Driscoll’s Strawberry Associates, based in California, US, bought five of Safetech’s semi-automatic stretch-tape wrapping machines in August 2005. Four of the machines are used at Driscoll’s Mexican farms, and the fifth is located at their California location. The organic strawberry supplier transports its strawberries across North America and is particular about preserving the quality of the delicate produce in transit.

Driscoll uses the stretch tape technology to ensure product protection. Driscoll found that its previous pallet containment system – stretch film wrapping – was damaging the product and the cartons as it was causing the produce to ‘sweat’ beneath the film. The film could not hold certain loads and provided no ventilation for perishables or chilled or heated products, so Driscoll began to seek an alternative technology that ensured the safe transport of their strawberries without wastage and loss.

Safetech’s equipment and technology was admirably suitable for Driscoll’s delicate produce. The strawberry supplier discovered that using the 3M Scotch stretch tape for pallet wrapping provided better load stability than stretch film and permitted product ventilation.

The company conducted trials and freighted strawberries by road from California to the East Coast to assess the benefits of the technology. Safetech’s 3M Scotch pallet containment system was recognised as a truly viable alternative to netting and stretch film, particularly for delicate soft fruit products such as strawberries. Tom Taggart, a production analyst with Driscolls commented: “The addition of your semi-automatic stretchtape wrapping units to our logistics facilities has created improved pallet stability without compromising the demands of our delicate product. This innovative technology provides us with a unique quality improvement that is not available anywhere else”.

The Safetech solution

Safetech is an Australian supplier of manual and materials handling solutions for factories and warehouses. Driscoll found its range of equipment – machinery for lifting, work positioning, pallet wrapping and pallet handling products – help improve productivity and ensure worker safety. The company designs and manufactures the only stretch wrap machines that can apply the stretch tape in a range of patterns for containment.

These machines are available in two models – semi-automatic and fully automatic. Driscoll invested in the semi-automatic stretch tape model.

After the trial, Driscoll opted for the 3M Scotch stretch tape pallet wrapping technology as a better pallet containment solution. Producers of fresh foods, fruits and vegetables and chilled products found that they need a pallet stabilising solution that would allow for ventilation, to prevent product spoilage. The use of the 3M Scotch tape technology effectively made double handling and double wrapping pallets unnecessary and, in certain products, did away with the requirement to chill the pallet.

Details of the technology used

Driscoll’s chose to adopt the stretch tape wrap machine that use patented 3M stretch tape because they firmly held the palletised load and provided maximum ventilation for the produce. The company found 3M Scotch tape’s properties, including the ability to stretch by up to 600%, and great tensile strength even when fully stretched reduced wastage by nearly 90% volume as compared to the film they used previously. The tape loses its adhesive quality at full stretch and it does not damage the printing and graphics on the cartons – leaving the packaging intact.

Machinery and technical information

The stretch tape wrapper features a large 1.4m diameter chequer-plate turntable, a fold-down mast for transport, and a galvanised base assembly with a capacity of 2,000kg. The stretch tape wrapper can be easily configured for any pallet size and the semi-automatic mast can wrap pallets up to 2.7m high (the mast folds down for easy relocation and transport according to requirements). Driscoll’s are taking advantage of the machine’s capability to use the 3M Scotch stretch tape efficiently as a stable pallet load that can be transported, stored or exported.

Driscoll’s operators can easily select the optimum pattern for each pallet load using the simple touchpad controls. The operators can program the stretch tape wrapper for options ranging from banding – suitable for in-house storage – or full multi-x patterns that provide maximum load stability.

The stretch wrap machines can handle a maximum load of 1.4m (square), they have a capacity of 200kg and a shipping weight of approximately 500kg. The fold-down mast and fork tyne sockets enable easy transport and relocation. The technology eliminates double handling and spoilage when the stretch tape is applied. The Easy Wrapper was easily installed without the need for a new three-phase supply as it could operate off a 240volt system or be modified for 110 volt operation.

How the system has benefited Driscoll

Driscoll found that the 3M Scotch stretch tape improved food quality and shelf life substantially when compared with stretch film. The 3M Scotch stretch tape is simpler to use and dispose of than netting or stretch film – in fact Driscoll reported that their plastic waste volume is reduced by up to 90%.