GARMAR Reaps Growth from Good Relationships, Providing Strong Service
Growing New Jersey-Based Remanufacturer Serves Eastern Pallet, Industrial Customers
By Carolee Anita Boyles
Date Posted: 4/1/2004
And then there are those that begin as small family companies and grow and grow and become big, successful family companies.
GARMAR Industries Inc. is one of the latter. Started in 1971 By Jerry Bernard and his brother, Howard, the company has grown from a two-man operation to a major manufacturer and supplier of pallet stock and industrial lumber that serves much of the Eastern U.S. and reaches into Canada.
When Jerry got out of college in 1963, he did what most college graduates do: went to work for someone else. “I went to work for a packaging company where I was designing different boxes for the shipment of computers and other equipment like that,” he recalled. “I enjoyed what I was doing, and if the man who owned the company possessed integrity, I’d probably still be working for him today.”
However, Jerry could not abide the owner’s lack of business and personal ethics and decided he needed to do something else. He and Howard formed a partnership they called GARMAR after Jerry’s two sons, Gary and Mark. Howard took the position of president and -- since he’s an attorney -- the company’s legal counsel. Jerry took the title of vice president of operations; as the principal stockholder, however, he makes the final decisions about many aspects of the business.
GARMAR began doing business in
In the late 1970s GARMAR added a collated fastener division because of its compatibility to its industrial wood market. The new division at first was located five miles from the main facility in
The company’s basic business changed very little during the next 20 years but enjoyed healthy growth. By 1997, GARMAR had outgrown its plant. In order to facilitate growth and in an attempt to become more efficient, GARMAR consolidated its operations into its present facility in a 12-acre site in Swedesboro, N. J. The main offices, remanufacturing plant, fastener division and stocking yard are situated on U.S. Route 322 just one mile from Exit 2 of the New Jersey Turnpike. The site is served by rail, allowing unloading of several railcars of any type – boxcars, flats, or center beams.
GARMAR is equipped with state-of-the-art lumber remanufacturing machinery, allowing it to change any dimension – length, thickness or width.
For cutting to length entire bundles of material, GARMAR has a Holtec computerized package lumber cross-cut system. The carbide chains can cut through an entire bundle with accuracy within 3 millimeters. When there is little or no trim available, the company uses a Newman KM-16 heavy duty multi-trimmer. The adjustable five saw heads of the KM-16 allow production of up to four pieces of material of various lengths up to 6 inches thick.
The company is also equipped with a McDonough 54-inch band resaw. It will center-split lumber up to 12 inches wide and 12 inches high. It is used primarily for resawing 2-inch dimension into 1-inch boards. The company also has Mattison self-feed rip saws, Dewalt radial arm saws, and two notchers that are used to cut strapping notches across pallet or skid runners.
For processing cants GARMAR has a custom designed Brewer Inc.-Golden Eagle resaw system that includes an automated cut-off saw followed by a gang resaw. “If something went wrong, I didn’t want finger pointing by one vendor to another,” Jerry said. “I wanted single source responsibility.” Running cants up to 6 inches high, 12 inches wide and 16 feet long, the Brewer Inc.-Golden Eagle line automatically cuts to length and resaws to any preset thickness. A planer head sizes the cant to exact height before going through the double saw arbors. Depending on the spacers and saw blades utilized, the gang saw can resaw material into boards ½-inch thick or more. The machine also has the capability to cut strapping grooves along the length of a board as it passes through the gang. Cants go through the machine at a speed of 90 feet per minute. The system has the capacity to produce 40-50,000 board feet of lumber per 10-hour shift.
As the lumber exits the gang saw, it takes one of the three paths. If the cants are cut into runners for skids or pallets and require notching, a sweep is activated automatically that sends the lumber at a 90-degree angle through a Brewer-Inc. double-head notcher. The machine can cut notches for forklift entry as well as strapping grooves.
Lumber exiting the gang saw also can be moved directly to an overhead stacker. Lengths are limited to 24-72 inches. When the predetermined amount of lumber is reached, it is shifted forward and lowered onto a pallet.
The third option is dedicated to cutting long material, 8-16 feet. A roller case bypasses the previous two paths, and the lumber is dropped onto a rooftop conveyor for manual stacking.
“When I purchased the Brewer system, I was looking for efficiency, flexibility and quality,” said Jerry. “I examined all the options and decided on what I considered was the best piece of equipment on the market. I wasn’t willing to sacrifice quality to save a few dollars. As far as I’m concerned, Brewer manufactures the best cant system available. They have lived up to their reputation. They’ve backed up our system with quality parts and extraordinary service. Most importantly, when problems occurred, they’ve stepped up to the plate and corrected them.”
GARMAR also has a Canadian lumber remanufacturing facility in
GARMAR expanded in recent years by opening a sales office in
GARMAR remanufactures both hardwoods and softwoods. Hardwoods include oak, poplar, maple, gum, birch, and cherry. Softwoods include Spruce, yellow pine and most species of white pine. The Canadian operation is primarily dedicated to the production of aspen or Canadian poplar pre-cut pallet parts on a direct basis.
Although the lumber operations generate wood residuals, GARMAR makes certain it is not wasted. “Depending on what we’re cutting, we can accumulate up to 200 pounds of sawdust per minute,” Jerry said. “In an eight-hour day, we fill a couple of 100 cubic yard containers.” The sawdust is sold into the animal bedding market. Block cut-offs go to companies that grind it for mulch.
Over the years, the economic environment in which GARMAR operates has changed drastically. Six or seven years ago, just-in-time deliveries represented about 20-30% of GARMAR’s industrial business; now they represent over 50%. “That’s one of the main reasons we have the reman on premises,” said Jerry. “In order to be responsive and serve our customer base, we have to be able to fill an order quickly, efficiently and economically.”
The company started in
“In the future,” Jerry said, “we would like to see the
As GARMAR grows, Jerry expects the company to face a number of challenges. Overseas competition will intensify, he believes. Another challenge is the increasing just-in-time demands placed upon the company, especially in the industrial segment of the business. “The key is to maintain the reputation we have established for dedicated service to our customers,” Jerry emphasized. “We are in a good position. We have the best of all possible worlds. We’re a stocking distributor. We’re a reman operation and we’re a broker.”
Jerry noted the continuing shortage of low-grade hardwood raw material in the
“The fastener market also presents challenges,” said Jerry. “There is a global shortage of steel. Wire costs have risen substantially, as have shipping costs on inbound containers from overseas. Nail prices are spiraling upwards at an alarming rate.”
If there is one thing to which Jerry attributes success over the years, it is strong relationships with customers, vendors and employees. “We have great relationships with our customers that go back in many cases over 25 uninterrupted years,” he said. “We have valued long-term relationships with our vendor base. We are loyal and earned the trust of our customers and vendors. Integrity is of paramount importance.”
“We also have dedicated relationships with our employees that, in a large part, are responsible for our success,” said Jerry. “This is a team effort. My lead driver has been with me for 27 years. My facility manager has been here 23 years, and my office manager, 25 years. I could go on and on. We don’t lose good people because we treat everyone with the respect and appreciation they justly deserve.” Relationships are the key to who we are and what we do.”
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