Semi-Automatic Turntable Pallet Wrappers vs. Manual Pallet Wrapping

Shrink wrapping your pallets is one of the last steps in the shipping process—but it’s also one of the most important. An improperly wrapped load can not only cause product damage and a financial loss but presents a significant safety hazard to those working around it.

This is why many companies forgo the traditional method of manually wrapping their pallets by hand and opt for either a manual hand wrapping or semi-automatic turntable machine. 

Read on to learn more about the differences between the two and why you would opt for one over the other.

Hand Wrapping Machines

A hand wrapping pallet machine can help warehouse workers more efficiently wrap low volumes of pallets daily. These entry-level machines vary in size and configuration, but most have a turntable, film carriage, and a foot pedal that’s manually controlled by the operator.

There are a few levels of manual wrapping :

  1. Pure hand wrapping, the operator is everything – the turntable, the mast, and the carriage (moving the film up and down).
  2. Turntable with a hand or foot pedal – the operator is the mast and the carriage
  3. Turntable with a mast (not powered), the operator is the carriage
  4. Turntable, semi-auto push button mast, no photo-eye – the operator is still involved

The manual wrapping process is relatively simple but involves multiple time-consuming steps:

  1. The warehouse worker will drive a forklift under the pallet they want to wrap and then position it directly onto the turntable, ensuring that the load is completely centered.
  2. Around 5’ of film will need to be threaded by hand into the rollers. The operator will then manually adjust the tension knob based on the pallet’s shape, size, and weight. Too much tension and they risk damaging the boxes—too little, and they risk wasting expensive shrink wrap.
  3. Once the tail of the stretch wrap has been attached to the pallet, the operator will then step on the foot pedal and manually maneuver the film carriage arm up and down until the pallet has been sufficiently wrapped.

The main benefit of using a manual pallet wrapping machine is that it prevents workers from walking around the pallet in circles as they try to wrap it as efficiently as possible. 

However, there are several downsides to using one of these machines. Even though the pallet sits on a turntable, the rest of the process is performed completely by hand, leaving ample room for human error. 

Fatigue, distraction, and the overall time it takes to set up the wrapping process make manual wrapping machines far less efficient than their semi-automatic counterparts. The more pallets a worker has to wrap manually, the greater the chances of them not applying the right tension or making one of several critical wrapping errors.

Semi-Automatic Turntable Wrappers

There are a few levels of Semi-Automatic Turntable Machines

  • Includes a photo eye, powered turntable and powered mast  – (Handle It Model 600 or 800).
  • Includes a photo eye, powered turntable and mast, with power pre-stretch (Handle IT Model 850, 1100, 1200 UL)
  • Includes a photo eye, powered turntable and mast, power pre-stretch and auto cut (Handle It Model 1100, 1200 UL)
  • Fully automatic, also attaches film, cuts it, seals it, (Handle IT Model 1100 AA-C)
  • Fully automatic advanced – involves conveyorized equipment to bring the pallet to the wrapper – all based on sensors (Handle It Model FA 4000, FA 4100)

Semi-automatic turntable wrappers offer more efficiency than manual ones. They’re ideal for businesses that need to wrap multiple pallets daily. The process involves just a few simple steps:

  1. The operator drives the pallet onto the turntable of the machine
  2. They attach the film to the load
  3. Using the attached control panel (or remote control that comes standard with some low-profile semi-automatic models), the operator sets the desired wrap program based on the pallet’s load shape, size, and weight. 
  4. The operator then pushes a button to begin the wrap cycle, and the machine will automatically wrap and tie off once done.

Here’s a short video on how a semi-automatic stretch wrapper works:

Semi-automatic machines have several distinct advantages over manual ones. They allow for the efficient use of expensive shrink wrap, which keeps waste to a bare minimum. Since the machine controls the entire process, the wrapping is done right every time, regardless of how many pallets are wrapped during the shift.

There are several other benefits of using a semi-automatic machine vs. a manual one:

Power Pre-Stretch

A power pre-stretch is a feature that comes standard on most semi-automatic turntable wrappers. The film gets stretched by up to 250% of its original length during the wrapping process. This greatly reduces the amount of film used to wrap a single pallet. 

The savings can add up really quickly—to the point of literally paying for the machine’s entire cost in a few months*. Below you will find a table of the estimated savings that a powered pre-stretch provides:

Film Roll Length & Avg. Cost Pallets wrapped per day Film Savings Per Year
5000’ @ 57.00 per roll 20 $5,200
30 $7,800
50 $13,000
100 $26,000


*based on approximately 105’ film used without pre-stretch and 30’ used with power pre-stretch carriage at the cost of $57.00 per 5000’ roll of film wrapping a typical 40x48x60 load. 

User-Friendly Control Panel

An integrated control board allows you to set up and customize up to 18 wrap programs on some models, such as the 850PS. It also enables you to easily control film tension, wrap counts, and control speed, thereby ensuring each pallet is optimally wrapped based on its size, height, weight, and shape.

Wrap Height 

One of the downsides to manually wrapping pallets by hand is that the height of the operator directly correlates to the height of the load they’re able to wrap. Semi-automatic wrappers can wrap loads up to 86” in height—whereas a person would need to stretch their arms upwards in an attempt to cover the top of the pallet securely. 

Which Semi-Automatic Pallet Wrapper is Right for You?

Semi-automatic pallet wrappers offer several distinct advantages over manual machines. Speed, efficiency, consistency, and a relatively short ROI are why businesses opt for a semi-auto machine. They’re ideal for any business that regularly wraps multiple pallets daily.

Check out our line of semi-automatic turntable stretch wrappers or contact one of our friendly experts to learn more.


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