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Company to Offer New Technology to Air-dry Pallets, Prevent Mold
Featured Wisconsin pallet company Lumber Sales and Products develops new technology to prevent mold using a regular 53-foot trailer van specially modified with vents and fans.

By Tim Cox
Date Posted: 4/1/2013

                Wisconsin-based Lumber Sales & Products has developed a proprietary technology and method for air-drying pallets to prevent mold and mildew. The company’s approach, which president Jim Francois plans to market, was in research and development for more than two years. It uses a regular 53-foot trailer van specially modified with vents and fans.

                “A lot of people told me it wasn’t going to work,” said Francois.

                Like other pallet companies, Francois experienced problems with mold forming on pallets. In hot, humid weather conditions, pallets made of green lumber loaded into a trailer would begin to grow mold in a matter of days along with the entire inside of the trailer.

                The approach also relies on a system of staggering the stacks of pallets in the trailer. “You can still put them tight,” said Francois, “but not tight side-by-side. You have to get air moving around the pallets.”

                “You don’t lose any space inside the trailer,” he explained.

                The objective is to reduce the moisture content of the lumber down to 19%. At that percentage, there is not enough moisture to foster mold growth.

                The technology also has proven effective at air-drying pallets during cold weather, noted Francois. Of course, the warmer the temperature, the faster the drying process. In summer months, the process dries pallets in about three days; in winter months, with temperatures in the teens or below, it takes about a week. Humidity is a factor, too.

                The process was tested by the Sardo pallet lab at Virginia Tech and “came through with flying colors,” said Francois. The tests showed pallets only had 0-5% mold. He has applied for a patent that he hopes will be finally approved in about six months.

                “I really think this is going to help the pallet industry,” said Francois, particularly those pallet companies that supply grocery manufacturers and other mold conscious industries.

                Although pallets may be treated with chemicals to prevent mold, many grocery manufacturing businesses will not use pallets that have been treated with chemicals, Francois observed.

                The process he developed also is much cheaper, said Francois. “This is a lot cheaper in the long run,” he noted, than treating pallets with chemicals because it eliminates the recurring cost of purchasing chemicals.

                It also enables companies to store pallets in trailers instead of shed structures, where birds and pests can contaminate the pallets with their feces. The modified trailers have screens over the vents to prevent entry by birds and insects.

                A stack of pallets is “just like a big birdhouse to them,” said Francois. The birds will infest the pallets and contaminate them with their droppings, which have to be removed in order to make them acceptable to some customers.                        

Francois is discovering that the approach he developed for air-drying pallets may have other applications. “We’re finding out now this would be great even for potato farmers,” he said. “These vented trailers can be used for a lot of different things.”

                Francois is going to start another business, Air-Flow Trailer Systems, to market the technology and will be seeking distributors in other states. Under the business model he plans, his company will provide the services to convert trailer vans for pallet companies at a cost of about $3,600 per trailer.

                The trailer will enable pallet companies to drop-ship loads – deliver a trailer filled with new pallets and drop it off at the customer location. Without air-drying, a load of green pallets may turn moldy in a few days before the customer opens the van to begin using them.

                “A lot of pallet companies don’t understand,” said Francois. Once a trailer van contains mold spores, it must be cleaned with bleach or some other chemical to eliminate them. Otherwise, the mold spores will continue to infest pallets that are stored in the trailer.

                “This is really going to open up a lot of doors,” said Francois, for pallet companies because eliminating mold will enable them to get new customers.

                The website for the new business unit that will market the ventilated trailer system is www.aftstrailers.com and the e-mail address is aftstrailers@yahoo.com.  The company will also be on Facebook.

                For more information, call Lumber Sales & Products at 262/677-9033 or e-mail lumberpallets@sbcglobal.net.

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