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Southern Packaging Adds New Viking 505s and Sawmill Capacity as It Gears Up for Additional Growth
Southern Packaging: Louisiana''s largest pallet supplier combines its passion for Viking nailing equipment with machinery from several other suppliers to best serve its customers.

By Rick LeBlanc
Date Posted: 9/4/2018

Gumbo, or in French, Gombo, is a famous dish in Louisiana. In fact, it is the state’s official cuisine. Like any stew, the most delicious outcome is achieved by bringing together a winning combination of diverse flavors to delight the palette. For Louisiana-based Southern Packaging Inc., its recipe for success is somewhat similar. Southern Packaging’s growth has been enhanced by its ability to integrate a variety of sawmill and pallet machinery to boost production.

 “We are the gumbo pallet mill down here,” quipped Brad Tuminello, the owner of Southern Packaging, about the array of sawmill and pallet equipment suppliers the company uses. He noted that in addition to a number of machines from Viking Engineering, the business runs equipment from a range of providers including Brewer, Brewco, Baker, Pallet Machinery Group (PMG), Pendu and several more.

Tuminello started Southern Packaging with his older brother Ken in 1992. The company’s primary location is a 50-acre facility in Port Allen, Louisiana on the Mississippi River Industrial Corridor. The second location, a 25-acre property in Woodville, Mississippi, was added in 2005 due to significant growth. Ken retired in 2014 and was bought out of the business by Brad.

Southern Packaging’s Woodville plant is situated in the heart of hardwood and pine timber, and it includes roundwood processing and pallet production. This facility runs two Viking nailers and generates surplus pallet stock that is shipped to the Port Allen operation. According to Tuminello, the facilities are strategically positioned along the Gulf Coast to reduce the risk of supply disruption to customers in the case of severe weather.


Viking 505s Fuel Growth

As a longtime operator of used Viking nailing equipment, Southern Packaging finally began exploring the possibility of purchasing a new nailing line a few years ago. “I met with Brad at the show in Richmond, two years ago,” recalled Ken Rose, Viking’s field representative for Southern Packaging. “He told me that he would really like to purchase a brand-new machine in the near future. It would be his first one ever. This began a dialog about the 505.

 “When Brad began to see the difference in speed and performance of the 505 compared to his old machines,” Rose continued, “he was ready to start the process of upgrading.”

The Turbo 505 is engineered to provide high output, low maintenance and quick changeovers with fast mechanical setup (FMS). It can produce upwards of 1800 pallets/shift with three operators. Thanks to Viking’s Turbo Pro Plus Data software, machine operators can monitor real-time information to make better decisions for improving quality production and efficiency.

Southern Packaging took delivery of its first new Viking 505 in 2017. Pleased with the result, the company then purchased a second 505 that became available on the market.

 “It had been used only for eight months by a pallet company that was uncomfortable with the cost of a new machine,” Tuminello explained. As part of the arrangement, he sold them in return an older Viking that had been retrofitted by Macon Machinery “back in the day.”

Aside from the benefits listed above, Tuminello also emphasized the simplicity of the 505 for operators to run, as well as the warranty and service support offered by Viking. “We have had a real good service rep from Viking over the years, Ken Rose,” he said. “He has treated us well.” The company’s relationship with Viking goes back to the 1990s. After using Bronco nailing tables and a Campbell nailing machine in the early days, Southern Packaging has been using Vikings or Viking “proteges” ever since. The company currently has eight Vikings in use.

 “Protege” is a term Tuminello uses to describe a completely rebuilt Viking line. He has one in operation restored by Pallet Machinery Group. “They are good people,” he said of Greg Wine and Pallet Machinery Group. “I buy all of my stackers from them. They have great stackers.”

Tuminello is now in a position to buy new nailing equipment versus aftermarket machines as he had in the past. “I’ve decided to buy whatever we need now brand new,” he said. “It isn’t that money isn’t an issue, but we have been afforded the opportunity of not having to go to auctions, anymore. We can afford new, proven name equipment like Viking.”

The company purchases nails from Viking, Garnett Company and Mid-Continent.


$4 Million Scragg Mill Project in Port Allen

With the increase in nailing capacity has come the need for more pallet material to supplement its present production at both locations. “We have been buying cants from the same people we have for 25 years, but there weren’t enough available, so we started producing our own material,” Tuminello explained.

Now, in addition to roundwood processing at both sites, a new $4 million project at Port Allen will boost supply needed for its third Viking 505, an older model that it acquired after buying the assets of another pallet company. Viking will be updating it with new electrical panels and controls.

The new scragg mill features Brewco equipment. Southern Packaging is happy with the Big Jake scragg mill it runs at Woodville and decided to go in that direction for this particular project. Brewco acquired Big Jake a few years ago.  The Brewco line includes a 10-head Brewco bandsaw and stackers from Pallet Machinery Group.

The new mill marks a change in philosophy for Southern Packaging from a batch process flow to continuous flow approach. “Everything I’ve been doing before was in batch,” Tuminello said. “It’s a brand-new mill, and we are trying to see if we can make inline work.” It will be set up to do deck boards “all day, every day.”

A few years ago, the company introduced a Brewer gang saw for stringers at Port Allen, and this line currently produces about 90% of its stringer needs. Stringers go directly to a Pallet Machinery Group stacker, and from there to a Pendu unscrambler which feeds a Brewer notcher. Notched stringers are then stacked in another PMG stacker. “The Brewer gang saw does an excellent job,” Tuminello said. The company still predominantly utilizes Baker equipment for cants and blocks.


Southern Mulch

In 2009, the company launched Southern Mulch as an alternative solution for its residuals. Located at the Port Allen location, Southern Mulch offers natural and colored mulch in bulk or pre-packaged in 2 or 3 cubic foot bags. While the company has markets for its chips, the move was made to increase the profitability of its residuals. “We put in the mulch operation to add a little value to our waste stream,” Tuminello explained. “While we can get rid of the chips, financially we do a little better selling mulch.”

The mulch operation runs two 1000hp whole tree CBI grinders. The new scragg mill project also includes a Stringer Industries, Inc. 300hp grinder, with a goal of streamlining the handling of residuals. “We have installed one of their grinders in lieu of a chipper,” he said, “so that we can send off our waste stream from this new operation directly from the grinder straight to the mulch department via walking floor trailers.”


Company Trucks Critical to Customer Service

Southern Packaging has gradually added to its fleet of company trucks over the years. While Tuminello makes no bones that he would rather not run trucks if he had a choice, he views ownership as a crucial element of customer service in the increasingly tight trucking market. “Customers can rely on you a lot more if you have your own trucks,” he said. For trucks, the company has chosen to go with a seven-year full maintenance lease package. It also owns about 50 trailers.

The company has a total of eight kilns and heat treat chambers across both sites, again from a variety of suppliers including Brunner Hildebrand, Nyle, SSI, and others. They are all energized by natural gas. Given humidity conditions, the company relies on dip tanks and spray booths to treat pallets for mold, especially green pine pallets.

Petrochemical remains a crucial market for its new pallet production, while the food industry and construction-related customers are big for its recycled pallet sales.

Tuminello stated that the company’s success is based on its excellent team of people, and their ability to understand and anticipate customer needs. The plant manager, Blaine Bergeron, has been with the company a long time, he noted, “and he makes everything happen.”

The gumbo at Southern Packaging, Inc. is the perfect blend of excellent management, great customer service, highly qualified employees, and committed suppliers that work together to provide top quality pallets for our customers.

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