E-commerce and retail are on the rise. According to UNCTAD, the global e-commerce market size was $29 trillion in 2017 and is growing at 13%. The United States remains the largest online retail market in the world with nearly $9 trillion of sales in 2017. Since e-commerce relies solely on effective delivery of products at the customer’s doorsteps, packaging can be the game-changer for the online retail industry. Shipping volumes are on a rise year-on-year, and there is a rapidly rising demand for faster, safer and more cost-effective ways of sealing cartons before they are shipped out. There are two major types of tapes that are currently being used by e-commerce firms to secure their packages: the plastic pressure-sensitive-tape (PST) which sticks to the surface of the package; and the water-activated-tape (WAT) or gummed tape.
Water-activated-tape vs plastic pressure-sensitive-tape
Pressure-Sensitive Plastic Tape has long been a popular closure method for corrugated cartons. Pressure Sensitive Tape is comprised of a plastic film coated with an acrylic or hot melt based pressure-sensitive adhesive.There are a number of reasons why the plastic pressure-sensitive tape is no longer the best option for the retailers or e-commerce companies that deal with huge shipment volumes.
- A lot of wastage: The conventional plastic tapes don’t strongly bond with the package. Thus, multiple layers of the tape often need to be added to secure a package leading to a lot of wastage.
- Clumsy finish: Since the conventional plastic tape needs to be applied multiple times and usually manually, the eventually mummified package might not look very neat or professional.
- Not good for the environment: The damaging impact of plastic on the environment is well-known and companies/people are rapidly moving away from using plastics especially single-use ones like these tapes. This is also a major reason why these tapes are losing their relevance today for e-commerce packaging.
WAT is also commonly referred to as the gummed tape. This is manufactured by using paper that has reinforced crossing synthetic fibers and a water-activated adhesive that bonds to the box’s surface. Water Activated Adhesive is not chemical-based. One of the great points about WAT is that the adhesive is plant-based – most commonly corn or potato-based. There are different types of this tape and they can be used to secure light or heavy packages.
How does WAT work?
To effectively use this tape, you need to use a water-activated-tape-dispenser. There are various types of such dispensers and the most basic of these wets and cuts the tape. The packaging crew then applies the tape to the shipping carton. It instantly bonds with the external surface of the box, merging into the surface of the carton. WAT’s unique capabilities make it a highly beneficial packaging solution on multiple counts.
Benefits of WAT
- Safety: American retailers and e-commerce companies, as well as their customers, continue to grapple with theft from packages as well as theft of whole packages. At times, the thieves systematically press down the top of the carton, making the conventional pressure-sensitive tape give way, and the thieves are able to pull products out of the box. Subsequently the box flaps, then spring back up and stick to the tape, making the theft go undetected until later when the package is opened by the end-receiver. Since the water-activated-tape merges with the surface of the carton, this technique of stealing is ineffective on it. The only way to open packages sealed with this type of tape is to cut open the box which will expose the theft.
- Custom branding option: One of the greatest advantages of WAT is that it is a custom-water-activated-tape that can not only secure your packages but also serve as a branding tool. You can get customized water-activated-printed-tape featuring your logo, caption or any other image/color pattern that you want. This will not only make your package look neater and more professional but also serve as an advertisement for your brand.
- Economical: A WAT strongly bonds with the package, and just one single application of the tape is adequate. It prevents wastage significantly, thus bringing about the economy into play for businesses that regularly need to ship out a large number of packages.
- Rough and tough: WAT is usually the most durable type of packaging tape available in the market. Unlike conventional plastic pressure-sensitive-tape, WAT can survive harsh handling and climatic conditions like dust, dirt, extremely warm or cold areas. It is this durability that makes WAT such a popular packaging solution in the contemporary markets.
Types of WAT
There are two major types of WAT used by businesses depending upon the type of package and its weight.
- Non-Reinforced WAT – The standard water-activated-gummed-paper-tape is generally made by using a single layer of pure kraft paper with biodegradable, natural starch-based adhesive and it is best suited to secure the light-weight packages and cartons.
- Reinforced WAT – The other type of WAT is the reinforced version. It is made by combining two or more layers of pure kraft paper sandwiching glass fiber reinforcement filaments that make this variety of tape much stronger and capable of sealing heavy packets.
Types of WAT Dispensers
Just how WAT types differ from each other in terms of their usage, there are two types of dispensers used for such tapes depending upon the usage volumes.
- Manual WAT dispenser: It is always in the best interest of a company to choose their equipment according to the need. In case you are looking for an entry-level dispenser with low cost and you only have low-to-moderate needs of packaging then you must choose the manual dispenser. It is not only cheaper but also ideal to familiarize yourself with the WAT.
- Electronic WAT-dispenser: If you are a business with a high volume of packages on a regular basis, it is best advised to use an electronic dispenser for your packaging needs. This leads to automation which makes it easier-faster and more economical for your teams to seal a large number of cartons in less time. As one of the leading water-activated-tape manufacturers, Holland sells the Phoenix range of WAT Dispensers which have the great build quality and a good-looking ergonomic design that makes them an ideal partner of a packing station or a business counter.
We are partners with the McDonald Company Machines who manufacturers these dispensers. We do sell the tape machines along with the tape allowing new users of WAT an economical, fully supported solution to using the product.
While it is completely up to you to decide which type of WAT dispenser is adequate to meet your requirements, if you regularly need to ship a large number of cartons then there are a number of benefits that electric water-activated-tape dispensers offer you.
- Ability to cut the tape to pre-determined lengths: As discussed above, WAT can prove to be economical in comparison to the regular pressure-sensitive-tapes courtesy of the reduced consumption. That’s where it is crucial to ensure consistency of tape length as it will help in making the tape more affordable and less tape on a box will improve the packaging aesthetics for a customer. Unlike the manual taping where you will need to estimate the required length for each piece of tape, the electric WAT dispensers give the operators the option to choose various pre-set and customizable lengths. The ideal taping advice would be to measure the length of the carton and add an extra six inches to provision for the overhang on either side of the carton to make it a strongly sealed package. Hence, if you have to secure a carton of 12 inches length, you should use an 18 inches long strip of tape.
- Easier to seal cartons: One of the advantages of the electric tape dispensers is their ability to reduce the number of movements needed to seal a carton. It has been reported that an electric WAT dispenser can offer more than 20% faster service compared to manual WAT dispenser or some other hand-held tape guns and pressure-sensitive tapes.
- Less tiring for the packers: The reduction in carton movement facilitated by an electronic water-activated-tape dispenser makes work easier for the packer. It not only increases the packing speed but also reduces the burnout.
- Reduced risk of injury: By using electric WAT dispensers in packaging and shipping processes, it is possible to reduce the injuries to the carpal tunnel syndrome. Quite often it is reported that employees complain of such injuries while working on long shifts dealing with a high volume of packages. The major e-commerce companies have already been switching from the manually hand-held tape guns to the electric WAT dispensers so that they can eliminate the costly medical bills and the hiring/training costs which are caused by carpal tunnel syndrome.
WAT is an ideal solution for modern businesses that focus on higher productivity and sustainability. As iterated above, it has a number of advantages over the conventional plastic pressure-sensitive-tapes. Not only that, it is quite easy to make the switch to this type of tape, and you get to enjoy instant benefits. Your packaging team will become more efficient, less fatigued, and your packages will not only look aesthetically better, but they will also be safe from pilferage and less prone to transit thefts and damage. Further, you can use these packaging tapes as advertisements for your business by getting the custom printed-water-activated-tapes. Also, adopting WAT for your packaging tasks doesn’t make your conventional tape and tape-guns go waste. Apart from carton packaging, there are a number of other areas where plastic tape continues to be the right choice. Hence, you can use these two types of tapes strategically and in a complementary way. As one of the leading manufacturers and WAT suppliers Holland can be your ideal partner for your WAT and dispensers’ requirements. For further queries and information, please contact 1-800-345-0492.
At Holland Manufacturing, we are committed to offering packaging products that are affordable, high-quality and environment-friendly. If you are a business looking to adopt eco-friendly and sustainable packaging solutions then you can try our products by visiting us at: https://www.hollandmfg.com/contact/contact-us/request-a-sample/