Innovative Data Systems Offers a Wide Variety of Data Management Solutions for the Pallet Industry
Data has become a key aspect of managing and improving any pallet or lumber business. Since 1997, Innovate Data Systems has been developing a wide variety of cutting edge software and hardware products to maximize data collection and management.
By Chaille Brindley
Date Posted: 6/1/2013
Data has become the most crucial aspect of managing a pallet or lumber company to ensure efficiency and to improve customer service as well as monitoring operational costs. Smart pallet companies realize that capturing the right data makes for more informed decisions. A small investment in software and data capture technology can pay for itself in no time.
From just-in-time inventory management to identifying production bottlenecks and optimizing delivery schedules to creating effective worker compensation strategies, the right solution can assist all facets of your operation. One of the leading innovators in the industry helping companies figure out how best to track and manage data is Alan Miceli, president of Innovative Data Systems (IDS). He takes a very customized approach to assist customers in tracking all sorts of information.
Driven to Innovate
IDS began providing data solutions to the pallet and lumber industries in 1997 with the launch of its Pallet-Track® products. This solution was born out of a necessity to track production on an automated repair line after accountability was lost. Piece rates were nearly impossible to manage since all pallets from repairers were combined into the same stackers.
IDS introduced the Pallet-Track Automated System, which is a barcode- based tracking system that monitors compensation, inventory, production and grade sorting for each customer’s load of pallets. IDS continues today to provide its Pallet-Track system to customers from coast to coast in the United States and Canada.
From 1997 to the present, IDS has continued to live up to its name by being the first to introduce Innovative solutions to the industry with systems that are simple and straight forward, allowing even the most novice computer user to operate its systems.
Today, Pallet-Track Mill Manager has evolved into the most comprehensive enterprise resource planning (ERP) system designed for the industry. With a new flat rate monthly subscription option, it has become a favorite for pallet companies and sawmills both large and small.
It has been over six years since Innovative Data Systems, Inc. was honored with the first ever “Shared Vision – United Goals Award” from the National Wooden Pallet and Container Association (NWPCA) for its Pallet-Track Products. No other software company has been given this award before or after.
“I am very proud to receive a reward given to me by the industry members I serve,” said Alan Miceli, president of IDS. “I have always said that in order to provide a truly useful product or service, it is paramount to know your customer’s customer. Owning a pallet company, then managing the sales for a nationally recognized pallet company in New York, has contributed to my 30 years in this industry. Who can develop a better solution than a person who stood in your shoes?”
Alan continues: “I have built my company around the philosophy of treating your customers the way you would like to be treated. I’m not sure how many companies can say that they still provide products and services to the very first customer they ever had. We can say that. Buckeye Diamond Logistics was the very first customer we sold to back in 1997. Buckeye Diamond Logistics continues to expand on our systems to this day. In fact, it just purchased another kiosk system to enhance its Mill Manager System last month.”
Working to Meet Individual Customer Requirements
Buckeye Diamond Logistics, located in South Charleston, Ohio currently uses Pallet-Track Automated, Mill Manager, Plant Floor Kiosks, Hand Punch Clock and the Time and Attendance Integrator, which compiles piece-rate and hourly data then uploads to a payroll service like ADP.
“I am proud to say that I believe that our company was the first customer that Innovative Data had when Alan was starting up. We have continued to work with Alan over the years and have been very satisfied with the systems that he has helped us implement,” said Sam McAdow Sr., chief executive officer of Buckeye Dimaond Logistics.
McAdow added, “Alan’s overall knowledge of the industry helps him create systems that benefit the industry overall, but he has always been able to tailor it for our specific use, and his customer service has always been great. I would not hesitate in giving Alan and Innovative Data Systems a great recommendation to anyone in the pallet industry.”
Timberland Forest Products, located in West Plains, Mo. uses Pallet-Track Mill Manager, Plant Floor Data Collection Kiosks and Real-Time Wireless Hand Held Systems. These software modules manage all of Timberland’s orders, receive raw material including scaling on-grade and scragg logs. The software also schedules production as well as tracks production yield, cull and inventory in real-time. By utilizing the Pallet-Track products, Timberland has virtually gone from pen and paper to a completely paperless system that fully integrates with its accounting system, eliminating duplicate data entry and the errors associated with it. This streamlined process reduces waste and improves communication.
Mark Gencarelli, vice president of operations for Timberland, said, “Pallet Track has enabled us to track every production process throughout our plant eliminating all paper. From purchasing of stringers, decking, cants, scragg logs and saw logs to the production of decking, stringers, pallets, flooring, ties and cants, the ability to know real time information allows us to make informed decisions quickly and accurately. Alan understands our industry and that makes all the difference.”
It’s one thing to go paperless inside your office, but recent innovation allows customers to carry this approach forward to customer interaction. PalTech Enterprises, located in Belvidere, Ill. uses Pallet-Track Mill Manager, e-signature for paperless shippers and Automated at its various facilities throughout the country.
Alan of IDS worked with John Swenby at Paltech to develop the e-signature system. This allows the dispatcher to drag a shipment in Mill Manager to a drivers name in the schedule. The shipment then appears on that driver’s schedule on his smartphone. Touching the address of the shipment triggers turn by turn GPS directions to the next stop. After loading or unloading, the receiver signs directly on the smartphone using a special stylus and the signed shipper is emailed to him and Paltech’s accounting office immediately.
No more lost paperwork or digging through files for a signed purchase order delivery. The email contains the electronic bill of lading (BOL) and signature. You can also simply click on the shipper in Mill Manager to see the signed BOL.
“Paltech implemented the e-signature system with the expectations that we could simplify the handling of signed BOL paperwork our drivers turn into the accounting department, said John Swenby, president of PalTech Enterprises. “The software has exeeded our expectations by allowing us to process invoices within minutes following the delivery of products. We have found the ablility to change drivers delivery schedules on the fly or even as the driver is enroute to a customer has allowed us to react to customers ‘emergencies’ at unpressidented levels.”
Swenby added, “Customer service has always been important to our company and Pallet-Track is helping us continue to increase our levels of service.”
Data Solutions Can Even Work for Custom Shops
Troymill Wood Products, located in Middlefield, Ohio uses Pallet-Track Mill Manager along with plant floor data collection kiosks and hand held units to track its orders, purchases, production runs, inventory and shipments.
Troymill is not your typical pallet mill. It produces highly customized wood products with only a small percentage of standard type pallets. Its typical customer product may include several different components, overlays and multiple secondary processes like bolting, gluing, bundling, and/or sterilizing. A single shipment at Troymill may include 30 different products on a single trailer. Mill Manager is designed to accommodate these things while still maintaining its simplicity of use.
Troymill began evaluating new shop floor reporting systems several years before actually purchasing one. It looked at a number of vendors including IDS. When the company was ready to move forward with the project, it contacted Alan first.
“We wanted a system that would work for our business. Although we are known as a pallet company, pallets represent only a part of our business and we wanted our system to work for the dunnage, pre-cut and specialty products we sell. Mill Manager was the system we felt would best meet our needs,” said Keith Grinberg, chief financial officer of Troymill Wood Products.
In addition to integrating Troymill’s receipts with its accounts payable process and its shipments with the company’s invoicing process, Mill Manager has helped improve scheduling for its cutting and assembly areas. The specialty products are generally more complex than Troymill’s pallets in that there are often more components as well as secondary manufacturing processes. Mill Manager has assisted Troymill in controlling and evaluating this portion of its business in addition to the more traditional pallet activity.
Grinberg commented, “During the initial portion of the implementation process, Alan and his team were very helpful. They gave us step-by-step instructions as to how to implement the system, and Alan has been to our plant several times over the last year. He or one of his people has always been available by phone, and they have been very helpful in resolving issues that have arisen. They have also been extremely helpful in designing specific solutions for the particular issues that our business has encountered. I just don’t believe you will receive that kind of attention and service from very many software companies.”
Integrating IDS Systems into Fully Automated Repair Lines
Bo’s Pallets, located in Adairsville, Ga. uses Pallet-Track Mill Manager along with automated, plant floor data collection kiosks, dismantler tracking systems and hand punch clock. Another long-time customer, Bo’s Pallets implements the philosophy of its owner Greg Bowen, where in order to maintain efficiency, you shouldn’t touch product more than once.
This state-of-the-art facility has hosted tours for several businesses and associations including the NWPCA. Pallets are unloaded from trailers and labeled with special bar codes from Pallet-Track load tracking kiosks. These stacks are taken to repair lines designed by Pallet Repair Systems. At this point, employees repair the pallets or designate them for dismantling. As the pallet travels down the conveyor, the label is scanned and finished pallets are stacked.
Product to be dismantled continues down the line directly to one of four dismantling machines. Each machine has a scanner hanging on a counter balance allowing the operator to simply pull it over to the label and scan it. This tracks each product dismantled and calculates compensation for each team. The automated repair line system scans each label to validate dismantle scans and calculate production and compensation.
Once the pallet is dismantled, the operator places the components on a conveyor where it is further processed into usable stringers or boards, tracked by another kiosk and automatically added to inventory.
“Alan and his team have done an amazing job of developing data tracking systems for my company, said Greg Bowen, president of Bo’s Pallets. “In 2001 IDS designed a system that completely eliminated hand counting of pallets, with the capability of processing ten different suppliers’ pallets at the same time. Alan’s system credits the pallet core supplier, pays the repair person, pays the dismantling person, tracks inventory received by pallet size and grade, all using bar codes making it simple, quick, and easy.”
Another important aspect of IDS for Bowen is the longevity of its solutions. He said, “It has never became outdated and needed to be replaced. I think that is astounding in today’s technology age. I consider the purchase of the IDS product one of the best business decisions I have ever made.”
Talking about the uniqueness of Miceli’s skill and knowledge, Bowen said, “Over the years other companies have tried to copy IDS products but the most amazing part of IDS is Alan himself. For twelve years Alan has never failed to answer any question or solve any issue I have faced. He has given service above and beyond anything I ever expected. No other company in the industry today can even come close to his level of service.”
Forklift-mounted Computers Provide Flexibility and Facilitate Loading Finished Orders
Another startegy deployed using IDS products is to use them on forklifts. Nulyne, Inc., located in Knoxville, Ark. utilizes Pallet-Track Mill Manager and forklift-mounted computers to track its orders, production and shipments.
Nulyne also has stationary kiosks to track log loads by weight and grade material produced by its sawmill. Trailer loads of logs are weighed in and placed in rows combined with other deliveries. Pallet-Track generates a receiving receipt that is automatically sent to the accounting system where the bill is paid. The logs are consumed by the sawmill, where various products are produced. Grade material is tagged and tracked by a stationary kiosk, pallet lumber is tagged and produced with the forklift-mounted computers and bark/mulch is tracked and shipped from Mill Manager.
Using forklift-mounted units allows Nulyne the flexibility to track any production run from any lift unit. It also facilitates loading orders on trailers, creates a detailed packing list of product loaded and generates the BOL, all from the lift unit with no paper. Shipments are then automatically integrated into their accounting system to generate an invoice.
Wes Southerland, president of Nulyne, said, “Pallet Track and Mill Manager have proven to be of great value to our business. There are more expensive systems out there but Alan and his team have been there for us. We feel that we got the best value for our dollar by choosing to go with Innovative Data Systems.”
For more information about IDS and Pallet-Track products, please vist its website at www.pallettrack.com or call 631/244-0069.
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