By Jenn Milner In the roll-forming process, there are so many opportunities for scuffs, scrapes, dents, and other accidents, all of which can compromise the aesthetics and longevity of rolled panels, trims, and gutters. Any little nick in the coating can emerge as rust or peeling paint in the future, so precautions are always taken. New processes are evolving in the industry to increase and reinforce the safety precautions taken during the roll-forming process, from coil to installed product.
Big Steel Rack

The Big Steel Rack is used to hold material in wait for shipment.

Storage Solutions
Big Steel Rack in Jackson, Michigan, specializes in custom storage racks for the manufacturing industry. Their original “Big Steel Rack” is a sheet rack that holds specialized 3″-thick metal pallets stacked vertically with 4″ spacing between the pallets. With traditional wooden pallet storage solutions, said Brandon Bartel with Big Steel Rack, “you lose that much more density in your storage.” Bartel has plenty of ideas and the drive to design solutions for all of his customers. “This is a growing segment for us,” he shared. He is just seeing the tip of the iceberg for his place in the roll-forming industry. The ability to safely rack coils just once so they don’t need to be stacked, un-stacked, and re-stacked prevents damage to the coil and increases worker safety through less handling time. Working on a rack design to hold longer sheets of coil is also a high priority. “Our current max is 6′ x 12′, but we have another design for 72″ x 250″ (about 21′).” Cut coil can be deposited directly onto a metal pallet before being transported by forklift to the compact storage rack. “Roll-forming customers I’ve had cut their coil to length first, so they appreciate having a robust pallet system that protects the material,” said Bartel. Holes along the top side of the pallet can hold containment pins, so the sheets don’t slide against each other (a potential opportunity for damage) or slide off the pallet completely during transport. If completed products are not being shipped immediately, Big Steel Rack wants to solve your inventory storage and protection issues as well. While they don’t currently mass produce appropriately sized shelves for packages of rolled panels, they are innovating and adapting their designs as they get more involved in the roll-forming industry. “We could use the same pins in the perimeter of the pallet to contain all of the materials,” said Bartel. “I could also see creating lanes or bays that could hold formed panels, trim, or gutters.”

For a standing seam production line, the Ameripak SR-442SS series is designed to unitize and protect the panels to allow an increase in panel production.

Wrapping Solutions

Once the coil is run through the roll former, you’re left with bulky, sometimes oddly shaped panels that need to make it safely to their destination. Stacking and securing panels isn’t new, but Robert Bowlin of Ameripak has identified pain points in the process and created solutions. Typically, to prevent damage, the panels are wrapped with plastic sheeting, corner board, and banding materials right on sawhorses or a conveyor belt before they are moved to storage or a truck. “Once the panel is produced,” said Bowlin, “the roll-forming machine comes to a halt and now the process of packaging holds up the machine from starting on the next run.” Ameripak’s fully automated orbital stretch wrapper is installed right in line with the roll-forming machine, so the stack of panels moves smoothly from the roll former through the wrapping process without additional labor. “You can package quickly and make the roll-forming machine immediately available to run the next batch of product,” said Bowlin. Along with the fully-automated orbital stretch wrapper, Ameripak sells semi-automated systems and specialized machines for gutters and standing seam panels (which need to be stacked differently while packing).

For a standing seam production line, the Ameripak SR-442SS series is designed to unitize and protect the panels to allow an increase in panel production.

Traditionally, said Bowlin, standing seam panels in particular are a real bottleneck in the roll-forming process. Because they are stacked at an angle, moving them to a crate where they can be packed can be time consuming and a scratch hazard, not to mention the added costs. “In an average stack of panels that is 20′ long, you’re probably going to have $15 or $20 cost with our wrapping materials,” said Bowlin. “With wood crating, that number jumps to upward of $70 in materials, not to mention labor!” With the orbital stretch wrapper, standing seam panels are stacked on a conveyor that’s at a 20-degree angle. “We can stack panels as they come out of the roll former like normal onto an infeed conveyor,” said Bowlin. “We insert cardboard spacers between the panels as we build the stack and it can then be transferred into the machine via a control panel and wrapped securely, creating one rigid package that requires no crating.” Between lower labor costs and increased efficiency, Bowlin said his customers have paid off their machines in less than a year. “You’re getting a return on your investment—you can run more lineal feet of material per unit than you would in conventional roll forming.” Once the panels are wrapped, they are easier to handle, less likely to get scratched or dirty, and the package has a clear center of gravity, so you can now move them safely with a forklift to long-term storage or onto a truck for delivery. Some people, Bowlin noted, do still use long pieces of corner board for protection where the forklift picks up the stack for extra protection, but, he chuckled, “Nothing stops a forklift.” If completed products are being loaded onto a delivery truck, the new wrapping system continues to protect the panels. The plastic wrapping holds the panels so tightly together that it eliminates damage caused by vibration of the metal surfaces against each other in transport. “Vibration from wind or chatter from the road creates a harmonic rubbing together of the panels,” said Bowlin. “It is like an ultrasonic effect that creates an abrasive situation—like sonic sandpaper.” Each machine begins and ends the wrapping process by applying extra stretch wrap to the ends of the product, sealing the inside from road grime, rain, and snow. You won’t risk the elements when you ship the panels on an open truck. And, once the panels have arrived, cleanup is easier than ever before. “No one likes to deal with dunnage, and dealing with crates and banding and film is worse than a bundle of stretch wrap,” finished Bowlin.


Taking extra steps to ensure the safety of your coil and rolled materials means streamlined production, fewer callbacks, and less waste on the job site, all of which add up to lower expenses. Evaluate where your time and money go, and make an investment in safe and streamlined packing and storage!    RF