This article first appeared in IMPO's July 2013 issue.
Pat and Bill Lancaster believed that pallet loads of product could be better protected — that billions of dollars of unsalable product due to shipping damage could be reclaimed and energy spent recycling, repurposing, or disposing of this damaged product could be regained. Pallet loads could be better stabilized and product should be — and could be — better protected in transit. Thousands of man hours, spent loading products onto a truck one box at a time, could be regained.
The elasticity of plastic was the answer. Layers of stretched plastic film could encase pallet loads, stabilizing and containing the products and ensuring a safe journey to its final destination.
Testing proved their concept of ‘stretch wrapping’ worked. The passion to perfect their product grew, it was introduced to the packaging industry in 1973, and a dinner table discussion turned into the world’s first stretch wrapping machine.
“It’s a classic American rags to riches story,” says Jim Lancaster, CEO of Lantech. “[My father] came up with this idea of unitizing a load by rotating it in film. He built a machine to do that and sold it. And that gave him enough money to make the next one, and off to the races he went.”
Today, Lantech is the world’s largest manufacturer of stretch wrapping equipment.
40 Years Of Innovation
A leader in packaging equipment manufacturing, Lantech credits its focus on innovation for its success the last 40 years. Alongside Lean manufacturing and a commitment to its customers, Lancaster says, “The business was really wrapped around innovation from the very beginning.”
Major innovations in the stretch wrapping equipment industry can be traced back to Lantech — including the first stretch wrapper, the first automatic stretch wrapper, and the first horizontal wrapper. Lantech currently holds 360 patents, and its patent rate “is at its highest rate it’s ever been on an annual basis.”
But innovation isn’t the only contributor to Lantech’s success, explains Lancaster: “It’s a combination of innovation; productivity, efficiency, speed, and quality; and then taking really good care of the customers after they’ve got the machines.”