Why do people need buttons and knobs in their lives anymore?
While that question is posed half-jokingly, there is a certain amount of seriousness to it. Technological advances have permeated so many facets of everyday life that many probably take them for granted.
Smartphones are a great example where all functions are controlled through a sleek touch screen. Aircraft flying today have replaced the myriad of dials and gauges with glass cockpits that digitally display flight instruments on large LCD screens. Lighting and energy management systems on newer homes are controlled remotely with smartphones.
These are just three of a seemingly never-ending list of examples where technology is positively changing the way people live and interact on a daily basis.
This same sentiment extends to stretch wrapping machinery as well.
Some OEM manufacturers are embracing this trend and offering stretch wrapping solutions with intuitive touch screen human-machine interface (HMI) controls that not only offer greater functionality but are much simpler to operate than the more mechanically-based machinery.
All of this begs the question: why do people need buttons and knobs in their lives...including their stretch wrappers?
Don’t Fear HMI; Embrace the Technology
There seems to be a lingering perception within the packaging industry that stretch wrapping machinery outfitted with touchscreen HMI controls is something to be leery about. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.
Part of this misconception may stem from a reluctance to embrace new technologies in packaging equipment. An HMI interface may be intimating to someone who’s never seen one on a stretch wrapper before. They may be more comfortable with a familiar look of an older unit and the way that operates. They may also see HMI controls as expensive; an unnecessary additional cost that’s really not justified or just not as reliable as mechanically-controlled models.
But with greater education about the benefits that HMI brings to stretch wrapping applications, the trepidation of embracing this technology can start to fade. The advantages seen in stretch wrapping machines with HMI controls collectively work to make the operator’s job easier.
One of the biggest advantages that stretch wrappers with HMI controls offer are pre-programmed wrapping recipes that provide consistent wraps each and every time. This is important when evaluating the experience of operators.
Employees bring different skill sets and approaches to wrapping pallets. While some may be long-time employees with deep tribal knowledge, others are likely younger with less experience or may not even speak the language. So, when it comes to operating on a mechanically-controlled machine, the onus falls on the employee to judge and evaluate that specific pallet wrap.
What ends up happening is that they’re basically wrapping what they feel the pallet needs. The wrap is based almost solely on the experience of the operator and nothing more. If you have a more inexperienced operator in charge, that wrap may be insufficient for the pallet and be unstable, or the pallet could be overwrapped, leading to unnecessary waste.
Using a stretch wrapper with HMI removes the guesswork from the operator as the controls know the exact amount of film, revolutions, and overlap to apply to each pallet. Pre-programmed recipes contain very specific information about their load; an operator simply has to select the corresponding recipe and the HMI does the work.
Additionally, since many businesses produce diverse product lines and are likely shipping distinct loads to different customers, multiple recipes can be programmed into the HMI. By bringing a new, precise level of accuracy through consistent wraps, companies will begin to see substantial film savings in short order.
Intuitive to Operate
Stretch wrappers with HMI controls are much easier to operate than a mechanically-based machine. This is particularly true when working with a younger, more diverse staff. As many industries can attest, finding well-skilled, reliable employees is challenging.
Stretch wrappers with HMI controls can literally be operated by selecting the recipe from the touchscreen. There’s not much more to it, which certainly aids in simplifying training for new or younger employees.
Keep Maintenance on Track
Another benefit of HMI controls is that they are able to monitor preventive maintenance tasks, along with troubleshooting issues with the stretch wrapper. Very similar to a check-engine light or reminder indicators that it’s time to change the oil on automobiles, maintenance reminders on stretch wrappers are helpful as preventive maintenance checkpoints tend to get overlooked.
HMI displays comparable diagnostic and maintenance information to help operators keep their stretch wrappers running in peak condition.
The technology behind HMI controls provides stretch wrappers with added functionality that can’t be easily incorporated into a mechanically-based machine.
- Password protection; lockout functions
- The unstable load-mode option helps maintain unsteady loads during wrapping
- Multiple tension zones allow for a more customized wrap pattern
- Fine-tuning machine adjustments
- Monitoring shift and cycle counts
- Machine expandability and upgrades
- RevoLogic technology that saves film
- One-button reinforce wrapping to prevent unstable loads
- Fast and easy training
- On-screen tutorial on machine functionality
- Maintenance reminders
- Pictures for troubleshooting warnings
When all these HMI advantages are added together, it gives companies a more responsive, accurate stretch wrapper that is intuitive to operate for a diverse workforce.
This gives way to clearing up the final misconception: cost.
Some OEMs are offering HMI controls as a standard feature on stretch wrappers, and at a competitive price point to that of other mechanically-based machines. Many competitors offer HMI controls as an upgrade, but those costs can be upwards of several thousand dollars.
Fast, easy and consistent wraps are within everyone’s reach. There’s no compelling reason why companies need to keep buttons and knobs in their lives any longer when they can have a touch screen with the power of HMI behind it.