Reclaim Material for Added Value, Profits
Sawmills and pallet recyclers can reclaim stock that can be converted to other value-added products and improve a company's bottom line.
By Tim Cox
Date Posted: 2/1/2000
It does not require much time and effort to begin to understand the large volume of lumber that is under-sold and wasted due to sizing problems in the pallet industry. Weighed against important issues like high raw material costs, tight profit margins, forest resource sustainability, and environmental responsibility, wasting usable wood fiber can have a significant negative effect on a companyís bottom line and viability.
There are two specific areas where this problem is very evident, at the sawmill and at the pallet recycling operation. In both, stock either is sold off well below its potential value, converted into mulch or fuel, or sent to a landfill. Discounting a truck-load of mis-sized lumber is one thing, but sending usable wood components to hogs and grinders is a blatant waste of resources. The loss of material and money is unfortunate, unnecessary, and unprofessional.
The pressure is on the overall woodworking industry to better utilize our forest resources and to compete head-on in the global marketplace. Under-utilization of acceptable solid wood fiber materials undermines both goals. It wastes raw material, which reduces efficiency and profits, making a company less competitive.
Two types of material are being seriously under-utilized, new stock and dismantled components. In both cases, significant yield and value can be attained through off-the-shelf technology. What is most surprising is that simple, cost-effective, proven solutions are overlooked.
In the case of new stock, there are two key areas where utilization can be improved: mis-sawn boards and under-size components. Thick, thin, and tapered boards simply need to be sized down to a uniform thickness. Components that are not dimensionally incorrect need to be sized down to fit into the next smaller product.
Dismantled pallets can generate a great range of different sized deck boards and stringers. No matter how much sorting is accomplished, however, there is always a mis-match of components being used in the reconstruction process. In the end, many of these pallets look like death warmed over, which is unnecessary.
Proper re-sizing of dismantled components generates several advantages. Heavier boards end up with the same uniform thickness. Stringers may be sized for a standard height. The side of the stringer that is machined has the look of new wood. The results can be very impressive, including recycled pallets that are flat, more square and rigid, uniform in height, and with a cleaner, newer appearance.
In the case of recovery, random parts that are too small for remanufacturing pallets may be converted into other products, such as thin crating components. Stringers that have broken legs my be converted into grade stakes and kiln sticks. Other materials may be turned into blanks for recycled wood products, such as flooring, paneling, and furniture.
When it comes to reclaiming random materials, the goal is less machinery, less labor and low operating costs. Machinery is available that requires little floor area and only one operator to size material for thickness and width.
When re-sizing dismantled components, the secret is a combination of the right machine equipped with tooling that can handle nails. Tooling heads that use disposable carbide tips can size wood material efficiently even if the wood is imbedded with nails.
When you consider that most well planned and executed recovery installations have pay-backs of between six and 12 months, it seems curious why most mills avoid this area of adding value. When you see mills install hogs and grinders to convert unsellable paper chips into farm sawdust instead of recovering much of their short, offal and waste stream materials, you wonder how they can compete against efficient processing operations.
If you need to improve yield and value from your sold wood fiber resources, effective solutions are available. With a little homework, you can identify the type and volume of material available for recovery, the machines necessary for processing the stock, and the return on investment for such a project.
When all of the financial, environmental, and merchandising benefits are identified, and the information collected and properly analyzed, do not be surprised if the bottom line is much better than expected. Commitment to education, efficiency, and competitiveness will separate winners from losers.
One example of modern technology for recovery is the Auburn Yield Pro machine. The two spindle unit uses an endless chain feed system, a side spindle for sawing or hogging random materials to a finish width, and a top hogging head to produce specific finish thicknesses. When equipped with Profile Technology Nail Buster insert knives, the machine can convert dismantled pallet material imbedded with nails into uniformly sized components.
For more information on recovery systems, contact Auburn Machinery at (800) 888-4244 or (207) 784-4244, fax (207) 783-4220, e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Web site at www.auburnmachinery.com. For more information on the Nail Buster line, contact Profile Technology at (800) 369-4242, e-mail at email@example.com, or Web site at www.profiletech.com.
(Editorís Note: Do you have an idea for an Enterprise Reader Forum essay? Contact publisher Ed Brindley or editor Tim Cox and tell us what it is. If your idea is chosen for an Enterprise Reader Forum, we will ask you to write 800 words on your topic and furnish us with a photograph.)
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.