Machining Used Stringers Aids Calumet Pallet
Stringer sizer machine developed by Pallet Repair Systems (RPS) uses Profile Technology cutters to help Calumet Pallet Co. eliminate the need for new stringers.
By Staff Writer
Date Posted: 5/1/1999
HAMMOND, Ind. Jeff Bridgegroom had a problem. The vice president and general manager of Calumet Pallet Co. Inc., he found that some pallets made of recycled parts and assembled on the companys new Viking nailing machine exhibited the "rocking chair" effect. Some of the finished pallets would teeter back and forth slightly because of the variation in some of the recycled stringers.
The solution was the stringer sizer machine developed by Pallet Repair Systems (PRS). The PRS stringer sizer has saved Calumet a substantial amount of money by eliminating the need for new stringers, Jeff said. "And we can still make a top quality pallet with the Viking Champion machine," he added. "Those two pieces of equipment (the PRS stringer sizer and the Viking Champion) have really helped us to grow to where we are now."
Calumet Pallet got its start when Jeffs father, Al, was a butcher for the A&P grocery chain. "Dad was always a hustler, finding ways to make extra money," Jeff recalled. Al offered to take away pallets used to ship incoming deliveries, but the truck drivers told him they were worth money. He started collecting unwanted pallets, hauling them around in a pick-up truck and selling them on his day off. By the time he was laid off by A&P around 1975, he had enough business that he could work at it full-time. Jeff joined him as a teenager when the company was incorporated in 1982.
The company took its name from Calumet City, Illinois, where Al first leased a warehouse for the business. In 1983, after growing to seven employees, Al relocated the company to Hammond, Ind., where he bought a small warehouse on 1 acre. In 1994 the company bought 7.5 acres and its current facility, where it now has 30,000 square feet under roof.
Calumet Pallet, located about 5 miles from the outskirts of Chicago, now has about 86 employees who work in two shifts. The company manufactures and sells around 23,000 pallets per week, mainly recycled and remanufactured pallets. (About 15% of its volume is new pallets.) About 60 percent of its volume is custom pallets and the remaining 40 percent is a typical 48x40 footprint. It services some 500 customer accounts Calumet is heavily involved in the food industry mainly in a 200-mile radius, doing business in Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan. Calumets customers include a few national accounts that ship recycled pallet cores from as far away as California and New York.
In its recycling operations Calumet uses Smart bandsaw dismantlers for disassembly. A pair of PRS Optimax reclaim saws are used for trimming ends of recovered lumber. Notching stringers is done on a Yoder machine with Profile Technology indexable heads. Calumet also has a pair of Heartland chop saws and a Baker Products chop saw as well as a Delta radial arm saw. The companys repair operations are automated with a system from Industrial Resources that is fed by two PRS tippers. For manufacturing new pallet parts it has a Brewco four-head horizontal bandsaw system. Besides the Viking Champion, some custom pallets are assembled with Max nailing tools. Calumet has about 100 semi-trailers at various customer locations to collect and retrieve used pallets.
Al, 55, and Jeff, 36, plan to expand the company further. They are considering adding another nailing machine and also opening new locations outside their region. "We stress giving our customers a top quality pallet at a good price and good service," said Jeff. Father and son are joined in the business by Als wife, Carol, who handles Calumets bookkeeping.
When the problem with the "rocking chair" stringers developed, the company quickly turned to PRS. "Weve known Jeff Williams for a long time," said Jeff.
"I have a lot of respect for the PRS team as a whole because of their knowledge and capabilities," Jeff added, and because the company has provided effective, efficient solutions for Calumets pallet recycling operations.
The PRS stringer sizer, equipped with a Profile Technology NAILBUSTER® cutting head, surfaces stringer height down from the top to create stringers of uniform thickness. "No matter what they were when they went in, they will come out a uniform size," said Jeff. The machine can size a stringer in about 10 seconds. A worker can place up to about a dozen used stringers into the infeed hopper. The used stringers automatically feed from the bottom of the stack. After they are sized, a kick-over can send them into a bin. At Calumet, after the operator loads the hopper, he off-loads the finished stringers instead of using the kick-over, stacking the finished stringers neatly so they can be easily handled later by the Viking operator.
Calumet has been running the PRS stringer sizer for about two years. The cutting heads NAILBUSTER® indexable inserts are rotated weekly; the inserts can be re-ground and re-used for about three months. "I am very pleased with the way the inserts and the machine have held up," said Jeff. "We have very low maintenance on both the machine and the heads."
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