R & E Pallets Striving for Professionalism as It Grows with Smart Products as a Supplier
Salvador Gomez, a young Hispanic recycler, has developed his business using Smart Products dismantlers and trim saws and a dependable relationship with Ken Hess and Smart Products.
By Ed Brindley
Date Posted: 10/1/2012
Michigan City, Ind.—With the encouragement and support of his father Isaias, Salvador Gomez started his pallet recycling company R & E Pallets seven years ago. Salvador is president of R & E Pallets; his father Isaias is vice president. Only 22 years old, Gomez was introduced to the pallet industry by driving a semi for a pallet company. While Gomez spends most of his time managing his business and serving his customers, he still drives a semi to deliver pallets when needed. Gomez came to the United States when he was 11 and grew up in the country that offered him an opportunity to start and build his own business.
In just seven years, R & E Pallet has grown until it now sells about 33,000 pallets a week, 70% recycled and 30% new. In a typical week, R & E ships about 50 loads of pallets with about 600 pallets on a truck. Gomez says he is glad that he has formed a strong relationship with Ken Hess of Smart Products who has helped him grow by selling him three Smart trimsaws and three Smart dismantlers to anchor his production lines.
Located in Michigan City, Ind., R & E Pallets is about 45 minutes east of Chicago, possibly the biggest pallet market in the country. From its 80,000 sq.ft. plant with four loading docks, R & E sells about 50% 48x40 GMAs and 50% miscellaneous odd sized pallets. All pallets are stored and serviced under roof. Seven drivers operate R & E’s seven tractors to pickup cores and deliver pallets. About 80% of its sales are handled through brokers. The rest are handled by Gomez as part of his management responsibilities. Gomez said, “Our brokers are good to work with.”
R & E Pallets collects an estimated 80% of its pallets using its fleet of 70 trailers dropped at warehouses and distribution centers. It doesn’t buy too many off the street from independent contractor “pickers.” About half of its pallets are 48x40 GMAs; the rest are a mixture of many sizes, both combo and remanufactured pallets. To supplement the used lumber that comes from its dismantling operation, R & E buys a couple of tractor trailer loads of new lumber each month. This growing pallet company restricts itself to repairing and building stringer pallets; so far it has avoided becoming involved in block pallets.
Gomez owns several Toyota forklifts for moving stacks of pallets around the plant and handling logistics requirements. One forklift has two sets of tines so it can handle two stacks of pallets at the same time.
R & E Pallets has about 27 employees, seven drivers and 20 people in manufacturing and the office. Gomez is trying to grow his company, but he has been struggling with a tough economy for most of the years he has been in business.
Gomez said, “Running a business has its blessings but it is a day to day challenge. You have the responsibility of providing an opportunity for your people to make a living and support their families.”
Salvador himself has a wife and three children, one daughter and two boys. Most of his employees in the factory are of Hispanic origin, and his truck drivers are Caucasian. Since Salvador speaks fluent Spanish, he has no communication problems with his staff.
“I am fortunate to have my sister Maria Gomez-as a secretary. She has been with me since we went into business and handles all of our record keeping issues. My father Isaias still drives a semi for us and my wife Nelly works part-time handling office duties.”
I met Salvador in March at the annual meeting of the NWPCA (National Wooden Pallet and Container Association). He was a new member attending his first meeting, and I have missed only one NWPCA meeting since 1977. So, I asked him with interest what attracted a young, relatively new recycler to the association. His answer did not surprise me.
“My main benefit is learning more about how to run a successful pallet company,” said Gomez. Meeting and interacting with other pallet company owners is valuable to me. I plan to attend the NWPCA recycling meeting which will soon be held in Dallas.”
Gomez has not yet used the PDS Pallet Design System but is keeping that option open for the future as he grows.
Gomez said, “I learned English after moving here as a boy (he learned well). The United States has provided me an excellent opportunity. People here have not been as comfortable since 9/11 but it is still the land of opportunity. I am looking forward to growing my company and taking advantage of my opportunities.”
R & E Pallets Turns to Smart Products for Machinery and Advice
Gomez has grown his recycling practices to take care of his customers and work toward a better future. His production department has three Smart Products dismantlers, three Smart Products trim saws and a single head Baker band resaw.
Two of his dismantlers are one man machines with a 64" capacity and 10hp Balder motor. The other is a two man machine. The two dismantlers have similar operating characteristics, but the two man machine is designed to have a greater dismantling capacity. The dismantlers have a gear reduction drive with 2200 feet per minute blade speeds, push button operated table height adjustments, self contained hydraulic blade tensioning, low maintenance durable blade guide bearings, and blade life variation between 800 and 1200 pallets per blade expected.
R & E’s Smart Products board trim saws are designed to end trim used boards with nails. A 10 hp Baldor motor and 18" nail resistant saw blades end trim the lumber using three full-height stops that are adjustable to 60" board lengths. They can cut up to four stringers at once or deck boards stacked six inches high.
When a load of pallets enters the plant, a man separates them into two groups, 48x40 GMAs and odd sizes or scrap. The three Smart dismantlers, three Smart trimsaws and a Baker horizontal resaw are in one part of the plant. Stacks of odd sized pallets and scrap pallets are brought to the Smart dismantlers, two single-man machines and one two-man dismantler. Dismantled lumber is placed in pallet boxes which are taken to the three Smart trimsaws to be cut to the desired lengths.
When asked why he was drawn to Smart Products, Gomez said, “I like Smart’s machinery. I can call Ken when I have problems, and he is always glad to help me. We have developed a strong relationship. I like working with one dependable supplier for machines and advice when I can. This relationship with Ken and Smart Products has worked well for me. I am still learning about the pallet industry. It is important for me to understand where I can go in order to map out where I want to go.”
Gomez relies upon Bernie Saw and Supply for its saw blades for both its dismantlers and trimsaws.
R & E uses a Baker single-head resaw with a turn around to resaw cants that it buys because some customers want new pallets built from new lumber, or R & E needs to cut new lumber at times. The company cuts its cants to length and then resaws them on its Baker.
A single-head notcher offers the flexibility to be able to notch when needed without having to make a significant financial investment.
Another part of the building houses tables for assembling and repairing pallets as needed. At this time R &E doesn’t have a nailing machine, but it is keeping its options open to look into buying a small nailing machine in the foreseeable future. For the present it is doing assembly and repairs using hand nailers. New Supplies, which services the market in and around Chicago, supplies the nailing tools and fasteners for R & E Pallet. It currently uses seven tables for GMA repairs and three tables for other sizes. A second possibility for future mechanization might include pallet stackers. Currently, R & E hand stacks pallets that are then moved by forklifts from the tables to inventory or a loading dock for shipping.
One of the recent changes at R & E was adding heat treating to its product options about a year ago. R & E has a Kiln Direct treating chamber. Like many pallet companies, R & E reports having a very good relationship with the Kiln Direct team. Export Wood Packaging Inspection Service certifies R & E’s heat treating. At this point, the company is heat treating in the neighborhood of ten loads a month.
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