"A safe working environment is of critical concern to employers," Hughes Enterprises vice president of sales Clay Hardy told FoodProductionDaily.com.
"In addition to the human pain and suffering caused by injuries, there are bottom line factors to consider. When workplaces are safer, companies spend less on workers compensation. This is especially true for companies that have warehouses and shipping facilities."
Hughes believes that to this end, more and more manufacturers are choosing ergonomically designed shipping and packaging equipment in order to increase the levels of both safety and efficiency throughout the supply chain.
"Packaging is an area of the warehouse that presents numerous challenges to employee safety," said Hardy. "There are a number of products available that make mass packaging safer and more efficient, providing both peace of mind and ROI."
Hardy points out that 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," said Hardy.
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 labelling system can provide additional security to the carton by printing bar codes which would include specific information regarding the package's contents," said Hardy.
"For example, a brief electronic scan on the receiving end can detect whether the carton has been breached, as there will be a description of the contents, along with the weight of the shipped carton, on the scanner's readout."
Automatic labelling systems also provide financial security to the manufacturer and the receiver by accurately accounting for what is being shipped, and what should be received.
Further down the packaging line are palletisers, which also contribute to both increased efficiency and safety.
"Palletisers, as their name suggests, load stocked and sealed cases onto pallets for shipment," said Hardy. "Using palletisers 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."
Hardy contends that 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.
And, because they are light, and easily deconstructed and reconstructed, their storage eliminates the potential hazard of teetering stacks of wooden pallets.
And finally, 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," said Hardy.
"By doing so, they will likely improve employee well-being, and, consequently, company returns."