MARCH 2011

Importance of quality wire in baling operations

Here is the truth: Quality wire is intrinsic to the success of any baling process. Given that wire can be a relatively inexpensive part of recycling (compared to balers and wire tie devices), it may not be considered as carefully as other components in the business. But wire quality is critical. As a consumable, quality wire is a significant factor to a well-tuned system and companies that choose the wrong wire may face consequences. Low-quality wire or wire that is wound incorrectly can tangle and cause feeding problems that result in downtime – at a cost that can be as high as $5,000 per hour.

This article provides recycling owners and operators with insights on best practices for choosing high-quality wire and tips to avoid wire-associated downtime.

Wire 101

There are two types of wire used in the baling process: black annealed and galvanized wire.

Black annealed wire is softer than galvanized because of lower carbon content. Galvanized wire has a higher tensile strength and generally has a lubricating corrosive-resistant wax coating on it. Galvanized wire can hold a larger, more dense bale with a fewer number of straps. The type of wire and baler that a company uses is largely dependent on the type of materials being recycled, the size of the bales being produced and the amount of bales produced per day. But to eliminate the guess-work, the baler manufacturer should make a recommendation on the type and gauge (size) of wire to use with their product when it is purchased.

What to consider when choosing wire

•Consistency is key – When purchasing galvanized wire, run your fingers along the wire. If you feel any clumps (like a chain link fence) or thick galvanization, it is not a high-quality product. The wire should be consistently smooth and shiny, and should have a consistent lubricant and anti-rust zinc coating. Also consider the consistency of the roundness (diameter) of the wire. This will ensure a uniform application in the baling process.

At this point, you might wonder why consistency of the wire is so important. When consistent, high-quality wire seamlessly feeds through the equipment and it is much less abrasive to the wear parts. Wear parts are designed to receive a consistent diameter of wire, and if the wire is inconsistent it can cause problems for the machine. Most notably, the wire can fracture and cause downtime. Additionally, the fractured wire can cause injury to the skin or eyes if it is detached from the machine and the operator is not properly protected. Further, inconsistent coatings on the wire can gum up the tracks in the wire tying machine, also causing downtime.

Consistency within the individual coil and the lot of material decreases tier adjustment needs while increasing the overall efficiency of the baler.

•Consider how the wire is packaged: If an operation is currently using boxed wire (50 or 100 pounds each), it may achieve considerable savings simply by switching to wire carriers. Boxed wire can run out approximately every six hours. That means the box needs to be changed that often, which is unsustainable and inefficient. Switching to carriers (that hold more wire) allows companies to operate without changing wire for several days. In addition to the increase in efficiency, this method also produces less waste.

It’s important to note, though, that not every facility can switch to carrier wire. Smaller facilities may not be able to justify the switch. This tactic will usually work best for higher volume operations, but it’s important to consider the individual circumstances before making a switch.

•Fanning the wire: When considering packaging, make sure the wire is properly wound. Improperly wound wire can cause feeding problems and tangles. Taking five minutes to ‘fan’ the wire before threading the machine can save hours of downtime. To fan the wire, follow these steps:

1. Pick up the first 15 loops. Make sure the wire remaining on the carrier is straight and tangle-free. If it is not, pick up more loops.

2. Hold the loops in one hand, with the bottom loop being nearest to the carrier. Using the other hand, separate the bottom loop.

3. Place the loop back around the carrier. Repeat for the remaining loops.

4. The last loop, the end of the wire, can now be fed into the machine.

Always purchase from an official supplier: Cost-savings are top-of-mind for everyone these days. But the cost-savings gained from purchasing materials from un-official suppliers are not worth the headaches often associated with using substandard wire. “Off-shore” sellers are out there. They sell wire that may or may not have defects at a cheap price. Many times, the wire is not packaged correctly and it can get tangled – resulting in frustration and downtime for your business. These suppliers aren’t consistent, either – they come in and out of the marketplace.

What to look for in a supplier

When evaluating suppliers, consider companies that have invested in wire. For example, wire shortages occur from time to time. Companies that consistently invest in wire will never run out of it – even during a shortage. Optimally, recyclers will get the most value and confidence from companies that produce both wire tying machines and wire, as they have the best resources on hand (metallurgists, packing engineers, Six Sigma Black Belts and others) that can help solve problems, answer questions and produce the best quality product.

If considered carefully, quality wire can help recyclers save money and maintain a consistent level of productivity. High-quality wire can be an investment that will see returns in the form of improved efficiency, fewer incidences of downtime, long-run cost savings.