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Letter from Ed - Pallet Summit - No Better Way to End the Millennium
Dr. Ed Brindley discusses the Pallet Summit meeting.

By Dr. Ed Brindley
Date Posted: 10/1/1999

Readers have become accustomed to hearing straight talk from me. No, I have not lost my grip of the truth. I know that the Pallet Summit coming Oct. 28-30 in Cincinnati is not at the end of this millennium. But I have grown weary of discussing this millennium issue, so I am picking my battles more carefully. I want to use my time and space to help my pallet friends run their companies better.

This month’s Pallet Summit, the last big pallet meeting of the year, holds the potential of going down as a pallet landmark. At the very least, every reader should give serious attention to attending. I have had the privilege of attending all but a few of the NWPCA meetings in the last 22 years. This one could be really good!

The meeting that still stands out in my mind is the Memphis recycling meeting in the early 90s. In my experience pallet people had never before shown so much enthusiasm and energy. What caused all the excitement? Chep’s pallet program was already starting to show life, even in its infancy. Members of our industry wondered what it would mean.

Yes, there was a lot of excitement. Unscheduled meetings were held to discuss industry options. I expected any minute for somebody to start a chant right there in the break room. Maybe a wave would come over the crowd.

After a couple of days in which people shared all kinds of concerns, everybody went back to their own businesses. To the best of my memory, nothing was really resolved. There was a lot of talk and concern, but no definite plans were made and no process was outlined to deal with this new concern.

The early part of this decade had what was probably the most exciting pallet meeting ever held, at least up to this point. We may end the millennium with another hot event, only this one holds the potential to make the Memphis meeting look like a walk in the park.

Why could we experience such a memorable meeting? Again Chep is in the center of interest. The Chep-Wal-Mart deal I addressed in my last letter really has the industry buzzing. The pallet industry has changed dramatically in just the last few years, and it promises to change even more just around the corner. The big question is what will happen to the pallet industry and how fast will the changes come. One of the best known and recognized pallet recyclers in the country just sold his company at the end of August – just an indicator of what many recyclers would like to be able to do. Even though recycling has been the boom part of the pallet industry in the 90s, it stands potentially to be hit hard and fast if pallet rental takes a big bite out of the 48x40 pallet market.

Our industry is awash with important issues. Who really owns a pallet once it is out in circulation? (See Don Black’s column in our September issue.) What impact will the recent Internet pallet auction by Quaker Oats have on the pallet industry?

Things are happening fast and furious. My younger son, Chaille, recently joined the company to add more information gathering and decision making time to that already given by Scott, Carolyn, Jeff, Tim and me. There are so many things to do in today’s warp speed environment that it is difficult to keep up.

In the next issue of the Enterprise I plan to address the impact that pallet rental may have on our industry. By then we may also have enough details for an article on Chrysler’s recent decision to manage its own returnable container program instead of letting Chep handle it.

None of us has all the answers to our significant issues, but it is time to ask questions, discuss options, listen carefully, and then take action on our beliefs. The Pallet Summit represents an ideal forum to discuss these issues with others in your industry. While it is sponsored by the NWPCA, it is open to all. For more information about the Pallet Summit, call the NWPCA at (703) 527-7667.

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