European Technology:Storti & Pallet Machinery Group: 15 Years of Innovation and Customer Service Focus
Storti and Pallet Machinery Group: With the broadest product line serving the lumber and pallet sectors, Storti has successfully pioneered the European pallet equipment market in North America. Its key alliance with Greg Wine and Pallet Machinery Group seeks to apply European technology in a way that works in this market. Find out about the latest innovations including the new Freedom nailing machine.
By Chaille Brindley
Date Posted: 2/1/2018
With all the growing interest in European technology and advanced automation, Storti SpA is celebrating its 15th anniversary of providing pallet and lumber machinery to North America through an alliance with Pallet Machinery Group (PMG). Storti sold its first full pallet nailing line in 2000 to Williamsburg Millwork for the production of CHEP block-style pallets. And since the early days of entering the North American market, Storti has had a strong alliance with Greg Wine, Lawrence Zavitz and all the staff of PMG.
Like many major events in the pallet industry, it all started because somebody was willing to take a risk. Ray Piland, the president and owner of Williamsburg Millwork, bought equipment from Storti before it even had a relationship with a U.S. sales representative and customer support base. Piland first purchased a block cutter to add to a GBN line it was installing.
Piland recalled, “The Storti block cutter worked very well. And we ended up needing more production. So, we went back to Storti to see about a new nailing machine.”
That original nailing line is still in operation today and can produce about 300 block pallets per hour. Williamsburg Millwork chose Storti because they saw a machine that was technology advanced. “Storti machines ran smoothly and efficiently. Once installed, we were able to achieve quality expectations and production levels on what was a very difficult pallet while staying within our budget,” Piland stated.
Greg Wine, the president of PMG, recalled, “I was approached by Storti to see if I wanted to represent their products. I realized that somebody had to make the step to bring the European equipment here. So, I went down to see Ray Piland and get his opinion on the opportunity. I learned that he had just bought a Storti block cutter. So, I decided to jump on the opportunity.”
With Storti, Wine saw plenty of opportunity for growth. He explained, “Storti offers the largest catalog of sawmill and pallet machinery in the world, and it does not produce a standard machine. Every machine is customized to fit what the customer needs in terms of size, layout, operator requirements and automation level.”
From various machine configurations to all sorts of advanced automation, Storti can deliver a combination of some of the best technology from Europe and the United States. According to Storti, it is the only pallet nailing machine provider that can offer European automation with the nail compensation technology that is popular in North America. Nail compensation allows for a nail to drive fully into the board even when the thickness of boards varies as much as 1/8 of an inch. Given the inconsistency of U.S. pallet lumber, this technology is very important, and comes standard with the Storti Flex and Freedom machines.
The first Storti machine sold by Greg Wine into the North American market went to Ray MacDermid of MacDermid Pallet in Ontario. The company was later sold to a group of investors that included former employees, and the name was changed to Bluewater Pallet. This initial Storti machine is still in operation today.
Al Eastman, general manager of Bluewater Pallet in Ontario, commented, “Working with Greg Wine and Pallet Machinery Group throughout the years - you couldn’t get a more knowledgeable and helpful supplier. The Storti machinery itself is the best we have ever used, and we have operated with a number of different types of machinery.”
One big reason that Eastman is happy with the Storti is due to its reliability and ease of daily operation. He explained, “The Storti Flex nailer is more productive and has very little downtime when compared to our previous nailing lines. It is a very low maintenance machine.”
Bluewater produces both block and stringer pallets on the machine. Eastman said that his former boss, Ray MacDermid, selected Storti due to the advanced safety features built into the machine, in addition to its smooth and consistent operation which leads to greater production capacity.
Storti Is a Leader in Pallet Technology
When it comes to advanced pallet technology, Storti has probably done it. Storti is the only machinery company in the world that can produce a fully integrated line that takes logs and can turn them into finished pallets.
Mario Cucciari, sales manager for Storti, commented, “Storti’s product line includes more than 150 different pieces of machinery. We are the only full turnkey solution for turning logs into pallets, and we can offer equipment for the beginner to the most advanced, high-production system.”
Looking at some of the more talked about innovations, Storti has done it. This includes robotic stackers and robots that place mats or components on the line. Storti has produced lines running in Europe where automatic board feeding eliminates the need for extra operators.
Cucciari said, “Storti is the only machinery manufacturer at the moment that produces a machine that can nail a complete side of a pallet with three stringers in one stroke.” This machine functions sort of like a press and operates in Belgium producing large runs of standard-sized pallets.
For Storti, the technology is all about the customer needs. And Storti has been finding advanced automation solutions since the early 2000s.
Cucciari cautioned, “Although now is the right time for more advanced levels of automation in North America due to the labor shortage, customers will need to understand that you have to make some changes in terms of the quality and standardization of the wood utilized to make robotic technology run well, regardless of the machinery brand.”
For example, Cucciari stated that he has seen U.S. companies try to run frozen lumber through nailing machines in the past. The reason is that advanced technology does not fit easily with materials that vary in size, get stuck together or somehow vary from the standard it is designed to process.
Given its lengthy track record in North America, Storti has taken that experience and used it to design some standardized equipment uniquely produced for the North American stringer and lumber markets.
Strong Partnership Founded on Customer Service
While some other European companies have entered the U.S. market, Storti has the longest track record of success due in part to its strong partnership with Greg Wine and PMG.
Piland said, “The big thing for us was when Greg Wine hooked up with Storti. That gave us somebody in the USA that we could work with in terms of customer support.”
Piland was instrumental in encouraging Greg Wine to work with Storti, and he was the one who first approached the European manufacturer about selling into the United States.
Storti’s knowledge of the lumber processing gives an advantage in designing nailing equipment that can run efficiently with various lumber qualities. Within the last year, Storti has launched the Freedom pallet nailing line. Two units are already in operation with more on the way. This nailing machine combines European efficiency with nail compensation technology. You can read more about this innovative line in the sidebar on page 20. Also, Storti has the R-35 gang saw modified specifically for the U.S. lumber market.
Piland stated, “Mr. Giancarlo Storti is quite a guy. I was so impressed with his mechanical problem-solving ability. We had problems when we put our first line in because it wasn’t used to driving nails into our lumber. Mr. Storti came over and fixed it in a few days. He came in and analyzed things that others had not been able to solve.”
Piland added, “It has been a gradual process over the years from the first block cutter to the first full line to a Storti gang saw line to the recently installed Flex line with fast changeover times… we are delighted with both Storti and Greg Wine.”
A key player in the success of the Storti/PMG relationship was Lawrence Zavitz. Wine remembered, “Lawrence was my friend and business partner, and he was instrumental in getting this relationship started until his untimely death in 2014. He was a true ‘road warrior’ that put the customer above self. Storti’s North American market development would not have been possible without my good Canadian friends Lawrence and Ray.”
Storti has two dedicated engineers in Italy tasked to help on North American projects. In addition, it will send technicians from Italy to work with PMG when it comes to installations or service. The US-based support crew can also provide live training and troubleshooting.
One reason for the customer focus is that the people of Storti take pride in what they do. Many of the people who work in the factory live nearby, and it isn’t odd to see several generations of one family working at the facility.
Wine suggested, “The thing I like the best about dealing with Storti is family. People stay around for a long time; the owners are family-oriented. Mario is really family-oriented. And the North American pallet industry is still for the most part dominated by family businesses.”
Giancarlo Storti, the son of the founder and Deputy President of Storti, spoke about what drives the company. He said, “I entered the company when I was only 17. I was just so enthusiastic about machinery and mechanics that I was not thinking about long-term success. My father showed me how to take care of the customer; this commitment to service together along with our strong engineering capabilities has propelled our growth.”
Giancarlo added, “After many years in the global wood products industry, the thing I am most proud of is the longevity of our equipment in helping grow family businesses where our machinery is handed down from one generation to the next. We have helped support the growth of those family businesses.”
Storti remains a family business today. Giancarlo said, “My family itself is fully into the third generation with my son Gianluca actually driving the company as president.”
Future Growth and Automation Success
“A key to Storti’s growth is that it will listen to the customer,” explained Wine. With such a broad product offering, Storti saw equipment is just starting to take hold in North America. But it does offer promise for higher yield and productivity as well as a complete turnkey system approach from logs to lumber to finished pallets.
Cucciari said, “We are quite confident that with our longstanding business in North America and relationship with PMG, that we understand the North American market better than other European suppliers. On top of that, I would say that we are introducing a sawmill line that will give us expertise to know the U.S. lumber sector better.”
He added, “Most people don’t know what Storti can do in terms of pallet lumber production. But they will find out in the future as more of our sawmill equipment makes its way into the North American market.”
Freedom Line Offers High-speed, Versatile Stringer Production
Looking to develop the next generation stringer machine, Storti has designed the Freedom to be a high-speed nailing solution. Greg Wine, president of Pallet Machinery Group (PMG) said, “Our experience having worked with Storti for 15 years, we have come to realize that European equipment requires pretty good wood. But the Freedom line overcomes that challenge by offering nail compensation.”
To improve ergonomics and lumber feeding, the Freedom line has two board hoppers. Wine added, “With the Freedom machine, we have the ability to feed the hoppers with a conveyor, the conveyor can be loaded by a robot or an unscrambler or other means of conveyance.”
The anticipated production capacity of the Freedom is 2,500 pallets in an eight-hour shift. Wine said, “The Freedom is faster than many other stringer machines because it nails the whole board at once. So, for a six-inch board, it drives nine nails into that first board. As a result, a GMA pallet takes seven stops with the Freedom machine compared to 16 stops with a traditional stringer machine.”
Nail compensation allows for a nail to drive fully into the board even when the thickness of boards varies as much as 1/8 of an inch or more. Given the inconsistency of U.S. pallet lumber, this technology is very important and comes standard on Freedom machines. Machines that don’t have compensating chucks will drive to the highest point. If one side is higher than the other, it may leave the nail up on the other end.
One of the first to buy a Freedom nailing machine is Tom Gardner, president of Hay Creek Pallet in Wisconsin. He purchased a Freedom machine to replace an older nailer. Tom commented, “I like the way the boards feed into the machine. The Freedom approach is simple for the operator. And the design allows for easy access to clear troublesome boards.”
Gardner discussed his early experience with the Freedom nailer because his was installed in November 2017. He said, “We liked that the Freedom machine has the capability of running lower grade lumber. We are still working through some of those challenges because the European idea of sub-standard lumber is different than what we find here in North America. But we think it still has the potential to do that at acceptable production levels.”
Hay Creek has reached production levels as high as 340 pallets per hour. Gardner added, “We hope to reach 3,000 pallets per shift when using the better-quality lumber.”
As far as the support and service, Gardner stated, “Storti people are great to work with and appear to be in it for the long haul… PMG and Storti have been fantastic in terms of helping to set up the machine.”
Another selling point for the Freedom nailer is that it allows for a relatively fast changeover between pallet sizes and specifications. Most changes can be done in 15 minutes or less. In terms of versatility, the Freedom nailer can even stagger nails if required.
Gardner summarized, “We looked at a lot of other machines on the market. And we felt with the Freedom nailing machine that we could achieve the best level of production at the right price point for the machine.”
For more information on the Freedom nailer, please call (540) 644-9220.
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