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J Box Co. Expands Its Family Business with Noble Machinery’s Pallet Hawg Machines
J Box in Indiana is expanding its pallet manufacturing and recycling business with a Pallet Hawg dismantler and new Pallet Hawg cutoff saw from Noble Machinery.

By Ed Brindley
Date Posted: 4/1/2012

J Box Turns to Noble Machinery for Recycling Machinery

Auburn, Indiana—While J Box focuses more on its people than it does machinery, the nature of the pallet business is that growth typically requires some dependence on properly using the right machinery. J Box in Auburn, Indiana, is a small, growing pallet company that manufactures both new pallets and remanufactured pallets. Ross Gaff, an owner and grandson of the founder Jay Stonestreet, said, “We nail all of our pallets with pneumatic hand tools on a machine that my grandfather built many years ago. We are not machinery intensive but are mechanizing more to meet today’s challenges.”

          J Box has bought and sold a half dozen or so pieces of machinery through Noble Machinery in the past several years. The company builds pallets, boxes, and crates from both hardwoods and softwoods, as well as panel products. It buys nails from Hahns, the company that also services its hand tools.

          As J Box moved to upgrade its recycling efforts, it turned to Noble Machinery for equipment and advice. Gaff said, “The machinery we have bought from Noble has worked famously. We have had very good experiences working with Brad. We have bought five or six machines from Noble over the past five or six years.” Noble is a quality company with machines that have fit our needs and a wealth of experience. Noble is a fourth generation family owned company that started back in 1895. Kent Noble’s great-grandfather William K. Noble started the company. It is rare for a family run company to stretch over 100 years and four generations; this shows a high level of commitment.

          In addition to buying and selling an almost endless list of wood working, pallet manufacturing, and pallet recycling machinery, Noble Machinery distributes two pieces of Pallet Hawg recycling machines that are manufactured for Noble by Built with Skill LLC.

          Two years ago J Box bought a Pallet Hawg pallet dismantler from Noble. J Box traded in a Roger Un-Nailer which it had previously bought from Noble. Gaff said, “Our Pallet Hawg dismantler works well. We use it mostly for total disassembly to retrieve useable lumber for repairs and building remanufactured pallets and combo pallets. One operator stays busy all week on our Pallet Hawg. Depending on pallet size, we dismantle from 200 to 300 pallets every day on it. We only have to replace one band blade every week.” J Box buys its dismantling blades from HUB Industrial Supply.

          Brad at Noble said, “Our claim to fame on the Pallet Hawg is blade life. Our gear reduction drive unit runs at half the speed of most dismantlers. Operators can hardly break a blade on this machine. It runs on a 27” tire and uses a mechanical tensioning system. Customers often process about 1500 pallets on a blade before they literally wear it out. Production depends heavily on the operator. We recommend that customers run a bimetal blade which typically lasts a little longer on our machine which runs at a slower speed than some dismantlers. Machine nailed pallets, block pallets, anything that is heavy where the decking is really tight are easier to take apart with a slower speed machine.

          “A Pallet Hawg is versatile and can be run by either one or two operators. Its table has a 5-1/4” pneumatic drop that allows an operator to do different things, such as cutting out an outside stringer at the top and bottom to remove it, removing a perimeter block from a block pallet, and taking out a connector board from a block pallet. This prepping ability allows the machine to take out individual components from either stringer or block pallets. An operator can hang a block pallet with the blocks below the blade, another nice feature. At 2200 feet per minute this dismantler runs quieter than most on the market.”

          J Box recently took delivery of Noble Machinery’s brand new Pallet Hawg cutoff saw. This first saw of its type is designed to up-cut through used lumber and cut right through the nails when necessary.

          A year ago J Box started using a Whirlwind trimsaw for crosscutting used lumber to the desired lengths. They found that the upcut Whirlwind trimsaw is not really designed to standup to cutting through nail stubble. So, again the company turned to Noble Machinery for a solution. Noble developed its new Pallet Hawg up-cut cutoff saw and delivered it to J Box.

          Gaff quickly surmised, “We could immediately tell that the Pallet Hawg cutoff saw is built heavy to cut right through a stack of wood. Its 18” circular blade chops right through wood with nail stubbles. We trim the end of a board or stringer back to the desired length. This saw will be a full time position for our company. We are buying our 18” blades from Four Star Sharpening. Most upcut saws are designed to cut new lumber, so our new Pallet Hawg upcut trimsaw is ideal for the pallet recycling market. Initially we are using one new blade a day.”

          Noble designed its Pallet Hawg upcut resaw to cut through six-inches of material, so it can cut through several stringers and even more deck boards with each cut. It is double palm activated for safety because by its nature circular blades can be a safety problem if not used carefully.

          Other pieces of machinery used at J Box include a panel saw and a Baker double-head horizontal bandsaw for ripping lumber.


Expanding the Family Run Business

          J Box Company combines some of the best characteristics in the pallet and box industries into a single package.  A small, family owned business with a focus on growth, J Box incorporates industry knowledge in its ownership team with a regional pool of skilled workers, and a dedication toward providing the quality service that a small business can often provide. Eight people provide the talent and energy needed to run J Box Company. Its weekly production has recently grown to about 3000 pallets, boxes, and crates per week. Recent quotes and efforts to service an expanding customer base are promising continued growth. If new business develops as hoped for, a doubling of volume in the near future may necessitate a move to a larger facility.

          J Box was started in 1964 by Jay Stonestreet, grandfather of Ross Gaff, a company co-owner. Initially J Box manufactured cheese boxes, but the company has evolved to where it is today - about 25% involved in crates and export boxes. The remaining 75% is about evenly split between new and used pallets. It no longer makes cheese boxes.

          Ross Gaff joined his grandfather’s company when he graduated from high school in 1984. Michael Ruch, the other co-owner, formerly owned a local bank that serviced J Box. Ruch sold his community bank in December, 2007 and retired. Gaff knew that Ruch had retired and would make a good business partner so he approached his former banker with the idea of becoming involved with J Box. Ruch accepted the opportunity to help grow J Box and joined the company toward the end of 2008. Ruch readily admits that this was one of the best decisions he ever made. He stated, “I got out of the banking business just in time. Ross and I have formed a solid partnership.”

          Adam Greenlee is plant manager. People have been the key to growth and success at J Box. Some employees cut and some build pallets. They are flexible enough to move around as needed. This part of Indiana has a stable work force. J Box pays by the hour and provides paid holidays. A few years ago it offered health insurance, but all of the present employees are covered by their wives’ policies at other businesses. J Box just instituted a new bonus program which it believes will be well received.

          The company recently posted a new job. Two hundred people applied, and J Box hired two new men. A skilled work pool serves as a big plus for the company. Not including Ross, a typical employee has some four or five years of service with the company.

          Ruch said, “History is a key to J Box. The founding family is still an owner. I am fortunate to have had such a solid family base to join and help with our growth efforts. Our future looks positive. Ross’s cousins have worked here in the past, and his mother worked here for many years.

          While the pallet business is a competitive one, the two men were able to double the business in two years and are looking for a 50% increase this year.

          There is a day and night difference in J Box from a year or two ago. They have replaced probably 90% of their equipment and bought some additional machines. Ruch said, “We are putting together another three-year business plan to double again. If you are not growing today, you are dying.

          “Yes, the pallet business is a competitive business. But we have a little advantage – both of us are local boys. Between banking and pallet contacts, we have established a pretty good customer base. We have had an influx of quote requests recently. We are using our strength of networking and connections to continue building a stronger business.”

          J Box considers itself to be a green company. It pays attention to the pallet related environmental needs of its community. J Box buys discarded and unwanted pallets from a number of companies. Its recycling emphasis is on dismantling discarded pallets to retrieve lumber for repairing pallets and building remanufactured pallets from used lumber. It is not a typical 48x40 recycler, but for the most part focuses on specialty sizes and business. It has three drop trailers to collect used and scrap pallets as a raw material source.

          J Box delivers most of its own products on two flatbed trucks. Ruch’s brother-in-law in the trucking business 15 miles to the south in Ft. Wayne can fill in to help with deliveries when needed.

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