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New Plant, Equipment, Enable Md. Company to Boost Pallet Production: Key Machinery Suppliers for Green Pallet Co. Are Pendu, GBN
Maryland pallet manufacturer makes big strides in production after moving into new plant, investing in new equipment; core suppliers are Pendu and GBN.

By Diane M. Calabrese
Date Posted: 8/1/2005

WESTMINSTER, Maryland — One month after Green Pallet Company Inc. moved into a new facility, it was running faster and better than ever. With its new plant, Green Pallet has been able to increase pallet production by one-third. In addition, it has been able to accomplish this in just one 40-hour shift instead of the two staggered shifts that it operated previously.

The new plant, located in a spacious, 44,000-square-foot building with 15 acres that formerly housed a business that made roof trusses, has enabled Green Pallet to be more productive and efficient. With almost five times more area under roof, Green Pallet had the space to add a second automated pallet assembly system from GBN Machine & Engineering Corp. and a second Pendu Manufacturing cut-up line.

"In the move, everything changed," said Ron Green, a vice president at the company. There was a constant, however. Green Pallet knew GBN and Pendu equipment well, having relationships with both companies that extended back more than 20 years.

Ron’s eight brothers also hold the title of vice president at Green Pallet, and a sister, Phyllis Smith, works as secretary in the business. (Two other sisters are not in the business.) Their mother, Phyllis Green, is the president of the company that she and her late husband, David Green, started in 1966.

All pallets assembled at Green Pallet are machine nailed on GBN equipment. Green Pallet Co. bought its first GBN nailing machine in 1980 and upgraded it in 1985. By the time Green Pallet was ready to buy a GBN Excalibur pallet
assembly system this year, it was also ready to have its existing GBN machine refurbished.

"You can’t tell the difference" between the performance of the new and old machines since the older machine has been rebuilt, according to Ron. Moreover, the restored GBN machine was back in full service after just eight weeks.

The GBN Excalibur, the supplier’s top-of-the-line nailing machine, can assemble a pallet in about eight seconds. The GBN Excalibur comes standard with an automatic stringer feeder, compensating chucks and hopper deck board placement.

Most of Green Pallet’s raw material, about 70%, is bought in the form of cants, and the remainder is low-grade 4/4 lumber. The cants are remanufactured into pallet components on two Pendu cut-up lines.

Green Pallet purchased its first Pendu gang saw in 1976 when the machine
was sold under the Easy Mfg. brand.
"We were told it was the fifth saw ever made" by Pendu, said Ron. The cut-up line begins with a Pendu single blade cut-off saw.

The new Pendu cut-up line, complete with new in-feed, out-feed and stacker, begins with a Pendu-Cornell multiple saw trimmer that runs six saws. (Pendu acquired Cornell last year.) The trimmer cuts the cants to the appropriate sizes, and the material is fed inline into the new Pendu gang saw. "The Pendu gang has the fastest stacker," said Ron, "and speed was part of the decision when buying the system — along with the fact that we have run our old Pendu system since 1998, and it is still a valuable piece of equipment and still produces lumber daily for our production." The Pendu stacker can stack about 175,000 deck boards per hour, according to Bill Green, one of Ron’s brothers. "We’re running about 130,000 per hour," said Bill.

Green Pallet makes all disposable pallets. "We cut stringers from oak and poplar," said Ron. The company buys cants and random length 4/4 lumber, most of it coming from sawmills in Virginia. The Greens experimented with buying low-grade lumber from Uruguay, but deliveries from the South American country were not predictable. "Customers must have their product when they need it," noted Ron. "We’ve dealt with most of our suppliers for up to 30 years, and our lumber suppliers have kept us going, even through this lumber
shortage that our industry is going through."

The focus of Green Pallet is always on serving customers. Despite floods caused by hurricanes, power outages and even a fire, the company has never missed a delivery to a customer.

The high expectations at Green Pallet are reflected in the company’s expectations for its suppliers. "I like equipment," said Ron. He regularly attends trade shows to see new machinery and equipment and meet with suppliers, and he generally learns everything he can about what is available.

"As far as we’re concerned, we have the best equipment there is," said Ron, pointing to the GBN and Pendu equipment at the core of the company’s operations. There is more to it than machines, however. "We love the equipment," he added, "but the suppliers’ honesty is what we’re really impressed with."

"All our machines are low maintenance," noted Ron. He considers that an important attribute. Green Pallet performs all its own machine maintenance, including saw filing and tipping. Its truck fleet gets the attention of a local mechanic.

Dave Green has been in charge of saw filing and tipping since 1979. "I learned how to file and tip from Pacific-Hoe Saw and Knife," he recalled.

"We’ve dealt with a lot of people, the best people," in buying blades, added Dave. "We buy from S&D Saw and Tool in Pennsylvania and Pacific-Hoe Saw and Knife."

The company buys bulk pallet nails from Parker, which has enjoyed an excellent track record as a supplier, according to Ron.

With two GBN machines at the company’s disposal, one is usually set up to nail pallets of one size for an entire shift while the second machine is changed over from time to build shorter runs of different size pallets.

"We deliver a reasonable product at a reasonable price," said Ron. Customers give us their specs, and we do all we can to quote and then deliver the specs to them. People have told us we know the tricks of the trade, but our dad always told us to leave the tricks of the trade alone, and spend your time learning the trade itself."

A customer’s specs may range from a 48x48 pallet with 9/16-inch deck boards and 2x4 stringers to a 32x40 pallet with ¼-inch decking and 2x4 stringers.

The GBN Excalibur normally is set up to run one size an entire shift. It will nail "at least 3,500 pallets per day," said Ron. The other GBN machine, which typically is changed over at least twice per shift, is not far behind, he indicated.

The two GBN machines are arranged so that the in-feed stations — where pallet parts are loaded into the machines – are directly opposite each other, or back to back. One nailing line heads in one direction and the other goes the opposite way. Some finished pallet components manufactured by the company’s cut-up operations are carried directly from the saws by conveyor to the nailing machines’ in-feed area while others are stacked automatically.

Green Pallet serves customers mainly in the building supply industry within a 100-mile radius of its plant in Westminster, Maryland. Westminster, with a population of 13,500, is about 30 miles northwest of Baltimore.

Green Pallet makes its own deliveries. It relies on three International tractors to pull trailers. Some of the logistics may change in the near future, however. The company is looking at making use of a rail spur near its new plant. "My younger brothers believe this is the wave of the future," said Ron. "It’s always good to have the younger ideas. Some times their insight is very beneficial."

Other changes may also be in the offing for Green Pallet. The 15 acres has the Greens considering expanding into heat-treating pallets. Ron anticipates the company may implement an automated bar code-based system to help track production and inventory in the future.

Waste wood material, like trim ends, goes to another company that grinds it. The company sells some scrap for firewood and also sells some sawdust. It has no need for wood fuel since the plant building has an oil heating system.

The new Pendu equipment is completely integrated with an AFS farm blower system that captures sawdust. Getting Pendu to integrate the blower system with the Pendu equipment was easy, said Ron. "If you tell them what you need and what’s on your mind, they can build it for you," he said.

Pendu staff "were a great help to us," added Ron, "and I can’t say enough about them because of the support they gave us."

The new Pendu gang saw line is so automated that two workers can run it efficiently, according to Ron. Green Pallet normally has three workers running the machine in case one has to be diverted to another task.

The GBN machines require workers at the start of the line to load pallet parts. After that, the nailing process is fully automated. Both machines have an in-line flipper to turn over the pallet and a stacker at the end of the line.

The move to the new facility went very smoothly, and there was virtually no downtime. "As soon as we got here, it happened," said Ron. "It all came together. GBN couldn’t have been more helpful." The GBN machines were moved in and installed in one day.

Although all the equipment was UL (Underwriters Laboratories Inc.) inspected and approved, local Carroll County officials required the equipment to be inspected again once it was
installed. "This was something new," said Ron. Any potential delay was averted, however, because Pendu and GBN both had staff on hand to meet with the inspectors.

Now, "We’re as automated as any pallet company," said Ron. It’s a big switch from the earliest days of the company. Then, working by hand, the entire family might build 10 pallets in an hour. After school, all the family would show up, and by 11 p.m., they would have produced 75 to 100 pallets. "We felt like we were really on our way," Ron recalled.

Ron was 17 when his parents started Green Pallet. His father had a secure job as a truck driver, but he very much wanted to own a business. He was certain that he could build a better quality pallet than the pallets that were breaking under loads of cement he carried. He discussed it with Phyllis, and the two of them went forward. They used $365 in coins they had saved in a jar and David’s paycheck to launch the business. They bought a $125 table saw to get started. The mother’s parents also helped greatly while the company struggled to sustain itself.

Green Pallet eventually operated two sawmills, but those operations have since been eliminated. "We had old Frick sawmills," said Ron. "Logs were put on by hand and pulled. They were very antiquated, even for the time." The company had its own logging operations, too, felling trees with chain saws and using old farm tractors to skid the logs out of the woods.

Bill’s duties are buying cants and lumber. He travels to mills in Virginia to keep pace with what is available and line up enough raw material.

Each brother has a different role in the business. The division of responsibilities works out well. Their mother comes into the office every day and gives her attention to customer accounts. Two grandchildren of the founders also are employed at Green Pallet.

"We were family and we stayed family," said Ron. "My parents wanted to give the family something to do," he

Green Pallet has about 40 full-time employees, including the siblings in the management team. Ron said when he read Chaille Brindley’s article about ‘Strategies for Healthy Families’ in business together in the May issue of Pallet Enterprise, it was as though he were reading the story of his family.

Communication is important among the leaders of any business, and that applies to family too, said Ron. At Green Pallet, the management team meets daily at 9:30 a.m. The Green brothers also hold an additional meeting on Friday to tackle special problems or concerns; the idea is to come back on Monday with a solution or idea to resolve a problem.

"The pallet industry has changed many times," noted Ron. "We’ve changed with it."

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