Fiber cradles protect with care

A speciality films manufacturer is making considerable savings with the installation of recycled fiber cradles from Rollguard which are used to protect rolls in transit

Nitto Europe makes specialty films and tapes for use in the automotive, electronics, paper and printing, building and construction, aerospace and medical industries around the world. The company was looking for an alternative to the wooden block cradles it was using to ship rolls horizontally on pallets. An ocean away, Rollguard, part of Great Northern Corporation’s Specialty Group, has provided the solution.

“First we went from pyramid to block packaging because then the load is stackable,” says Danny Timmermans, purchasing and logistics packaging specialist for Nitto Europe. “What we were using for our block packaging were wooden blocks with cradle diameters that were customised for our rolls. The wooden cradles were put under and between the layers of rolls on pallets.”

Maximising space

The stackability allowed them to maximise the space in the trucks, rail cars and ships that carry the rolls to customers in North America, Europe and south east Asia. However, the wooden blocks sometimes caused product damage.

“If you put two or three pallets on top of each other, the weight on the blocks could crush the core the film was wrapped around,” explains Timmermans. “That would make the roll unusable for the end customer who could not fit the misshapen core on their machines. Looking for alternatives, I found Rollguard cradles on the internet and was intrigued. It’s hard to find cradles of comparable quality in this area so I had some samples sent to us.

When the cradles arrived, everyone was amused because the material looked like egg cartons and they were used to the wooden supports; they said: what are they trying to do now? But these fiber cradles hug the rolls better so the pallets became a lot more stable. The production personnel were won over and we switched in February 2010.”

Rollguard is well known in North America as the leading developer and supplier of sustainable protective packaging systems for rolled and cylindrical products. Its signature product line of recycled fiber roll cradles offers strength, protection and cost efficiency in a ‘green’ packaging solution that can be easily customised to fit nearly any roll or cylindrical protective packaging situation.

Nitto Europe is using three different sizes of Rollguard recycled fiber roll cradles in configurations that allow three, four or five rolls per layer. The rolls typically range in length from 1000 to 2600 centimeters (394 to 1024 inches); in diameter from 160 to 350 millimeters (6 to 14 inches); and in weight from 10 to 30 kilograms (22 to 66 pounds).

“Rollguard helped me with advice on the best way to configure the strapping bands so that the rolls are hugged very tightly,” says Timmermans who has been pleased with the resulting load stability. “We have been able to use email and pictures to overcome any challenges encountered.”

Customised solution

The nearly 4000-miles between Belgium and Wisconsin has not prevented Rollguard from working out customised solutions and providing support. The company’s experience in exporting and working with distant customers has proved valuable to international clients including Nitto.

“We are proud of the international expertise we have developed,” says Rollguard’s general manager Rob Swannell. “With our export experience and growing reputation for reliability and customer service in Europe, we try to make customers such as Nitto Europe feel they are working with a partner who is not far away – just around the corner.”

Any initial concerns about the geographic distance and shipping the molded pulp cradles in 40-foot containers across the Atlantic were quickly put to rest.

“At first we were concerned about the fact that the cradles would be coming such a long distance and by ship,” says Timmermans. “We wondered how they would look when they arrived. But everything was perfect. The cradles were wrapped with stretch film and arrived in perfect condition. The time from order placement to deliver of the cradles is a consistent six to eight weeks. It is all running very smoothly.”

The first duty of protective roll cradles is to prevent any damage during shipping and handling. Nitto Europe also needs protective cradles that will not leave marks or impressions on the outer layers of the film rolls. The pallets, each with three tiers of rolls, are often stacked three high for shipping and warehousing.

“We have to be careful that the bottom rolls do not get imprinted by the cradles from the weight of the rolls above,” continues Timmermans. “Otherwise, the first 100 to 200 meters of film will not be usable for the end customers. Originally, we were a little concerned about how they would perform in south east Asia but there has been no problem.”

Rollguard’s cradles passed the noimpressions test impressively and alleviated any doubts about whether they would retain their structural integrity and performance capabilities in moist environments. Even with long-distance shipping, Rollguard’s cradles deliver 40% savings over the wooden blocks.

The savings reflect not only the nestability of the cradles shipped from Rollguard to Belgium and the cost of wood versus molded pulp but also the cost of treating wood that is being used in export.

“Normally, the wood cradles would have to be heat-treated or fumigated before being exported,’ says Timmermans. “So before they arrived here all the wooden supports were first heat-treated and  tamped by our pallet supplier who has a special process for that. The Rollguard cradles have eliminated a lot of hassle and logistics problems.”

Logistical and cost benefits

Using the fiber cradles instead of wooden block has reduced the number of packing material pieces by 50%. A hinge configuration allows each cradle to be folded back on itself to form back-to-back cradles for upper and lower rolls.

 “We now use a single hinged cradle instead of two wooden blocks,” says Timmermans. “One piece instead of two is logistically easier. Plus, these are a lot softer than wood so the rolls cannot get damaged so easily. That’s a big advantage.”

There are also ‘green’ benefits.

“Using cradles that are made from recycled fiber and are 100% recyclable supports our reputation as a clean, green, healthy company,” concludes Timmermans.“We are working hard to reduce the amount of packaging material we use. We want to become even greener by using recycled and reusable packaging.”


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