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Best of 2013
Short Highlights From the Best Articles, Innovations and Ideas of 2013

By Staff
Date Posted: 1/1/2014

Lamenting What Could Have Been  –  The Downfall of iGPS 

 

By Chaille Brindley

                Bob Moore, the founder of iGPS, is a good salesman who was able to convince investors that he could revolutionize an industry that had seen little advancement in technology in years. But most of the iGPS hype was based on assumptions that turned out to be misguided and wrong when tested in the real supply chain.

                iGPS claimed it could be cost competitive because its technology and iDepots cut logistics costs. But this never materialized because it required a sizeable pool, a large customer base and broad geographic coverage. Also, the company suggested its RFID technology and tracking software would reduce lost pallets. But iGPS admitted losing 1.5 million of its ten million pallet pool.

                The plastic pallet was supposed to be more cost effective because it would last years without repairs. But iGPS experienced higher damage rates than anticipated and struggled to replace pallets after a legal battle with its pallet manufacturing partner.

                iGPS attracted many customers, but had supply problems when it stopped buying new pallets and found that many were lost or damaged. iGPS was a victim of its own success, it grew too much and had too many pallets scattered around to effectively supply some of its customer base.

                One major unforeseen factor was the impact that using a fire-retardant containing decaBDE would have on its public image. While it was a known carcinogen that many companies were moving away from, iGPS decided to use it anyway. As media coverage of the decaBDE issue became a bigger deal, its use raised environmental and public health concerns.

                When these factors combined, the bright promise that iGPS initially offered quickly evaporated. To compete and attract business, iGPS agreed to match wooden pallet companies on price. And this turned out to be among the most fateful decisions because the company lost its premium product status by making a price concession.

                The big lesson here seems to be that it takes more than a new pallet design to revolutionize the industry. You have to develop a business model and support structure that will handle the logistics and supply issues. And that may be the toughest trick of them all.

 

Proven Strategies to Inhibit  Mold Growth on Pallets 

 

By DeAnna Stephens Baker

 

                Preventing mold on wooden pallets is increasingly important as more pallet users demand mold prevention treatments.

                Mold needs several things to grow. It needs a food source, the right temperature, moisture content, and air. Wood is a good medium for that because the sugars and starches in it are a food source and the high moisture content in green wood provides plenty of moisture for the survival of fungus. If the temperature’s warm enough, it makes a great environment for mold. Most hardwood pallets are produced using green lumber, which makes new pallets a prime source for mold growth.

                The key to preventing mold growth is controlling one or more of these elements. Controlling air is virtually impossible and controlling temperature is not easy as the temperature range that is conducive to mold growth is also the range that is comfortable for workers. That leaves moisture and food source as the most viable options.

                Many pallets users think that heat treating pallets helps prevent mold. But drying for mold prevention is different than heat treating a pallet. Heat treating gets pallets hot, but it does not dry them, as heat treatment standards are not designed for mold prevention. It has little to do with prohibiting mold growth unless the pallet is dried to less than 20% moisture content. The heat treating process can actually make wooden pallets or lumber more susceptible to mold, by bringing moisture and sugars to the surface that are necessary to facilitate mold growth.

 

The True Cost of Pallet Logistics – Recyclers Are Likely Losing Money Returning Stray Proprietary Pallets 

By Chaille Brindley 

                Are you really making money collecting and returning stray proprietary pallets? The real answer may surprise you.

                A Pallet Enterprise investigation, based on analysis from researchers from Penn State University, indicates that many pallet companies likely are losing money, especially when they handle the return transport of these pallets.

                Researcher Chuck Ray said, “A lot of recyclers don’t have their accounting system set up to track true costs. The average recycler doesn’t understand the cost of alternative actions, called ‘opportunity costs.’ Over time, many were making less money in servicing CHEP’s pallet pool than they would processing non-CHEP pallets, but because these opportunity costs were masked as ‘revenue from CHEP’ on their books, it was difficult to recognize where any loss was occurring.”

                Ray pointed out that the largest source of this opportunity cost that went undetected was involved with trucking pallets back to a depot. You are using your trucks to ship pallets to a competitor all the while tying up key transportation resources needed to ship to customers and bring in new core inventories. The study estimated that recyclers lost $2.38 per pallet on average after the compensation received from CHEP.

                The following are key costs to consider when evaluating your real costs for processing proprietary pallets.

• Acquisition costs if you have to pay for a complete trailer.

• Transportation costs from collection point to the recycler.

• Sortation and handling costs.

• Storage costs.

• Admin and paperwork costs.

• Delivery transportation costs.

• Lost opportunity costs associated with trucking and other considerations.

• Equipment costs needed to retrofit your facility to efficiently handle proprietary pallets.

                If you can’t avoid collecting proprietary pallets, Ray suggests you presort and stack them out of the way as early in your process as possible then never touch them again.

                Full details of the analysis and a decision tree to help you evaluate the effectiveness of your current relationship with proprietary pallet companies can be found at http://www.palletenterprise.com/assetrecovery.

 

Recycler’s New Direction Pays Off: Power Pallet Expanding Into Recycling Other Materials

By Tim Cox

                Power Pallet in Amsterdam, N.Y. has been expanding in a new direction in recent years, a direction management views as being critical to its future success. The company leveraged its fleet of about 400 trailers, spotted at factories and distribution centers to collect used pallets, and entered the arena of recycling other materials, such as corrugated, plastic, glass and metal.

                In essence, Power Pallet became a “one-stop shop for everything,” explained Sam Donadio, president. “Customers didn’t have to deal with one business for used pallets, another vendor for corrugated, another company for plastic, another for metal.”

                Power Pallet made the process easy for customers. It put in baling equipment at no cost to customers and allowed them to load different recyclable materials in the same trailer.

                The strategy provided an important benefit for Power Pallet. “It secured the account for us,” said Donadio. Although their pallet prices are competitive, “some customers will leave you for a nickel or a dime,” he noted. “Now…they’re going to lose the whole package.” A customer that moves to a different pallet supplier would also have to set up new relationships to handle all the other waste materials being recycled by Power Pallet.

 

Insights for Developing a Proper Fire Safety Plan: Expert Suggests Many Pallet Companies Are Not Prepared

By Chaille Brindley 

                The Pallet Enterprise spoke with Gordon Hughes, president and owner of Wood Packaging Solutions, about fire safety in the pallet industry.

                “It is important that all wooden pallet and wood packaging companies stay current with changes to the policy directive of the NFPA or the ICC depending on which is used in a particular company’s state,” said Hughes. “The NFPA and ICC regularly post updates that occasionally affect companies in the pallet industry.”

                He added, “Given the number and severity of the fires that the pallet industry has had in the past few years, you can expect most fire departments... will be considering new rules proposed for outdoor storage of idle pallets and evaluating the new standard.”

                When helping companies complete customized fire safety plans, Hughes said the key questions he asks include whether a company has sprinkler protection or what types of flammable materials are on site.

                “By customizing a fire plan it becomes easier to integrate this plan into the business plan,” said Hughes.

                According to Hughes, wood dust accumulation is a fire hazard that pallet companies often overlook. It can accumulate in rafters or corners and takes only a small spark to ignite.

                “That mini explosion could disturb other accumulated dust, which could lead to a larger explosion that could endanger even more workers or structures,” he said.

                When it comes to insurance fire coverage, pallet companies are typically not getting enough coverage because it is expensive annual cost that some never use.

                “But when you need it, you will be glad that you have it,” said Hughes. “Many hope they will never have the need to file a claim. Clearly, if you suffer a loss, adequate coverage will protect you from losing your business. Always remember, it is the responsibility of the pallet/packaging company to have an adequate fire safety plan in place.”

 

Lost Infrastructure Brings Growing Pains to Forest Products Industry

By Jeff McBee

                The housing market’s demise created a plunge in activity throughout all sectors of the forest products industry.

                During the past five years, the forest products industry lost people and production at every level. The industry lost loggers. Some sawmills closed permanently. Others suspended operations, but have been gone so long now that they may not be back. Along with the lost sawmills, the industry lost many skilled workers. The combined losses make even modest growth difficult.

                The lost infrastructure has now left the forest products industry in the middle of a fiber crunch that is impacting all levels of the industry. 

                Softwood mills have upped their production levels but have been unwilling or – in most cases – unable to bring on additional shifts. The extra production helps industrial softwood supply levels, but offshore demand has kept industrial softwood supplies and pricing challenging. Offshore markets have been a large part of the problem.

                Most – if not all – of the market-related problems point back to infrastructure issues throughout the forest products industry. Unless additional capacity comes available to deal with future supply challenges, the entire forest products market may be in for some intense growing pains.

 

Robots and Pallet Press Improve Quality Control at European Pallet Recycler

By Chaille Brindley

                Robots can handle tough three dimensional tasks that basic automation can’t efficiently do, such as dismantling a block pallet or positioning a number of boards in unusual patterns. Robots can be programed to produce or repair a wide variety of pallet types, which can significantly reduce changeover times compared to basic automated systems without robotics.

                Because robots need lots of work to do, it is best to utilize them in tasks that are always working when a production line is running. Is the job heavy and can it cause repetitive stress injury or physical harm to workers? Then robots can be a good option in those situations.

                A neat idea that any pallet company can use is the addition of a pallet press at the end of the repair line. Using a hydraulic press and a steel bar, the press ensures that joints are tight and no large nails are protruding. The press vertically presses the pallet nail points to improve quality.           

                Robotics also ensure that the workers who are on the line are not worn out as fast, stabilize the workforce and ensure consistent quality production.  

 

Lumber Sales & Products Uses Unique Lumber Stacking Method to Improve Operations

By Tim Cox

                Lumber Sales & Products Inc. in Jackson, Wis. has developed a little trick of the trade to help cut down on mold forming on freshly cut deck boards. When they are stacked automatically, heat emanates from the center of a tightly packed bundle on warm, humid days, noted president Jim Francois, promoting mold on wood that is still green.

                After each layer is stacked, a worker on the back side of the pallet spreads it out, said Francois, just using a hand or knee to push the row out two inches. That allows air to get between each row and prevents mold. “It cuts it down close to 60%,” he said. “I know nobody else that does this. It’s just something we’ve learned over the years.” The same step helps prevent pallet parts from freezing together during cold winter temperatures.

                “We try to use fresh lumber all the time and not let it sit around and get moldy,” said Francois. The company cuts lumber every day.

 

Website Marketing Gurus Share Best Practices 

By Chaille Brindley 

                You have two key audiences in website design - customers and prospects and search engines and social media websites. But many companies focus too much on themselves and not what customers want or what search engines use to decide a website’s relevance to particular keywords.

                Steve Dustin, co-founder of Adeo, an Internet marketing firm, said, “Google has three major things it looks at when it ranks a website. Those are content, backlinks and social media mentions and activity. If you are not offering any value, and the content is strictly marketing a company, you are not going to get any retweets or social media mentions.”

                That is where many pallet or lumber companies struggle to develop effective websites. They don’t keep the content current or don’t offer content that attracts the attention of potential customers or search engines.

                One effective strategy is to develop static content about your company and pallets in general. Then create a blog that is updated at least several times per month. It can have tips and tricks for customers, news on regulatory issues, or information on pallet purchasing 101.

                Key content should be produced in HTML not PDF or other proprietary formats as these seldom appear toward the top of keyword searches. Also, websites should present easy to follow calls to action.

                Dustin said, “If you are not saying call us or fill out this form any place on your website, you are missing out on an opportunity to convert that lead.”

 

PalletOne Embraces Lean Manufacturing to Improve Its Butner Facility

By Chaille Brindley 

                PalletOne Inc.’s Butner, N.C. plant follows the 5S lean manufacturing strategy, which focuses on how best to organize a workspace for efficiency and effectiveness. The 5S phases are: sorting, set in order, systematic cleaning, standardizing and sustaining. PalletOne added a 6th S in safety to its focus.

                The managers tackled its production lines as its initial effort. The idea was to impact an area in the center of the plant and move outward so that everyone realized this was more than just management’s latest little idea.

                “Thanks to the lean process changes we are making a pallet a nickel cheaper than we were a year ago,” said Howe Wallace, PalletOne’s president and CEO.

                Supervisors took pictures of the work area before the project began so that they could demonstrate to others and remind themselves of the conditions before and after the process.

                The entire line was analyzed to optimize the location of every item. Supervisors make sure that only what is needed for the day’s work is placed near machines to reduce clutter, and  anything that could be a safety concern or cause unnecessary strain on workers was cleaned up.

                They put nail gun stands near the workers and placed hoses on reels for easy feeding and storage. Fans were moved from the floor to overhead and out of the way. Each machine received its own color-coded set of tools and a board to store them, making it easy to tell if something was missing by a quick glance. Lift tables were placed near the pallet lines so employees had to bend over less while working. Ladders were added on both sides of the production machine to make it easier for employees to access the top of it from either side. The placement of everything was questioned to optimize it. Managers would ask, “Why is this here?” or “What is in the way?” 

 

Employee Ownership Controlling Its Supply Line Help M & H Crates Succeed 

By Chaille Brindley

                M & H Crates in Jacksonville, Texas has grown by finding little areas of improvement to cut costs. These include automating with stackers, reducing the number of times that a worker touches a piece of lumber or a pallet, reducing logistics costs and empty miles, upgrading equipment to relieve bottlenecks, and finding more lumber sources to improve supply options.

                “I learned from my father the importance of the attention to every little detail. We have to look for little ways to cut waste and get the most out of the log,” said Randy McCown, president and CEO.

                In 1998, M & H Crates was sold to the employees. When employees own part of the business, they take a different attitude about their work. McCown said, “Statistics show that employee owned companies have been the most successful through the recent recession. All employees have a dog in the hunt.”

                Commonly referred to as an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP), these businesses provide the workforce with an ownership interest in the company.

                McCown said the ownership program has been especially effective for managers who realize they aren’t just making money for the McCowns, they are making money for everybody when they do little things to become more productive and grow the business.

                The company has also grown through its 2001 acquisition of Crosscut Hardwoods in Alto, Texas about 25 miles from the main facility. This has allowed the company to control its own lumber supply and become more efficient in sourcing lumber and reducing logistics costs. It also gave M & H Crates extra capacity, a wider geographic distribution and capabilities to process a wider variety of material.

 

Obamacare: Preparing for New Health Care Requirements

By Chaille Brindley

                Are you having trouble knowing how to prepare for new health care rules, reforms and penalties under Obamacare? By answering these questions, you can get a good picture of where you stand and what strategies to consider.

• Do you have 50 or more full-time or full-time equivalent (FTE) employees?

• Do you have more than 100 employees?

• Do you offer or plan to offer health care coverage to employees?

• Will any of your employees buy coverage on a state based or federal exchange?

• Do you have fewer than 25 FTE workers?

• Is your state planning to and ready to develop its own exchange?

• Is your current health care plan a high deductible health savings account (HSA) type program?

• Do you have part-time employees?

                For more details on what your answers to these questions mean, use the Pallet Enterprise’s Obamacare Decision Tree, available at http://www.palletenterprise.com/ObamaCareFlowChartpeApril2013.pdf.

 

Company to Offer New Technology to Air-dry Pallets, Prevent Mold

By Tim Cox

                Lumber Sales & Products has developed a proprietary technology and method for air-drying pallets to prevent mold and mildew.

                The approach uses a regular 53-foot trailer van specially modified with vents and fans. It also relies on a system of staggering the stacks of pallets in the trailer to allow air to move around the pallets. The objective is to reduce the moisture content of the lumber down to 19% where there is not enough moisture to foster mold growth.

                The process was tested by the Sardo pallet lab at Virginia Tech and “came through with flying colors,” said Jim Francois, owner. The tests showed pallets only had 0-5% mold.

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

                Francois added, “Although pallets may be treated with chemicals to prevent mold, many grocery manufacturing businesses will not use chemically treated pallets. The process is also much cheaper than chemical treatments because it eliminates the recurring cost of purchasing chemicals.”

                The trailer will enable pallet companies to drop-ship loads of new pallets. 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.

                Francois has started another business, Air-Flow Trailer Systems, to market the technology. For more information, call 262-677-9033, e-mail aftstrailers@yahoo.com or visit http://www.aftstrailers.com.

 

Railway Authorities and EPAL at Odds in Europe

By Chaille Brindley

                The European Pallet Association (EPAL) and the International Union of Railways (UIC) have split ways over what appears to be a squabble about the certification organization that oversees quality control for the EPAL Euro pallet pool.

                EPAL stated it changed to Bureau Veritas because the “former audit company was not one of the best three proposals from a financial or qualitative perspective.” While it is not clear if UIC Working Group for Palletization took action only in response to the ouster of Societe Generale de Surveillance (SGS), it appears that the rail authorities preferred the former vendor stay in place. Regardless, the UIC decided to redefine the conditions for the approval of new pallet organizations and subsequently named two other organization to be approved for developing future pools; this includes SGS and a European pallet dealer.

                The UIC claims it wants to develop a “One Brand Strategy” where pallet organizations and license holders cooperating with it in the future utilize labeling with the letters UIC instead of the EPAL/oval mark. This is an attempt to exert control over any future pallet organizations.

                EPAL has ceased all cooperation with the UIC for the foreseeable future. EPAL suggested that exchange of EPAL/oval and EUR/oval marks without restriction should continue. It has also decided to remove from the center block the mark of the respective national railway.

                With so much at stake, it appears the right thing to do is for the UIC and EPAL to come to some arrangement or the results could be harmful for the industry. Both organizations recently released a statement explaining that they were working on an agreement that would allow the open exchange of pallets bearing their trademarks. This is a sign that although EPAL and UIC may not be as close as they were in the past, they are finding ways to work together.

 

Ongweoweh Develops Unique Data and Reporting Capabilities for Customers

By Chaille Brindley

                When you look at Ongweoweh Corp.’s investment in people and technology, it is more of a data and management company than a typical pallet operation. Keeping track of pallets requires a major commitment to collecting data along a customer’s supply chain as well as from recycling partners.

                One added value service Ongweoweh offers is an auditing process for dock sweeps. Field reps audit trailers, establishing a check and balance system.  

                “That is an extra piece we bring to the table that our customers appreciate,” said James O’Neil, vice president of operations for Ongweoweh.

                Audit data is collected and shared with customers using NativeTrax - a Web-based software platform for tracking pallet activity, reviewing core metrics, placing orders, reconciling bills and auditing pallet counts. It provides data on key metrics such as expenditures, landfill diversion, returned income, pallet tracking, etc. It helps coordinate activities when Ongweoweh services many regions of the country for one customer.

                “Our national customers like that one-stop shop approach,” said Daniel F. Bonamie, president and chief executive officer. “But the difficulty for us is trickling that down to the plant level and getting the cooperation of the customer to support us at the plant level.”

                Accurate data assists in this process while providing accountability for everyone in the process. Bonamie said that Ongweoweh has become effective at breaking through those barriers and getting communication through with mid-level managers at customer locations. Although the process can require some finesse, it is a core advantage for Ongweoweh because of its successful track record as well as its software analysis and data capabilities.

                Bonamie explained, “When you first go into a new customer location, people think you are just the middle man who is going to skim some of the cream off the top. You have to show them what value you bring. I can honestly say in most cases, over time, customers see the value.”

 

Dirty Tricks That Pallet Buyers May Encounter and How to Avoid Them 

By Rick LeBlanc

                There are a number of ways that pallet buyers can be shortchanged when purchasing pallets. This happens because frequently pallets are not subject to the same rigorous quality and inventory systems as other products used by the pallet buyer. When you don’t pay attention, you are in danger of getting ripped off.

                Here are some “dirty tricks” that pallet buyers should look for when dealing with pallet companies, especially new suppliers that drastically undercut existing suppliers.

• Not receiving the amount of pallets billed.

• Lower grade lumber used or cheaper species.

• Pallets not stenciled or branded as requested.

• Undersized lumber used (i.e., 3-inch boards instead of 3.5-inch boards quoted).

• Shorter nails or fewer nails than quoted.

• Pallets delivered to the pallet buyer’s supplier to put under load for delivery are a lower grade than was originally quoted to the actual pallet buyer.

                So what steps can a pallet buyer do to ensure that they are not subject to dirty tricks? It basically comes down to treating pallets with the same respect that is given to other products and services. Given that most companies have rigorous receiving controls, the receiver’s count of pallets received should not be treated lightly. The pallets received should be accurately received, and that information should be clearly communicated to your accounts payable department.

                At the end of the day, reputation is important, and it is important to deal with pallet companies that have solid quality assurance programs and a reputation for delivering the pallet specified.

 

Losing Major Customers Forces CPC to Go into Survival Mode

                After losing major Canadian retailer Loblaw among other clients, the Canadian Pallet Council (CPC), which has operated North America’s largest standardized industry pool since 1977, considered a possible shutdown by the end of 2013 although it later decided to continue operations as long as possible with reduced capabilities. The organization has been hemorrhaging members for years and has struggled to keep pace with CHEP Canada. Cost concerns about repairing old pallets and other issues have hurt the organization and its pallet pool.

                Belinda Junkin, president and CEO of CPC, stated, “This decline has become an acute concern as a result of Loblaw’s withdrawal from the exchange program. Few suppliers can now use CPC pallets for all, or even a substantial portion of their business. For some members, this has meant a complete conversion away from using CPC pallets.”

                The CPC has sought other solutions and ways to serve existing members, has cut its costs and reduced staff.

                Junkin added, “The Loblaw decision to withdraw from the CPC has been a tipping point for our organization. CPC pallet use is down, and is expected to continue to decline as members move to a pallet option that is universally acceptable.”

                The CPC has received enough support from key distributor members to continue although the organization said it was imperative that members repair pallets, only ship good quality CPC pallets and pay CPC-related management costs.

 

Don’t Set Aside the Core Mission for a Good Idea  

By DeAnna Stephens Baker

                There are many helpful ideas and concepts in Street Smarts: An All-Purpose Tool Kit for Entrepreneurs, a business strategy book written by Norm Brodsky and Bo Burlingham, columnists for Inc. magazine.

                One of the best pieces of advice is to never risk your core business for another opportunity. The authors said that no opportunity is worth going after if it jeopardizes your core business. And that goes beyond the financial side of it, because you have a limited amount of time. The book suggests asking two questions about any new opportunity. “Will it keep me from putting in the time required to build or maintain my core business? And, if the opportunity turns in to a financial disaster, will my core business be crippled? If the answer to either question is yes, you probably should rethink whether or not this is a good opportunity.”

 

European Biomass Demand Continues to Grow

By DeAnna Stephens Baker

                Wood-based energy markets have grown significantly over the past decade. This trend is expected to continue, driven by domestic and international renewable energy policy.

                In 2012, a record of 3.2 million tons of pellets were exported from North America to Europe. Much of this is due to the European Union’s 20-20-20 targets of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 20%, increasing consumption of energy from renewable sources to 20%, and improving energy efficiency by 20% by 2020. Converting existing coal capacity to burn wood pellets or co-firing with wood is one of the cheapest ways of meeting these targets.

                A glut in carbon credits decreased the incentive to burn wood pellets in Europe over the past year, but European demand is not dropping off. It may, however, shift to the United Kingdom where analysts expect the majority of future development will be centered.

                Demand has started to ramp up and is expected to increase quickly in the next five years, likely over one million tons annually. Many new biomass facilities in western Europe will be coming online by 2016, after which demand will probably start leveling out.

                European demand is driving North American infrastructure and logistics development with investments in pellet mills and port infrastructure totaling in the tens to hundreds of millions of dollars. Much of this is happening in the Southeast United States, where many pellet plants and port facilities are in various building and planning stages. States are actively trying to attract that investment capital with incentives for companies that locate their mills in their states, along with investments in port infrastructure.

 

Intern Programs Can Spark Innovation

                One way to attract top talent and differentiate your business at the same time is to add one of the students coming out of the Virginia Tech packaging program that is developing in conjunction with Center for Packaging and Unit Load Design (CPULD).  The CPULD places students in summer internships around the country.

                These young professionals bring a wide variety of skills, having worked alongside sharp packaging and wood science minds. From technical experts to packaging designers to sales staff, they can help almost any pallet company that wants to do more than just compete on price. If you want to snatch up one of these bright young minds for the summer, you should consider contacting the CPULD quickly before another company does.

                You can hire an intern for the summer at a minimal cost and see just how much it could help your operation. Interns can tackle specific projects, such as plant optimization and lean business strategies, improving product design and packaging for customers, revamping sales literature and technical communications to customers, etc. 

                To find out more information about available students and skill sets, contact Laszlo Horvath, the CPULD director at lhorvat@vt.edu. Or list an available job or internship with the Department of Sustainable Biomaterials by contacting Angela Riegel at ariegel@vt.edu or calling 540-231-7107.

 

OSHA’s New Hazard Communication System… Are You Ready?

By Jary Winstead

                U.S. companies need to train their employees on the new Hazard Communication and Chemical Safety System, the United Nation’s Globally Harmonized System (GHS).

                According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the three major areas of change are in hazard classification, labels and Safety Data Sheets (SDS.)

                • Hazard classification: The definitions of hazard have been changed to provide specific criteria for classification of health and physical hazards, as well as classification of mixtures. These specific criteria will help to ensure that evaluations of hazardous effects are consistent across manufacturers, and that labels and safety data sheets are more accurate as a result.

                • Labels: Chemical manufacturers and importers will be required to provide a label that includes a harmonized signal word, pictogram, and hazard statement for each hazard class and category. Precautionary statements must also be provided.

                • Safety Data Sheets: Will now have a specified 16-section format.

                The new GHS breaks down chemical hazards into three types, health, environmental and physical hazards. The GHS will be requiring changes to the warning labels, placards and pictographs that people see on the chemicals used every day. Labels will require a pictogram, signal words, a hazard statement, and a precautionary statement.

 

Key Concerns for Getting Started In the Pallet Recycling Business

By Clarence Leising

                The most important thing in the recycling market is your core supply. If you are going into the market with a lot of automation, this increases the need for reliable and growing core supplies because you will have to pay for the equipment even when your core supply shrinks. One of the advantages of workers is that you can always send them home or lay them off if you don’t have enough pallets to keep the operation humming.

                Another consideration when you startup a facility is to have enough land to be able to inventory pallets for future use. This allows you to sit on pallets and sell them when customers need them versus having to always keep product moving which might mean you sell a pallet for less than you want just to get it off your yard.

                One of the problems of inner city pallet shops is that they get land locked by the city.  Even if you own the land, it may be best to move your facility somewhere else and rent out your land to a more profitable tenant. Instead of starting a recycling operation, you may be able to buy an existing facility especially if the owner is getting older and is looking to retire. A high percentage of pallet companies are owned by people in their 60s, and you may be able to find a good company with solid core supplies if you look.

 

Third Party Logistics Growth Provides Business Opportunities for Pallet Companies

By DeAnna Stephens Baker

                According to Marc Althen, president of Penske Logistics, the 2013 State of Logistics Report reveals opportunities currently available to logistics service providers. He said that U.S. shippers spend over $1 trillion to manage their supply chains, but companies like Penske Logistics are only capturing a little over $141 billion of that, creating tremendous opportunities for logistics service providers to provide services that are in demand.

                “We see more shippers continuing to outsource various elements of their supply chains to logistics providers to further reduce warehousing, trucking and shipping costs while improving service levels,” said Althen.

                Pallet companies interested in exploring new markets or expanding their existing logistics services should consider this possibility. This includes offering warehousing, reverse logistics, asset management, packaging design, re-packaging, recycling services beyond pallets, trucking and other logistics services. With an ever-growing focus on making supply chains as lean as possible, being able to offer existing as well as new customers these types of services while helping them reduce costs could be a profitable opportunity.

 

Tips for Moving a Machine

By Chaille Brindley

                Moving a machine is difficult. And unless you have a top notch person doing it, the machine may not run as efficiently as it did before, according to Paul Bailey of GBN Machine.

                GBN will come in and help disassemble and move a machine; but if a company prefers to do it itself, Bailey recommends that the person moving the machine take measurements between each part and make sure that everything is reinstalled, square, level and anchored securely to the floor. Gaps between different components should be the same as they were before the move.

                “In older machines, all the wiring was done point-to-point so you have a bundle of wires and many pieces of liquid tight, seal tight or conduit that went into each box,” Bailey said. “And all of those wires terminated in that box at a different place.”

                He also recommends taking good notes and a lot of pictures about where everything belongs and how it all fits together.

                “We recently talked to a customer who was buying a used machine,” said Bailey. “They wanted to put it on asphalt, which won’t hold a concrete anchor. The only way to do that is to construct rods that are driven down through the asphalt into the ground or construct a steel framework that connects the entire machine together. Shims that level the machine would have to be welded to the machine to prevent them from moving around or simply coming out. That is a much harder installation than installing a machine on concrete.”

 

Plant and Conveyor Maintenance Tips 

By Clarence Leising

                Making maintenance a habit is the most important part of a maintenance routine. Suppliers can be helpful in learning what regular maintenance should be done and what spare parts should be kept on hand to minimize downtime.

                Many people don’t think much about the conveyor systems in a pallet recycling operation. But conveyors feed the productivity of your line. Before starting the conveyor every day, inspect it to ensure nothing is out of the ordinary. Belt tension should be regularly monitored since a loose belt can indicate deeper problems. Roller bearings that appear sluggish or make excessive noise can also indicate a problem. Loud squeaks or noises are not normal and are signs that an area needs attention.

                We regularly greased each bearing. Daily, we blew out the motor and hydraulics and checked fluids. About every three months we would change the fluids. We used a sliding belt conveyor instead of a roller conveyor. It has the advantage of only having a belt and four  bearings compared to the roller type that has bearings on each roller.

                Having a set time to do major maintenance cuts costs and ensures you stay on schedule. You should keep records for accountability. This should cover what was done, when and by whom. You should also survey your conveyor systems and develop a list of key components to keep on hand for replacement.








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