Industrial Resources Develops Infinity Stacker and Mobile Wood Treatment Service
Industrial Resources Stacker: Industrial Resources pioneers new high speed stacker designed to be installed over a conveyor. Company also develops mobile wood treatment system.
By Ed Brindley
Date Posted: 2/1/2009
Grand Rapids, Michigan—When I visited Dan Collins and Industrial Resources (IR) in September, several things stood out. One of the most important elements to any successful company is the enthusiasm that exudes from its management and people. Certainly the Industrial Resources people get an A on their report card in this category. As all readers know, enthusiasm without substance can be a lot of promise without delivery. As the morning progressed, it was clear why Dan and his staff seemed excited about what is happening there. Their new products and services show engineering innovations and meaningful management options, especially its new Infinity stacking system and Wood Save mobile wood treatment service. The staff is small but excited about the direction it is taking its new products.
Dan joined Industrial Resources 6 or 7 years ago. With a background in manufacturing and a master’s degree in business from the University of Michigan, Dan became president. A couple of years ago, Industrial Resources reorganized itself; the staff referred to it as old co and new co. The new company (new co) is owned by IR Ventures, an investment group with pallet experience and knowledge. In addition to his engineering ability and drive for excellence, Dan has developed an appreciation for the pallet industry, its people, and its importance to our country. The IR full time staff includes 7 people who design, manufacture, service, and sell its machinery. Other part-time people and specialists help out when IR needs to supplement its regular staff. Ben Seitz is the engineering design specialist who provides the knowledge and insights to design new machines and systems. Many pallet people know Jerry Dykstra who has been associated with Industrial Resources since its earliest days. Dan put it in perspective when he said, “Jerry Dykstra is a blessing – still excited about the industry.”
Industrial Resources has developed a reputation of supplying a complete line of pallet recycling machinery. A casual stroll through its product catalog of material handling solutions illustrates about 25 pages of machinery and products. Six pages of pallet dismantlers show specifications on about a dozen dismantlers, including a complete line of disc and band styles. Its band dismantlers include the Wolverine and RapidCut models, and its disc style machines include the well known Pass One and Pass Two models. Both disc and blade lead board saws are part of the offerings.
During our visit, the staff was testing an IR Wood Recovery System, which uses two Wolverine II bandsaws for a high speed dismantling system. The speed at which the IR employees were dismantling pallets was impressive since they do not do it hour after hour, day after day. They were pulling pallets through the saws instead of pushing them through like so many machinery operators do in practice. I am convinced that this is a dismantling option that many recyclers may want to consider.
Trim saws to trim and cut used lumber, a nail stubble machine, and about a half dozen stackers and dispensers expand IR’s catalog offerings. Tippers, tipper accumulators, scissor platers, lead board removers, scissors lifts, paint booths, a number of repair tables, skyhooks, and a variety of conveyors. You name it; IR can build it.
Certainly one of the most impressive part of this catalogue focuses on IR’s options of sortation systems. IR has customized many sortation systems to fit particular needs; options include end-feed-J sort systems, center-feed-U sort systems, monorail sortation systems, and standard-sort systems. Industrial Resources has become known for its sortation systems and ability to provide high quality systems for some of the most particular sorting requirements in the industry.
All of this hints at the direction that Dan is taking the company’s products and services. While you can get a machine from IR to fit just about any pallet recycling and repair need, new co’s emphasis is on systems to automate pallet recycling and sortation processes.
Stack It Rapidly and Efficiently
Unquestionably my visit centered around IR’s new Infinity stacker. Pallet stackers have been around for a long time. They are probably often taken for granted, but no longer, at least not when it comes from Industrial Resources. The new Infinity stacking system that I watched run is a slick system. Dan said, “The Infinity is the fastest pallet system in the world.” As pallets flowed through the system, it was obvious that it was fast and quiet. After being initially impressed, the more the system’s features were pointed out and explained, the more I realized how much thought had been put into engineering a better stacker and stacking system.
IR has already shipped four Infinity stacking systems. It believes the Infinity is going to change what pallet users, manufacturers, and recyclers expect from their stackers. There is no doubt that IR is targeting the more sophisticated and challenging applications in the industry for its sortation systems.
Dan said, “Our Infinity stacker doesn’t fit the bill for everybody. It is a different level in the industry. When we deliver a system, it can usually be installed in three days. Then we power it up, and its running.”
The Infinity’s claim to fame is based on its in-line stacker. The stackers are right over the pallet conveyor to save space. Infinity stacker systems are designed to put the most popular pallet category on the end stacker. That way you don’t get a backlog from stacking pallets on the initial stackers while other pallets are trying to get down the line. The result is a faster flowing system. In the field and in trials, Dan indicates that the Infinity system averages about 1.4 pallets being stacked at any one moment.
Dan said, “With multiple stacking, you do not lose any speed and have enough power to handle all six stackers at the same time even though that demand is not likely to happen in practice. Customers get back their additional system cost from the additional pallets they can sort and stack every day. The power system is simple. One cylinder powers it all.”
What are the special features that make the Infinity stacker different? Ben Seitz, who joined old co about nine months before the reorganization, designed the stacker from the ground up. He started with a totally clean slate. Using his creative engineering mind, Ben designed the Infinity with no basis of knowledge about prior types of stackers.
The new cantilever design has open access in the back. You can add additional units onto the line by adding another cell. A couple of bolts and it is bolted on ready to run. This open cantilever design allows pallets to be stacked right off the conveyor, decreasing the time needed for stacking. This also allows for a small footprint. The system requires less space. The open back allows an operator to clear out jams if they occur. An operator can easily move out a broken pallet from the back side.
System components have good access for maintenance but they are not positioned where they are exposed to possible damage. All the wiring, pneumatics, and hydraulics are enclosed in hard pipes to protect them. Everything is 12” off the floor to assure there is room to do maintenance and cleanup. It is designed for debris management. The debris pan is custom fit for easy cleaning. Once something hits the floor, it creates an island; debris starts to accumulate around it. IR believes that debris maintenance is important.
The systems have funnels that are kind of like a guard to keep pallets that are askew from causing damage or getting jammed. It pushes them back away from any upcoming potential problem.
IR uses 3/8” plate steel for strength in the cantilever design. Ben describes it as “built like a tank. Solid as a rock.” Pallets tend to bounce up and down in stackers, but the cantilevered stacker does not move. IR uses heavy 80 chains instead of 60 chains.
The Infinity stacker is universal, not right or left handed like most stackers. It can go either way and dispense in all four directions. This provides for all kinds of flexibility. Slight modifications can reverse the Infinity and make the stacker into a pallet dispenser. This makes it possible for a customer to buy a machine for one task and change it later to reverse its function if desired. The stacker itself just goes up and down.
Ben has tackled the engineering challenge to stack pallets of multiple widths at the same time. In an ideal world, a recycler might not have to deal with stacks that have a variety of pallet sizes, but many companies do. How does IR handle this problem? They use the last stacker in the line to handle mixed sizes. The first trick is measuring a pallet. Ben does this electronically with a large stacker that has many controls for the automation. The center line is preserved so that the pallet centers align on the same vertical line. A ramp stop at the end of the line prevents any pallet damage. The Infinity runs smoothly to produce nice neat stacks.
Dan has studied pallet stacking around the world, including some unique CHEP stacking options. He believes that innovation will keep Industrial Resources ahead of its competitors. He said, “Innovation and speed to market is the recipe for IR new co to succeed.”
Hydraulics is a key to success for the new Infinity stacker. According to Dan, the valves in their controls don’t create heat. He said, “Very few people know how to do hydraulics cleanly. We work with Michigan Fluid Power. They have hydraulic patents; they really know how to make hydraulics work and how to avoid them becoming maintenance issues. For most people, hydraulics leak and become a headache.” While I have very limited knowledge of hydraulics, I was impressed by the passion with which Roger Betten of Michigan Fluid Power spoke. He knows how to design hydraulics systems for them to run smoothly.
Over the past year, IR has gone through a constant round robin with customers to include new design options. The system we saw running was the fourth full Infinity stacker system. At the time of my visit, the company had still not returned to any of its four customers to handle a problem, a record that any machinery company would relish, particularly with a system that has this many unique engineering features.
The system has remote IO control systems. It is just a plug and play. Implug it, tear it down, put it back together, plug it in. Ready to go. It uses an Ethernet port. Installation is much faster. There is no mass of cables that an installer has to sort out and much less down time associated with installation. All installers can be in and out quickly. The system can be analyzed over the Internet. Using a remote control, the program knows whether or not there is something in a particular location and whether or not it is operating correctly. A handheld remote control allows an operator to stop the system or reject a pallet.
IR is aware that many stacker operators do not speak English, so it specifically engineered the Infinity stacker so that as much as possible adjustments are on the outside for safety. The motor and the pump are on the outside for easy access. You can work on parts independently without having to get on the inside. During normal maintenance, there is no reason for an operator to get inside where the risk factor is higher.
The base machinery color used by IR is gray. Guards and shields are yellow. Most moving parts are orange. The company keeps up with OSHA standards. Since many operators don’t speak English, all labels are dual language – English and Spanish. Safety is a big issue and concern. Bumpers on each accumulating conveyor keep forklift operators from running into the conveyors, which provides another protective device on the system.
New Heat Treating Option
What new is coming next from Industrial Resources? Ben’s new research project has been a heat treating chamber. Like IR’s new stacker concept, its heat treating ideas are unique as well. Heat treating is being used to extend the life of pallets. It presents both opportunities and challenges. The emerald ash borer has amplified the heat treating issue, but it is making waves that could expand the need for heating treating beyond wooden pallets and containers and dunnage. Anybody who has followed the EAB issue is aware that firewood has been guilty of spreading the insect. The possibility of quarantines between certain states and even between counties has amplified the concern over spreading pests. There has been serious talk about heat treating all pallets, not just those used for exporting products.
The possibility of heat treating in the woods or in the sawmill opens the door to other treatment options. More ash trees are being lost every day as the EAB spreads. Pests in Canada and the United States are having a definite impact. As an alternative solution to this problem, IR has partnered with another company, Wood Save LTD, in a joint venture. IR Kiln, LLC will manufacture and sell the kilns, and Wood Save will sell the IR kilns as well. They have been beta testing the next kilns for well over a year.
IR Kiln just finished its first kiln that it is delivering to Canada. It is still going through the certification process. The IR kiln is a mobile heat treating chamber that can treat wood and wood products before they are moved. It is reported to being larger than many heat treating chambers and have shorter cycle times. The IR kiln uses an electric heat source which eliminates any flame. IR believes its operating cost will be less than most other heat treating chambers. Beta testing is ongoing.
The idea is to heat treat pallets at pallet companies. Companies with multiple sites can use it without having to make the capital investment on permanent on-site heat treating chambers. You don’t have to build a building, have a permit, etc.
Initially, IR Kilns sees pallet, firewood, and lumber markets. Firewood sources will need to be located near campgrounds. Firewood can be heat treated and then taken to the campground site. IR Kiln wants to become a certified heat treater. You can drive a truck into and out of the mobile heat treating source.
For more information on Industrial Resource’s products and services, call Dan at 616/791-7500.
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