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NWPCA Recycling Meeting Focuses on Turning Challenges Into Opportunities
Recyclers gather for biennial conference and expo

By Staff
Date Posted: 11/17/2004

Industry leaders recently gathered in St. Louis for the NWPCAs 2004 Recycling and Repair Conference & Exposition. The meeting covered a wide variety of pressing topics with the focus of turning business challenges into opportunities. Over the last couple of years, the industry has definitely faced more challenges than in the past. And you need to stay informed to keep from becoming a business casualty.

            Held every two years, the recycling meeting usually features informative sessions and some of the best networking opportunities available. This year did not disappoint.

            The meeting addressed a major long-term concern for the recycling industry by covering a study commissioned by the NWPCA to study the costs of leased versus purchased pallets. The industry has debated the true costs of rental systems for years. And the NWPCA took the lead to research the issue and obtain data on the various systems. Dr. Chuck Ray of Penn State University covered the findings, which the NWPCA will make available to its members over the next year. The results are definitely something recyclers will want to know.

            Steve Mazza of S & B Pallet Co., Plainfield, N.J., spoke on the unique cost-per-trip model that his company uses with many customers. Steve has set up his own network for customers, which allows S & B Pallet to match some of the benefits offered by traditional rental systems. His customers have lower up-front pallet acquisition costs. Very similar to a pallet banking program, S & Bs approach allows it to service customers that might otherwise switch to pallet rental. The Pallet Enterprise will provide in-depth coverage of S & Bs unique approach in a future issue.

            Representatives from OSHA and NIOSH outlined the new alliance developed between the NWPCA and the government to address workplace safety issues. This alliance should help the industry have more of a voice when it comes to OSHA standards. Erratic enforcement of bandsaw safety procedures has caused concern for some recyclers. It seems that not every OSHA inspector uses the same criteria. While the alliance will not directly affect enforcement procedures, it will provide greater avenues for collaboration and communication. Improved knowledge transfer should enable recyclers to be better prepared and OSHA to be more consistent on its policies.

            The NWPCA offers innovative safety and health programs to its members. It includes a detailed safety/health manual designed especially for the pallet industry, a one hour consultation with Adel Abrams (noted plant safety/law expert), and discounts on comprehensive consultation services. The NWPCA has worked with members caught in the crosshairs of OSHA confusion over bandsaw safety standards. The association has been able to mitigate damages and fines levied by OSHA on this issue.

            Janet (Jan) Holt, the NWPCAs general counsel, talked about the latest details in industry litigation between recyclers and CHEP. She explained how the cases might impact the industry and discussed possible outcomes from the Buckeye Diamond Logistics, Inc. v. CHEP USA court case. Jan has compared these cases to what happened in the cigarette industry, where a few small victories opened the door to more widespread litigation. Her comments were fair, balanced and realistic. If you find yourself puzzled about what to do with proprietary pallets that find their way into your yard, her legal review will definitely give you insights to consider.

            Karen Ackerman of the U.S. Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service reviewed the latest on international phytosanitary regulations. As an upper level government director, she gave a unique perspective on the global situation. Given the fact that some countries are planning on instituting the international standard with modifications, it is important to be informed and provide a pallet that will meet the phytosanitary standards of the importing country. The rules in the United States dont mean much if your customer is shipping loads to Australia, China or Europe. It pays to be informed, otherwise you risk losing customers if something goes wrong.

            Keeping on top of forthcoming supply chain innovation, the NWPCA had Clyde Church of Metalcraft RFID Products speak on radio frequency identification (RFID). With major retailers starting to mandate that pallet and case level loads be tagged, this emerging technology is just one more thing for pallet users to consider when specifying packaging. Smart pallet providers know that they must keep up with the technology in order to be able to talk intelligently with customers.

            There were more traditional topics as well. Timothy Weigel, a packaging consultant, addressed issues in container design, including material selection and the impact of fasteners on packaging performance.

            Jerry Lash of the Small Business Administration spoke on loan options and ways for recyclers to take advantage of low cost loans. Interest rates have never been better, and now may be the best time to gear up in order to remain competitive for the future. A few key loan tips can save you thousands.

            A complete list of the session topics is provided at the end of this article. Each session is available on CD to NWCPA members. The cost is $7.50 per CD, which includes shipping and handling.

            Attendees had the opportunity to visit Pallet Logistics Management Inc. This recycler recently had to start from scratch after a fire ravaged its facility. Pallet Logistics Management has a new computerized system capable of tracking employee performance, incoming pallets and other key functions. Pallet Logistics Management uses machinery and software from Innovative Data Systems, Pallet Repair Systems, and West Salem Machinery. Pallet Logistics Management gave recyclers plenty to think about in terms of the latest software technology and plant efficiencies.

            A number of networking sessions gave recyclers opportunities to discuss the development of business networks and partnerships. If you were not in St. Louis, you missed a good meeting. The next NWPCA event is the Southwest Regional Conference, November 19-21 in Dallas, Texas. Moving to more regional meetings, the southwest event provides a more intimate setting to learn and network.

            For more information on this or any other NWPCA event or session, contact 703/519-6104.


 Sessions at the 2004 Recycling and Repair Conference and Exposition

Financial Analysis of Alternative Pallet Systems Simulation and Conclusions, Dr. Chuck Ray (Penn State University)

Managing Pallets on a Cost-per-trip Basis: An Innovative Business Model, Steve Mazza

(S & B Pallet)

Container Design & Specifications, Timothy G. Weigel

Insurance Market Update: Focus on Workers Compensation, Daniel Powers, Tom Droz

(Hilb, Rogal & Hobbs)

Cultural Diversity The Latino Immigrant Worker, Robert Ruiz (OSHA Trainer)

OSHA/NIOSH/NWPCA Alliance, Adele Abrams (NWPCA safety expert), Dr. Paul Schulte (NIOSH), Francis Yebesi (OSHA)

RFID & Pallet and Container Tracking, Clyde Church (Metalcraft RFID Products)

Implementation of International Standards for Wood Packaging Materials, Karen Ackerman (APHIS)

Winnerizing Your Business How to Plan for Success, Bill Deemer

(SCORE St. Louis Chapter), Jerry Lash (SBA)

Industry Litigation Review, Jan Hold (General Counsel)

            To order any of the above sessions on CD, call the NWPCA at 703/519-6104. CDs are sold to members for $7.50 apiece.

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