increasing both efficiency and safety – would do well to explore the world of integrated packaging systems. By doing so, they will likely improve employee well-being, and, consequently, company returns.
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