Universal Success: Customer Focus, Building Better Communities Guides Two Pallet Success Stories
Two Paths, Two Success Stories: New England recycler focuses on full service recycling and pioneers Run-A-Gade system with Mona Tracy of Universal Machinery Sales. Motor city pallet company experiences strong growth, secures grants to purchase an In-Line nailer and focuses on employing people who otherwise couldn’t find work.
By Chaille Brindley
Date Posted: 10/5/2018
While there is no one formula for success in the pallet industry, having the right suppliers is critical. As both PM Recycling of Woonsocket, RI and J&G Pallets Inc. of Detroit strive for success, they share one thing in common – efficient machinery solutions from Mona Tracy of Universal Machinery Sales.
PM Recycling is a plastics recycler company that has found its way into the pallet recycling sector and was a critical partner in the development of the Run-A-Gade bandsaw disassembly system offered by Mona. J&G recently won a grant to boost jobs in the east Detroit area, choosing to buy the In-Line nailing system capable of producing up to 1,200 pallets per day. Both companies demonstrate how the broad product line offered by Universal Machinery can boost production and reduce employee overhead from pallet manufacturing to sawing operations to pallet recycling.
J&G Pallets – Rebirth of the Motor City
More than just selling pallets, J&G Pallets is trying to live a dream – the rebirth of a city. When the Great Recession hit Detroit, it significantly impacted the business environment. Many companies looked to get out of the Motor City. But J&G Pallets remained in the area determined to help those who needed work as well as pallets.
Les Lance, Business Manager for J&G Pallets, explained, “We are located on the east side of Detroit, and many people gave up on us when the economy crashed. While our community is not affluent, we are one company that is trying to help with the rebirth of Detroit.”
J&G Pallets has developed a reputation for trying to help people get jobs who traditional struggle to find work. This includes those who are disabled, relatively unskilled or were recently incarcerated. Most of the employees come from a relatively close area around the plant. That is one of the reasons that J&G Pallets earned a grant from Motor City Match to help fund expansion, especially the new In-Line Nailer from Universal Machinery Sales.
Until the new machine was purchased, all pallets were built by hand on tables. The new In-Line Nailer will foster 6-8 jobs when you consider all the related functions connected to higher production. The machine requires two operators and will be used for specialty pallets, especially large footprints.
Lance added, “We liked what the In-Line Nailer could offer in terms of production for the price. Mona provides very good training and support. The In-Line Nailer is really the most reasonably priced system on the market.”
J&G Pallets liked the 84-inch pallet capacity for specialty sizes. Lance said, “The In-Line Nailer has worked very well for us in boosting production.” The company is in the process of refurbishing a building and expanding its production capacity.
This is all connected to its robust growth. Last year Fortune magazine recognized J&G Pallets as one of the Top 100 fastest growing urban businesses in the country. It has a five-year growth rate of 67.71%.
Lance explained that marketing and tying into the rebirth story has been a driver for the company’s success. Lance commented, “Once we were willing to become a champion for Detroit, there were other champions who are willing to help us grow with our mission.”
J&G Pallets focused on serving more areas working with customers from other areas of Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and beyond. Lance stated, “Part of the business plan was to grow our sales outside of just the Detroit area. We wanted to begin servicing customers that are farther away.”
The larger production capacity has enabled growth, and the company has aggressively marketed itself to other packaging providers that do not offer pallets. This strategy has even worked to help them land business servicing major accounts through these third-party contacts.
A big reason for the company’s growth it its story. J&G Pallets, Inc., a family-owned business, began in 1992 in the founding family’s backyard. It was started by four siblings, two brothers (J.D. and George Givhan) and two sisters (Geraldine Wooten and Rebecca Givhan). The company has 21 employees with more expected to be hired as the company opens its new 43,000 sq. foot facility later this year.
Lance said, “We are always trying to find opportunities to employ people who otherwise would struggle to find work.”
Lance added, “One of the brothers is a pastor of a church – his mission in life is to provide second chances for people.” The company does a lot to give back to the community including clothing and other outreach efforts. Even on its office walls you can see many Scriptures and Biblical sayings differentiating the company’s guiding principles.
Lance stated, “There is no mistaking whatsoever that we are a company guided by the strong faith convictions of our ownership, and these convictions guide our community focus.”
PM Recycling – A Total Recycling Solutions Provider
Peter “Pete” Jackson isn’t in the pallet business. He is in the service business, and that is what has made him successful in the pallet and recycling sectors.
Jackson, owner and founder of PM Recycling, commented, “Even though we are a pallet company, we are at our core a service business.”
Jackson described, “We try to customize our service to what the client needs. This can be anything from drop trailers, managed inventory to recycling scrap besides pallets and other services. We can recycle plastics, cardboard, wood scrap and other things besides just pallets. We even offer to customers bailers and other equipment to help them more efficiently manage their scrap materials.”
PM Recycling originally started off in the plastics recycling world in 1992 and grew into the pallet business in 1996. Jackson explained, “In the plastics industry there wasn’t enough volume to make recovery work for every warehouse customer. But the one common denominator was the existence of pallets.”
As a result, PM Recycling began dropping off trailers to take pallets or other recyclables. Today, 90% of the trailers that come back have some kind of non-wood pallet recyclable product on it whether it be plastics, corrugated or metals. Compensation for recyclables depends on the volume, scrap value and service levels required.
PM Recycling has responded to changing customer demand. Jackson said, “New England over time has kind of shrunk in terms of the pallet business. We have adapted to cover a wider variety of services from new pallets to remanufactured ones to recycling and even wood scrap management.”
Trying to innovate to help customers is one thing that Mona Tracy of Universal Machinery Sales hares with Pete Jackson and PM Recycling. Jackson recognized about 20 years ago that his pallet disassembly operations were too labor intensive. He said, “Back then, most disassemblers required two operators. We need a one-man machine with efficient scrap processing. This need led us to work with Mona to develop the Run-A-Gade system.”
Jackson expressed, “I consider Mona close friend and partner in our business. She has always tried to listen to what we need and help us develop solutions.”
The Run-A-Gade has been so successful that you can see this disassembly system used in many recycling operations throughout the country. The Run-A-Gade was designed with faster RPM motors, which increases blade life. It also has a wider mouth to accommodate large pallets. Jackson said, “Our original Run-A-Gade disassembler is still running today, 17 plus years later. The frame is a tank; it is built to last.”
The Run-A-Gade was also designed to be used in tandem with other machines to provide a truly efficient dismantling operation where boards drop onto a conveyor and are taken to an unscrambling table to be sorted by length and size and possibly trimmed to the right size.
These systems are ideal for turning odd-sized pallets or non-repairable GMAs into recycled lumber for combo or remanufactured pallets. Jackson explained, “The challenge of the core supply and increasing customer demands makes it harder to stay in the recycled pallet market every day. We have always gone toward producing combo and remanufactured pallets to open up our opportunities. Combos and remanu-factured pallets give us a better value for our recycled lumber.”
Instead of manufacturing new pallets, PM Recycling offers combos and remanufactured pallets, which it claims are good quality for the money. From GMAs to odd-sized pallets, PM Recycling produces around 6,000 pallets per day at its one plant. The average operator can dismantle around 550-600 pallets per day on the Run-A-Gade disassembler.
Looking inside the operation, mixed trailers pull up to the dock. Cardboard, plastic and metal are removed to the bailing room. Repairable 48x40s go to the repair line. Other pallets are moved into the sort room where odd-sizes and others are separated. Pallets with good lumber are taken to the dismantling area to produce recycled lumber. Anything else goes to the wood grinder.
Pallets are produced by hand on four Nail Ease tables. These vertical tables can take either new or recycled lumber. Jackson commented, “The Run-A-Gade and the Nail Ease tables are a great production pair for a recycler wanting efficient, cost effective production.”
Jackson said, “ The sortation system in the Run-A-Gade allows great use of lumber and less cutting of material.” He credited his personnel for being the true secret to his company’s success as it strives to be a one-stop-shop for customers. Longstanding personnel makes all the difference.
Jackson summed up, “PM Recycling has dedicated staff who do what it takes to serve our customers. This includes Kevin Jackson (20 years plus), Stephanie Pascarella (5 years), Heather Massarone (10 years plus) as well as new members Shannon Giles and all of our production workers. You need the right equipment. But that only goes so far unless you have the right people. And I feel blessed to work with such a great team.”
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