AMS Provides Automated Solutions for Pallet Industry
Automated Machine Systems Inc. (AMS), headquartered in Jenison, Michigan, is a company with a passion for automation in the pallet industry.
Date Posted: 2/1/2002
Automated Machine Systems Inc. (AMS), headquartered in Jenison, Michigan, is a company with a passion for automation in the pallet industry. A full service, design and supply integrator providing complete pallet logistics from start to finish, AMS offers cost effective automated solutions to the pallet and material handling industries. It supplies products and services that support pallet repair, sorting, handling, wood recovery, grinding, palletizing, washing, drying and painting with AMS Palcoat™ paint systems. AMS can integrate systems and equipment with new or existing machinery and for small or large volumes of pallets.
AMS was founded by Kris Chayer, president, who has a background in engineering and machine manufacturing in the pallet industry as well as over 10 years of experience in the tool and die industry, working with specialized equipment in the automotive sector.
From his start in the pallet industry five years prior to founding AMS in 1997, Kris has been committed to providing the highest quality equipment and system integrations that will increase production for pallet companies while reducing labor and all of its associated costs. Other key leaders in the company are vice president Gary Curless and Brian Williams, director of sales and marketing. AMS also has a full design and engineering support staff. Its leadership, staff, and strategic business partners, such as T-Tek Material Handling Equipment Company, Machine Specialists Inc. (MSI) and three major conveyor companies, offer the pallet industry a combined 100 years of experience in design, engineering, manufacturing and marketing.
AMS provides systems and equipment for nine critical functions of pallet businesses. They are outlined as follows with brief descriptions.
Changes in the pallet industry over the last several years have created a demand to sort pallets not only by quality and size but also by ownership. AMS provides a complete lineup of sortation equipment to address these needs. From high-speed destackers and stackers to conveying and pallet inspection equipment, AMS offers products to efficiently and effectively sort pallet pools in any desired manner.
For example, a Coca-Cola facility has an AMS system that sorts pallets according to quality and eliminates forklift traffic. Good pallets go to a nail press which depresses nail stubble in order to prevent product damage. The good pallets go to a stacker that sends them either back into the general pallet pool or to a transfer car to a palletizer for final product assembling. Bad pallets are sorted out, collected, and sent to a local recycler for repair.
AMS also offers ergonomic handling systems for manual pallet sorting. Using pneumatic balancers and a specialized handling unit, a worker can lift a single pallet from the floor without bending and stack it up to 10 feet high.
AMS is one of the companies in the forefront of introducing a relatively new concept to the pallet industry that it refers to as ‘Continuous Motion Assembly Line Repair.’ This concept, which incorporates automated handling equipment, is changing the labor-intensive paradigms of the past. This system is designed to increase production output. At the same time, with the ergonomic benefits it provides, the system also has helped to reduce injuries and fatigue that have long plagued workers in the industry.
This AMS system introduces pallets through a high-speed destacker where the flow of pallets is determined. Odd size and ready-to-go pallets are sorted out and are sent immediately to a stacker or manually stacked. Damaged pallets are sent via conveyor to a lead board remover where workers take off damaged components. The pallets then are sent upside down to the repair area and replacement bottom deck boards are attached. Placement and nailing of deck boards is done without removing the pallets from the conveyor. A flipper turns the pallet over so that top deck boards can be nailed on, and then the pallets are graded and sent to the appropriate high-speed stacker. The AMS team knows that the faster a pallet goes from entering the repair system to exiting as a finished product, the more efficient and profitable its pallet recycling customers will be.
AMS supplied a repair system to Nazareth Pallet in Nazareth, Penn., and the company was featured in the February 2001 issue of Pallet Enterprise. Since investing in the AMS repair system, Nazareth Pallet is consistently hitting its target production goal with far less people. Besides increasing production and reducing labor costs, the AMS System has provided other benefits related to labor and personnel because the work is easier. "We aren’t worried about finding staff any more," said Nazareth general manager George Frack Jr. "We’re working smarter. We aren’t losing people because the work is far less demanding, and they stand to earn more by the higher output numbers. In fact, we can hire people with less strength or who may be older because the work has become easier."
Even companies with smaller production numbers that never thought automation was affordable are learning that it can pay off, and pay off quickly. Carthage Specialty Pallet installed an AMS system with a production output of 1,000 pallets per shift. Carthage president Terry Brake told AMS, "Your system has increased our production and quality and lowered our labor costs, making a one-year payback possible."
With the ups and downs of the economy recently, the thin profit margins and competition in the pallet industry, AMS knows that it is critical to help customers build and expand responsibly. The goal of AMS is to supply a system that will pay for itself within 12-18 months. One way it is able to achieve a rapid pay-back is integrating systems with existing or used equipment. AMS also can help companies build systems in stages to stay within the customer’s pay-back goal.
"It is far easier to go bankrupt in times of expansion than in times of downsizing," said Gary. "No matter what the economy does, if we can help design systems that pay for themselves within 12 to 18 months, we feel confident that we’ve helped protect our customers businesses for the long run."
Every customer is unique, and one of the strengths of AMS is its ability to custom design systems to meet the exact needs of clients. "We have, in a few rare occasions, even referred customers to a competitor when we feel they have a better solution for their specific need," said Kris.
With consolidation, the growth of third-party leasing and the need for ownership and control of pallet pools, the demand for painting and stenciling pallets has grown dramatically. AMS offers both its Palcoat™ Automated 600 Series and Manual Stack 1200 Series paint and stencil systems to meet the needs of this growing aspect of the pallet industry. The Automated 600 Series is capable of painting and stenciling up to 600 pallets per hour while the Manual 1200 Series, designed for painting stacks of pallets, is capable of painting up to 1,200 pallets per hour.
Since their inception over two years ago these systems have proven themselves to stand up to the rigors of the pallet industry. With several of these systems in service in both the U.S. and Canada, AMS is positioned to handle the pallet industry’s high-volume painting and stenciling needs.
Pallet Washing Systems
There is an all-time high demand for services to wash or sanitize wooden and composite pallets, bins, totes, and containers that transport product on a more hygienic platform for such industries as food and pharmaceuticals. For these services, AMS offers vertical and horizontal conveyorized tunnel washers as well as custom designed systems for specific applications in several niche markets. These systems integrate well with other systems that AMS offers in addition to being adaptable to a customer’s existing equipment and lines.
AMS has been working with pallet-using companies, such as Pepsi-Cola, to develop efficient systems for washing and sanitizing plastic pallets. For example, a high-volume system consisting of a pallet dispenser, washing unit and either a heat or air-drying unit with stacker can completely clean 10 pallets per minute.
"By providing these washing systems to the new and recycled pallet manufacturing businesses," said Kris, "it will allow them to provide their customers with products and services that will help them meet the ever-changing market demands."
Palletizers, Palletizing Equipment
This product segment includes high quality, high-speed palletizers, transfer cars, line dividers, stackers, dispensers, and specialized conveyor systems. They are capable of high-speed delivery of product to the pallet and pallet handling equipment.
AMS has formed a strategic business partnership with T-Tek Material Handling Equipment to bring high quality, high-speed automation to the pallet industry. T-Tek is a strong manufacturing and control house for palletizing and pallet handling equipment with a staff of over 35 people who have years of design, engineering and manufacturing experience. T-Tek has 10 service technicians who are ready to go anywhere, anytime to perform service and trouble shooting tasks.
Gary said, "We believe that this strategic business partnership allows AMS to stay strong and continue to be a forerunner in providing the pallet industry with automated solutions that will continue to reduce labor and increase production, which inevitably will help our customers’ bottom lines."
Conveyors are critical to every system that AMS offers. They are essential in automated pallet sorting and repairs systems, for example, and also for custom integrations in a wide variety of applications. AMS supplies conveyors that may be controlled by PLC and photo eye to deliver product to the right location at just the right time. It is a direct distributor for three major conveyor companies, and AMS also offers custom designed conveyor layouts for special projects. High quality belt-driven live roller, chain-driven live roller, gravity, skate, and slider bed-trash conveyors are just a few of the conveyor products that AMS supplies on a regular basis. AMS has begun many business relationships with new customers by supplying them with conveyors to enable them to begin automating their pallet handling activities. No job is too big or too small for AMS to handle.
AMS provides custom grinding solutions in a strategic business relationship with West Salem Machinery, which has over 50 years of experience building grinders for the wood products industry. By networking with a company like West Salem that provides high quality equipment and services, AMS can supply its customers with the best possible solutions available to the pallet industry for wood grinding.
Along with grinders, AMS provides a full line of complimentary equipment, such as colorizers for mulch, slider bed-trash conveyors, magnets for ferrous metal removal, and radial stackers to meet all of a customer’s grinding and aftermarket product needs. AMS even offers assistance to help companies seek environmental grant funds that are available to businesses looking for ways to recycle waste wood.
The strategic relationship that AMS has with MSI allows it to offer a complete line of products to equip pallet companies to recover and process recycled pallet components. These products include trim saws, dismantlers, unstubbers, shearer/slicers, and chop saws that will make lumber recovery operations more efficient and profitable. For example, the Tres three-head dismantler, a high-production, high-volume machine, may be integrated with a tipper and infeed conveyor to automate wood recovery. The Tres cutting blades efficiently remove deck boards, stringers and blocks, and the recovered pallet parts are automatically routed in different directions to help streamline recycling and integrate with other processing and finishing equipment, such as trim saws, chop saws and grinders.
AMS offers a custom integration service. It can combine new equipment with a customer’s existing machinery or used equipment to provide a smooth, efficient operating system. AMS provides customers in advance with detailed Auto Cad drawings that illustrate exactly how a system will operate and fit into a building; this service helps customers to conceptualize and visualize how they want a system to function in their business.
In addition to AMS internal support, the manufacturing and technical support provided to AMS by its suppliers enable AMS to give the pallet industry support with flexibility. The AMS goal is always to provide customers with the best possible solution for their specific requirements. That is why AMS has committed to forge strategic business partnerships where synergies and economies of scale provide win-win solutions for its customers.
Looking forward, the passion for automation in the pallet industry continues. Kris and all of his staff are excited about the opportunity to continue to bring even more cost effective solutions to this ever-changing industry. The AMS Mission Statement, however, does not change:
Our team at AMS is committed to excellence in everything we do with
high quality machinery and systems.
Our goal is to help our customers with every need and provide them with
the best service possible.
We want AMS to be known as providing the highest quality systems and
More importantly, we want to be known for our commitment to customer
relations and service.
Whether the customer is small or large, AMS is positioned to provide high quality, cost effective, and complete pallet logistics from start to finish.
To find out more about Automated Machine Systems, call AMS at (877) 267-8384 or check out its Web site at www.amssystems.com.
AMS is a member of the National Wooden Pallet and Container Association and the Canadian Wood Pallet and Container Association.
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