Wulftec International designs, develops and manufactures stretch wrapping, strapping and pallet handling solutions that reduce product damage and improve operational efficiency to achieve higher profitability. David Soyka reports on how this Quebec-based company helps customers stretch pallet packaging and handling dollars.
While the world faces tough economic times, it’s no stretch to say that conditions present opportunity. Survivors provide solutions that help clients reduce operational overhead and improve productivity. That’s what Wulftec International offers, and it is what helped the company to continue growing during the recent downturn.
Wulftec, a division of the European packaging systems conglomerate M.J. Maillis Group, manufactures stretch wrapping machines, strapping machines, pallet conveyors, turntables, stackers and lifts deployed in pallet handling solutions that ensure maximum protection and efficiency while cutting labor, stretch film and strapping costs.
“We can pull together a solution using off-the-shelf products, or, as is often the case, our engineers will design a custom application to fit specific customer requirements,” explains Sales Director Priscille Tremblay. Indeed, the ability to design a broad solution that incorporates a range of wrapping, strapping and conveying equipment to provide an effective pallet handling answer is one of many differentiators that make Wulftec the leader of its industry’s pack.
“Most of our competitors primarily sell equipment,” notes Tremblay. “They’ll have a machine to sell if someone wants a stretch wrapper. But if you want to engineer ways to improve pallet handling and reduce expenses, we’ll design the best solution that comprises the industry’s best stretch wrappers, strapping equipment and pallet conveyors. Our strong entrepreneurial spirit dictates that if we haven’t built it yet, we’ll collaborate with our customers to build it now. Our customer commitment goes far beyond equipment design.”
The company also gives equal attention to installation and operations training, after-sales service and maintenance. “We have a dedicated classroom where we train people on how to maintain and service our equipment,” Tremblay says.
In addition to selling systems via distributors throughout North and South America, Wulftec partners with integrators to incorporate its pallet handling designs into a larger package handling operation. “As the company grows, we’ve placed systems outside of the Americas,” adds Tremblay. For sure, Wulftec can count on local partners and/or sister companies worldwide.
“Our utilization of two sales channels – distributors and system integrators – is a definite advantage in this economy,” Tremblay says. “Working with the integrators garners us customers we might have missed. The fact that these integrators have the confidence in us to provide components that work effectively in their larger designs testifies to our engineering expertise and flexibility, as well as to our product value. On the other side, the distributors we work with understand our customers’ needs, know our equipment and offer local service, making sure customers are never down.”
THE WULFTEC ADVANTAGE
Tremblay describes product benefits: “Our stretch wrappers are designed to work flawlessly with the highest efficiency and durability even in the harshest conditions. Our pallet wrappers are easy to set up and operate and offer extremely tight wraps, load after load, year after year. Whether you need to wrap 10 or 1,000 loads per day – or loads that are unstable, extra-heavy or with irregular shapes – we meet the toughest requirements.”
Key equipment features include all-steel structures for superior strength, AC variable frequency drives for lower maintenance and better reliability, non-proprietary parts for easy and less expensive local sourcing, and the best warranties in the industry, up to five years on certain models. “All of our machines are designed to achieve optimal performance at reduced costs,” says Tremblay.
One example of how Wulftec achieves this is FAST (Force Anticipation Stretch Technology), a revolutionary film feeding system that accurately delivers film to the pallet without reacting to a demand – the best way to control film failure, ripping and breakage. “There’s a sweet spot you’re looking to achieve between overstretching the film, in which case it’s likely to break, and insufficient stretching that doesn’t properly contain the contents of the pallet,” Tremblay points out. “In either case, this will result in increased likelihood of product damage and, consequently, higher return rates.”
FAST is an efficiency promoter: It eliminates excessive stress on the film so it can be used more resourcefully. Conventional methods rely on sensors or electronics to react to film demand, and reduce film tension to a point where the film won’t break. But this wastes up to 35 percent of the potential film force, especially as the film goes around corners. Conversely, FAST uses all of the force residing within the film, without risk of breaking. As such, film consumption is dramatically reduced by up to 35 percent. At the same time, film waste due to breakage or punctures is virtually eliminated.
Film waste reduction lowers costs – less material is used – but it also has a positive environmental impact. Also, company capabilities foster long-standing relationships. “Many of our customers tend to hold on to our stretch wrappers, which are very durable. We will retrofit FAST to older machines that didn’t originally come with the technology,” Tremblay underscores. “That’s good news for clients.”
So, we’re looking at some main selling points: equipment robustness and durability. “We have equipment in the field that’s still in use after 20 years,” reveals Tremblay. As far as equipment, many customers would rather refurbish than replace – but needs change, as do business considerations (i.e., finances). Wulftec is the cost effective option.
EMPLOYEE, SUPPLIER, CUSTOMER COMMITMENT
Wulftec – which is based in Ayer’s Cliff, Quebec, Canada – has been making stretch wrappers since 1990. The company’s 136,000 square-foot facility (located close to the US border and 75 miles from Montreal) employs 180 mission-focused, loyal employees. “We’re fortunate to have a retention rate of 96 percent,” indicates Tremblay. “Many of our employees possess more than 10 years’ experience.”
The company is also positioned in fertile soil, as far as hiring. “Two nearby universities graduate engineers, and when they come out of the academic door, they possess the skills that we need,” says Tremblay, adding that the company will provide postgraduate seasoning. “Our in-house training program further develops the specialized skills we need.”
In addition, Wulftec practices what it preaches to customers in designing cost-saving solutions. “About five years ago, we completed a process to organize our factory workflows to achieve optimum efficiencies,” Tremblay explains. “We also closely partner with local suppliers, to reduce expenses for all involved.”
ONE MORE DIFFERENTIATOR: MANAGEMENT
In terms of management structure, Tremblay herself represents another unique company characteristic. Along with Stephane Joncas (financial director) and Guy Lopes (director of operations), she’s part of a three-person executive committee that manages Wulftec in lieu of a traditional company president.
From this vantage point, she can accurately observe company strength. “We’re not just pushing the envelope. We are stretching barriers further than anyone else. That’s perhaps the overriding reason for our success, which is measured by the success of our customers,” she says.
When a client faces a packaging challenge – however complex –Wulftec will bust its brain to come up with the most appropriate solution.
“’No fear’ – that’s our motto,” Tremblay says. “We don’t back down.”