Lovett Family Adjusts to Meet Changes in the Pallet Industry – Turns to PRS for Pallet Disassembly Machinery
Lovett Pallet has changed to meet the growing challenge of pallet recycling. Lovett turned to PRS for its PROSAW XP15 pallet dismantling bandsaws and systems. Relying on PRS and Innovative Data Systems, Lovett Pallet focuses on quality and professional development to provide superior service for its customers.
By Dr. Ed Brindley
Date Posted: 9/1/2012
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Since my early days of writing about the pallet industry some 35 years ago, I have had the privilege of knowing members of the Lovett family. Paul Lovett, founder and owner of Lovett Pallet Recycling in Indianapolis, Ind., followed in the footsteps of his father Pat Lovett. Having entered the pallet industry as a young man in 1986, Paul has seen a lot of change through the years. He has worked to adapt to be prepared for the transforming reality of the recycling business.
Today Lovett Pallet continues to grow as markets and opportunities advance. Currently the company is working to setup a small new pallet collection depot in southern Indiana. As core markets contract, new sources must constantly be explored.
Always looking out for new marketing opportunities, Lovett is also moving toward putting in a new pellet manufacturing mill. This new project is directed toward manufacturing pellets for the local market.
Many United States pellet manufacturers sell heavily into the export markets, particularly for Europe. Lovett Pallet is not ideally located for this but can certainly move toward establishing itself as a local supplier in the midwestern U.S. markets. Paul Lovett is excited about this opportunity to convert scrap wood fiber into wood pellets. He has a pellet mill on order and hopes to be making wooden pellets in October. He plans to market his pellets through a joint effort with Buckeye Diamond Logistics.
In the past Lovett Pallet had a huge grinding operation that would pick up and haul away wood waste at no charge. Now Lovett Pallet has another place that will take its wood fiber and convert it into mulch. One downside is that Lovett Pallet must handle hauling responsibilities itself. All recyclers have to work and convert wood waste from being an expensive challenge into one that can become a profit center.
Logistics and Core Challenges Complicate Recycling Efforts
You might say that Lovett Pallet is a pure recycler. It occasionally makes a specialty new pallet, particularly large, oversized ones. But most of its business involves one phase or another of recycled pallets and lumber. The company does not own a pallet nailing machine. All nailing with either new or recycled lumber is done by hand, using collated nails and pneumatic nailing tools supplied by Crane Point.
Like most pallet recyclers, Lovett Pallet uses a few independent contractors, often called pickers, to collect pallets and bring them into the plant. But most of its 6000 GMA pallet cores and 3000 odd sized and scrap pallets coming into the yard on a typical day are collected on a fleet of some 220 drop trailers.
Lovett said, “At one time drop trailers were low priced, used trailers. But the day of $1500 used trailers is gone. The supply has changed, but in particular our customers have become more demanding and trucking regulations have changed. More and better trailers are the big thing that everybody is going to.”
Lovett add, “Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) regulations have dramatically changed the trucking and shipping landscape. All companies are altering their shipping alternatives and options in order to compete and comply with the changing environment. Customer demands for better trailers have amplified the need for improving a fleet of trucks or trailers. Managing our trailer fleet has become an active part of our business. Tracking trailers and marking them have become important. People are not good about notifying you when a trailer is full; so just dropping trailers is no longer the answer.”
According to Lovett, maintaining a fleet of drop trailers is a growing challenge and a greater expense as the focus on quality continues to grow.
Like most pallet recyclers, Lovett Pallet is heavily involved in 48x40 pallets. It desires and purchases 48x40 cores to repair into used pallets for its customers but will take in odd sized and broken pallets which are dismantled into used lumber for repair boards, combo pallets, and remanufactured pallets.
Good People Drive Lovett’s Success
The Lovett Pallet team includes close to 70 people with a management leadership group that includes Paul Lovett, president; Ruben Romo, plant operations manager; Debra Duckwall, customer solutions expert; Melinda Saxton, office manager; Cathy Skirvin, transportation manager; and Ashley Seagle, customer service. The staff has a combined experience of over 50 years in the pallet industry.
Like so many pallet companies, particularly recyclers, Lovett Pallet employs a diverse group of people for its production staff. Lovett supplies health insurance for its key people and always keeps a sharp eye on what it needs to do to take care of its employees and provide needed benefits. Human resources are a major concern for Lovett and his staff. The downtown Indianapolis plant has 85,000 sq. ft. under roof to provide the capacity and systems to meet its customers’ needs.
Lovett Pallet is heavily involved in both 48x40 GMA pallets and remanufactured pallets. It has turned to Jeff Williams and the PRS team as a supplier of pallet recycling and repairing machinery. Incoming 48x40 pallets are unloaded and taken to the GMA line. This conveyor pallet line, built by PRS in 2009, has four stations for repairing GMA pallets. Most incoming pallets are heavy with either repairable 48x40 cores or odd sizes and scrap pallets.
Each stack of repairable 48x40s is placed next to a repair table and assigned a load number. This is kind of like a presort. A two-tiered conveyor line uses the top tier to carry scrap. Repaired GMA pallets ready for sorting and shipping to a customer are placed on the lower line of the conveyor. Pallets are repaired to one of three different quality levels and sent to the bank of three stackers, one for high quality GMA A1’s, one for GMA A2’s, and a third for GMA B’s.
Each repairer puts a label from one of his three rolls of bar code labels onto one of his pallets. An Innovative Data System software and bar coding system provides this inventory management system. These labels identify the person who did the repairs, the source of the pallet, and the grade of the finished pallet. It is part of the quality control program and record keeping system. Lovett Pallet runs daily production reports to develop statistics for each repairman and provide incoming core statistics. These statistics are also used to support Lovett’s piece work payment system. Lovett said that his piece work system works; there is no doubt that his repairers work harder using it. A QC man at the end sees to it that each pallet is transferred to the proper stacker.
Odd sized pallets and pallets that are beyond repair are pulled out before going down the repair line. These pallets are then moved to the separate remanning area where pallets are dismantled into used lumber. This used lumber is trimmed to the proper length on an old MSI single end trim saw. Trimmed 1x4 and 1x6 lumber and used stringers are sent to one of ten tables where combo pallets and reman pallets are assembled. About 98% of Lovett’s wood materials come from dismantled pallets. Combo pallets combine new and used lumber, a very popular practice in a modern pallet recycling plant. Remanned pallets build pallets from scratch with used lumber. Lovett Pallet will buy lumber on the outside market if enough recycled lumber is not available internally. All of this is part of the balancing act that a recycler has to handle.
Lovett Pallet Improves Operational Efficiency with PRS Equipment
Five years ago Lovett decided he needed to improve his pallet dismantling department. So, he turned to the PRS team which supplied him with a PROSAW AT15 bandsaw dismantler. These dismantlers are equipped with lumber chutes that allow dismantled boards to slide down to a belt conveyor. Machine operators only have to handle stringers. Dismantled decking travels to the trim saw for end trimming, a savings in material handling requirements. As the company grew, Lovett needed additional tear down capacity; so in 2010 he again turned to PRS for two more high speed PROSAW XP15 bandsaw dismantlers with a belt conveyor system to convey deckboards to the trim saw. Williams took an old machine in on trade; so Lovett Pallet now has three PRS bandsaw dismantlers. Unlike the common practice of taking in a used machine on consignment, PRS often takes in old machines on trade, repairs them, and sells as used or refurbished.
Lovett looked at PRS’s new Mechanical Repair Station at EXPO Richmond this past May and will keep his options open to expand with one of these machines in the future. This new machine operates on 100% pneumatic power, with a simple foot pedal control to actuate the cycle. A pallet is placed on top of the table. With the quick press of a lever, it instantly removes the unwanted deck board. The removed deck board drops into the integrated lumber chute, which can be used as a conveyor port.
HUB Industrial Supply supplies the band blades for Lovett’s three dismantlers. Lovett believes he gets better blade life than he once did. Blade life is always a combination of a quality blade with a quality weld and the engineering and design of the bandsaw, including its band wheels, blade guides, and tensioning system. Of course an operator has an impact on blade life as well. Lovett Pallet runs each XP15 two shifts to convert unrepairable pallets into used lumber. Lovett said, “It seems like we get 9 to 10 hours from each blade. We dismantle 700-900 pallets per machine per shift. I estimate that we get about 200 more pallets per blade than we once did.”
In addition to band blades, HUB supplies a wide variety of industrial supply items that Lovett needs. This prevents him from having to source a wide variety of items from a number of different suppliers. It serves as a time efficient practice and reduces the number of suppliers one has to deal with for items which are important but not necessarily main stream high dollar items.
Lovett buys FIVESTAR repair plates from PRS when he is plating pallets. They bought a Stringer-Mate stringer splicer from PRS in 2005. B’s are selling for enough today that he is not currently pulling pallets and plating them. When the company wants to upgrade B’s into A’s, the inspector by-passes the stackers and sends them down a gravity conveyor for plating. After plating, they are then stacked off by hand or sent to one of the stackers.
Lovett heat treats on site with a Kiln Direct pallet heat treating unit. Lovett says that he has been particularly happy with the service that Kiln Direct has provided. Timber Products Inspection handles heat treating certification of Lovett’s heat treated pallets.
Lovett Family Experience Pays Off, Seeks Business Collaboration
Although Paul Lovett keeps on looking ahead, he never forgets the history behind his family’s pallet success. His father, Pat Lovett founded and developed a successful pallet manufacturing company in Illinois which he moved to Indiana in 1983. Then Indy Pallet, owned by the Lovett family, entered into pallet recycling during the early days of recycling.
As a young man Paul joined the family business in 1986. In 1999 the Lovetts sold their business to Bromley which was acquired by IFCO. Those familiar with the attempts in the pallet industry to adjust to management changes will recognize in this story several organizations that have emerged to attempt to take leadership positions in the pallet industry, particularly pallet recycling. Few people have been any more involved in the emerging professional developments of pallet recycling than has Paul and his family. While some changes have taken place in pallet manufacturing, the nature of recycling has offered special opportunities for companies to merge or work together as the industry changes.
In 2001, Paul Lovett and Buckeye Diamond Logistics started Lovett Pallet Recycling, which has grown to be one of the leading pallet recycling companies in Indiana.
Lovett Pallet is part of the PALNET network, a group of “Best in Class” regional pallet companies that have come together to create a leading national asset management company in North America. This national alliance of regional players has worked to develop more marketing opportunities to serve their customer bases.
Lovett Pallet is actively involved in the National Wooden Pallet and Container Association (NWPCA) and currently serves on its board of directors.
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