Smart Products Introduces Two New Machines for Recycling Block Pallets
Got Blocks? Get Smart: Smart Products has developed two new machines that automate the process of repairing block-style pallets; machines are being used successfully by pallet recyclers.
Date Posted: 10/1/2006
Smart Products, based in Muncie, Ind., specializes in the manufacture and sale of equipment and machinery for pallet repair, recycling and manufacturing. The company has developed two new machines for repairing block-style pallets – the Smart Products “Block Saw” and “Block Pallet Prep.” These two machines were demonstrated at the Richmond Expo trade show earlier this year and are being used by several block pallet repair facilities.
Pallet repair and recycling machinery, such as bandsaw pallet dismantling machines for disassembling pallets, are generally suited for stringer pallets. However, many repair and recycling facilities deal in large volumes of block pool pallets, and, until now, have not had specialty machines available to assist in the repair of these pallets. To remove a damaged block or board from a block pallet, for example, usually required a worker to use, among other things, a large hammer, pry bar, and-or a hand-held reciprocating saw, a process that is labor-intensive, time-consuming and very inefficient.
The Smart Products Block Saw, operated by one person, will remove any damaged perimeter block from a block pallet. The machine processes the pallet in a vertical configuration; the damaged pallet is put into place so that the pallet is standing on edge. After properly positioning the damaged block of the pallet above the ‘slotted’ table (two circular saw blades are enclosed underneath the table of the machine when not in use), the operator closes a safety ‘gate’ and activates clamp and blade mechanisms that are actuated by compressed air. Two 21-inch nail-cutting circular saw blades, powered by a 20 hp motor with belt drive, cut the damaged block free without damaging existing bottom or connector boards of the block pallet. The machine has a 10 second cutting cycle.
After the damaged block has been removed, the operator opens the gate, removes the pallet, and forwards the damaged pallet to the next step in the operation, the Smart Products Block Pallet Prep machine.
The Smart Products Block Pallet Prep, also built for one operator, is a specially engineered bandsaw machine designed to quickly cut out any damaged boards of a block pallet, including connector boards. This machine features a horizontal table of rollers to more easily maneuver and position the pallet for removal of damaged boards. The operator will place the pallet upside down on the roller table, and, if necessary, position air valves that will automatically adjust the height of the roller table to one of three pre-set positions for bandsaw blade entry into the pallet. The Smart Products Block Pallet Prep runs a standard bandsaw blade powered by a 10 hp motor with gear reduction drive unit.
Both machines are being used successfully by customers of Smart Products. They can be easily integrated into a complete block pallet repair line or system should a pallet supplier so desire.
The machines enable pallet repair facilities to automate the processes of removing damaged blocks or boards from a block pallet – increasing production while reducing worker fatigue.
The impetus for the development of the machines came from Michael Smith, who was then the director of asset management for a pallet rental company that uses block-style pallets in its pallet pool. Michael, who is now the president and ceo of PALNET, met with Smart Products president and owner Ken Hess to discuss an idea for a machine and a conceptual approach that pallet repair facilities could use to more efficiently process the repair of block-style pallets.
Michael realized that block pallet repair facilities need to standardize and improve pallet repair operations across the board. “Repair facilities need to improve the repairs per hour, reduce the labor...to something that’s much more efficient and can compete with manufacturing principles,” he said.
The concept of repairing block-style pallets was for a stack of mixed, unsorted pallets to be processed by a repair worker who would inspect each one and make the decisions about each pallet. Each work station would be equipped in such a way that the employee could inspect the pallet without having to flip it over or move it, slide it onto a conveyor if it was a ‘ready-to-go’ pallet, and have whatever tools were required to make any necessary repairs at that time to these pallets.
“Repair facilities really wanted to get into the 60 to 90 pallets per hour range,” said Michael, “maybe 100 pallets per hour.” Repair facilities must be able to reach those levels with block pallets, he said, “because that’s what you’re doing in the stringer world.”
Michael also contacted Steve Yelland, president and owner of Rohrbaugh & Co. in Hanover, Pa., to ask if his company would be willing to test various prototype machines and processes to be designed and developed by Smart Products. Rohrbaugh is a pallet supplier and provides storage and repair services for block pool pallets. “We were open to trying it,” Steve recalled.
Like other pallet companies with operations to store and repair block pallets, Rohrbaugh was limited by the lack of equipment specifically designed for removing damaged components from block pallets. Removing a damaged component, either a board or block, typically was very labor intensive, with a worker using simple hand tools, such as a hammer or pry bar and perhaps a reciprocating saw.
Ken already was open to the idea of developing new machines specifically for the repair of block-style pallets. Soon after acquiring Smart Products in 2003, he realized the company would need to provide machinery solutions to block pallet repair operations. A large segment of U.S. manufacturers already were using block pallets to transport products, he noted, and in Europe block pallets are widely used.
The first of the two machines to be developed by Smart Products was the Block Saw to remove damaged perimeter blocks. It was delivered to Rohrbaugh early this year, and personnel were trained to use it. Rohrbaugh’s management team agreed to collect data for Smart Products and to provide it to the machinery supplier.
“It worked well,” Steve reported.
“Anyone doing a lot of repairs of block pallets,” Steve added, such as suppliers that service CHEP or PECO, “this machine would be well worth it.” The Smart Products Block Saw is much faster and efficient than removing a damaged block by beating it out with a hammer or cutting it out with a reciprocating saw, he said.
Rohrbaugh operated the prototype machine for several months, provided data to Smart Products, and then decided to purchase the machine.
Within a few weeks after receiving the Block Saw, Smart Products also delivered a second machine to Rohrbaugh – a new Block Pallet Prep machine. The prep machine uses the same type of bandsaw technology to dismantle stringer pallets, but it was designed and engineered for use with block pallets. The machine is capable of cutting out any damaged boards, including connector boards.
Rohrbaugh’s workers also tried the new Block Pallet Prep machine and provided feedback to Smart Products, which modified the machine and later delivered a second model to the plant. The company was so pleased with the second machine that it purchased it, and the company uses it frequently in its block pallet repair operations.
Rohrbaugh operates a ‘stand alone’ repair line for block pallets. The company plans to incorporate both of the new Smart Products machines to create a ‘cell’ within the line, Steve explained. He expects that one worker operating both machines as needed will be able to prep enough block pallets to ‘feed’ two or even three repair stations.
Rohrbaugh is mainly a manufacturer of new pallets although it does a considerable volume of storing and repairing block pallets as well as building remanufactured pallets from recycled lumber.
Rohrbaugh repairs block pallets that sometimes are made of radiata pine. Without the Smart Products Block Pallet Prep machine, the radiata pine would frequently break off in chunks when workers tried to remove damaged components with a hammer or pry bar. The machine is much more efficient – faster and requires less labor.
Rohrbaugh previously was recycling almost 15 block pallets per hour per repair table, according to Steve. By adding a conveyor to the operations, the company was able to increase production to about 18 pallets. With the Smart Products Block Saw and Block Pallet Prep machines, production skyrocketed to 87 pallets while reducing costs substantially.
The old process to remove a connector board from a block pallet was “painstakingly slow,” Steve noted. It might take a worker using hand tools five minutes or longer. With the Smart Products Block Pallet Prep machine, the process was reduced to about one minute.
A business goal at Rohrbaugh is to improve efficiency by reducing the number of times a pallet is handled or moved, Steve explained. “Our goal…is…bring in the pallet, make all the repairs you have to…and it’s not touched again. It’s ready for use.”
“It took about a year to 15 months from our initial concept, through development, design, prototype, testing and manufacturing of the Block Saw and Block Pallet Prep,” said Ken. “Patents are pending on machines.”
Peter Murphy, owner of USA Pallet Co. in Dallas, saw the machines demonstrated at the Richmond Expo and decided while at the trade show to buy both machines. “When I saw them at the show, I knew right away I wanted to buy those machines on the spot,” he said.
USA Pallet has repair and recycling operations, and, like Rohrbaugh, provides storage and repair services for block pallets. Like other repair facilities, his company’s workers were using reciprocating saws in order to cut out damaged blocks. “It’s a very slow, tedious process,” he acknowledged. “Very inefficient.”
Asked to compare the time it takes to remove a damaged block manually versus the Smart Products Block Saw, Peter said, “I couldn’t even put a number on it, it’s so fast.” The machine also has enabled him to reduce labor costs because he needs fewer workers removing damaged blocks by manual labor methods.
USA Pallet has been running the machines successfully since they were set up after being delivered to the company’s plant. “They stand up to everything we throw at them,” said Peter. “In the pallet industry,” he added, “equipment takes a beating every day.” Machines supplied by Smart Products have had minimum downtime and required minimum replacement parts, he said.
“I probably have about 10 Smart Products machines” he has purchased over the years, Peter noted. “I’m extremely pleased with them – the machines, and the quality of the service.”
“I really like the company,” Peter said of Smart Products, “and I really like the service they give us…The support they give is amazing for an equipment dealer.”
Smart Products manufactures a number of other machines for pallet repair, recycling and manufacturing tasks. The company offers several models of bandsaw dismantlers, including one-man and two-man machines and a portable dismantler. It also can supply complete pallet dismantling systems – a dismantler that feeds reclaimed lumber directly to a chain-fed trim saw. Smart Products also manufactures single-end and double-end power feed trim saws, manual feed trim saws, and single-head notching machines.
Smart Products has more than 3,500 machines working in pallet repair, recycling and manufacturing operations in the U.S. and worldwide, including, among other locations, Canada, Mexico, Europe, Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
For more information, call Smart Products at (800) 401-0099, e-mail email@example.com or visit the Web site at www.smartproductsinc.com.
Do you want reprints or a copyright license for this article? Click here
Research and connect with suppliers mentioned in this article using our FREE ZIP Online service.