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Pest-Heat Provides Solution to Heat Treat Pallets, Crates
Thermal Pest Management Systems Make the Heat Treatment Process Easy.

By Lauren Sipple
Date Posted: 10/1/2002

Over the past year, the topic of treating pallets for export has been on the minds of pallet and wood container manufacturers across the country. At various seminars and industry trade shows, they have asked about pine wood nematodes, ‘no bug’ stamps, and other questions.

Many pallet and container companies now find themselves seriously evaluating how to respond to the changing market. Some of their customers already may require treated containers or pallets while others might not be thoroughly knowledgeable about the upcoming International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) regulations. One question that every pallet or container supplier should ask is: when will my customers require treated pallets and containers?

Pest-Heat designed the first Thermal Pest Management System to offer the pallet and container industry a permanent, economical solution for helping their customers comply with international shipping regulations. Its patent-pending system and process of using heat to control pests in shipping materials requires an electrical connection, gas hook-up (propane or natural gas), and a level foundation. Once the site is prepared, the system can be operational in three days or less.

Thermal Pest Management Systems make the heat treatment process easy. Pallets and containers are simply loaded onto the speed-loading cars, the cars are rolled into place, the doors are shut, and the system is activated. Once the wood reaches the desired core temperature, the pallets or containers may be unloaded and stamped for use. The system monitors and records temperatures with computer software and data recorders.

The 41-foot by 10-foot heat treating chamber can effectively treat up to 320 pallets at one time; a taller model, a 41-foot by 12-foot heat treating chamber, can stack 20 pallets high and hold 400-420 48x40 pallets.

Not only does the system have a large capacity for pallets, it also is versatile. A variety of wood packaging products -- such as crates and containers -- and even raw materials, such as cants, can successfully be loaded, probed, and treated. Heat treatment also provides additional benefits. Since the process reduces wood moisture content, pallets and containers weigh less, which reduces shipping costs.

Recently an oversight has left doubts about the direction of the IPPC standards and when they will be implemented. However, it is only a matter of time before pallet and container manufacturers will need a solution for customers that ship product overseas.

A few pallet and container manufacturers already have anticipated and prepared for their customers by investing in a Pest-Heat Thermal Pest Management System.

Milan Box Corp. in Milan, Tenn., has specialized in industrial crates and boxes since 1927. Its original owner, A.N. Dedmon, went into business to supply crates for packing fruit. The company expanded during WWII, manufacturing ammunition boxes for the military. In the 1950s it experienced growing demand from the industrial sector. Today, Milan Box Corp. is in its third generation of ownership, supplying customers with quality custom crates and pallets and manufacturing wood packaging for military applications. "We can make everything from pallets to specialty products for specific requests," said buyer and salesman Rudy Graves.

In the fall of 2001 Milan Box was faced with a new protocol from one of its largest customers to heat treat wood packaging for shipping overseas. The European Union began to enforce regulations on wood packaging made of softwood in order to prevent the pinewood nematode from entering its countries. Milan's customer requested heat treatment of all its orders for boxes, crates and pallets. Management at Milan knew it was in their best interest to retain the customer, and they began researching heat treatment systems to meet the company’s new requirements.

Heat treatment systems for killing unwanted insects in wood packaging was a relatively new idea for the wood pallet and container industry. Milan began researching the topic and contacted Pest-Heat for information about its heat treatment systems. Pest-Heat representatives invited Rudy to visit their headquarters for an on-site demonstration. The demonstration entailed everything from product specifications to complete hands-on training with a functional heat treatment system. When Rudy returned from his trip, he conferred with Milan owner Franklin Dedmon. "After meeting with the Pest-Heat staff, we did not consider any others," said Rudy. A few days later, Franklin made the decision to invest in a Pest-Heat system.

After delivery and set-up, Milan Box received its certification and began heat treating pallets and containers immediately. "The system is simple to operate, and the process did not effect our flow of production at all," said Rudy.

About half the customers of Milan Box ship product overseas, but Milan Box is promoting heat treatment to other customers, too. "Some people are still fighting the idea of treating pallets, but it’s been and still is a growing business for us," Rudy said.

Mt. Eaton Pallet in Millersburg, Oh., a manufacturer of hardwood pallets and skids, took a pro-active approach to the issue of heat treating wood packaging. "We wanted to remain on the cutting edge and front line throughout the new developments of international shipping compliance," said sales manager Roger Chenevey. "It’s been our philosophy to be full service and take the lead. If we wanted to keep our customers happy, we needed to be prepared for their heat treatment requests."

Mt. Eaton Pallet began manufacturing quality hardwood pallets in 1991. In recent years it has expanded its customer base from small and moderate size businesses to Fortune 500 companies.

Last year Mount Eaton Pallet surveyed its customers. The survey revealed that customers placed a high priority on quality assurance. Mt. Eaton Pallet committed to staying on top of industry events and changes, including ISO manufacturing procedures and heat treatment of wood packaging for overseas shipments.

Early this year, Mt. Eaton Pallet began planning for the future by pursuing the purchase of a Thermal Pest Management System. Mt. Eaton Pallet president Dwain Schlabach wanted his company to remain competitive in the pallet industry, and he also realized that the new requirements for shipping overseas were not going away. "Our goal is to stay at the forefront of new advancements in the pallet industry," he said, "and pass those improvements on to our customers. We want to be more than the average supplier."

Mt. Eaton Pallet considered the upcoming treatment requirements for all non-manufactured wood materials and started investigating heat treatment systems. After contacting Pest-Heat to discuss heat treatment systems, it did not take long for Mt. Eaton Pallet to make a buying decision. The company became the first hardwood pallet manufacturer in Ohio to become certified for heat treatment of wood packaging.

"We use the system daily for both our customer requests as well as other local pallet manufacturers who need heat treated pallets," said Dwain. "We have received a number of inquiries from our customers and are ready when the heat treatment implementation comes into place." With a Pest-Heat system, Mt. Eaton Pallet is a step ahead of the new challenge facing the wood container and pallet industry.

Chandler Packaging Inc. in San Diego, Calif. was asked by a customer to heat treat orders for pallets and containers to be used for shipping to China and Europe. Owner John Chandler, who has 32 years of experience in the specialty packaging industry, was asked about the new shipping regulations. He recognized that the lumber industry had not prepared for the heat treating needs of pallet and container manufacturers.

Also, the issue of inventories of reusable crates made of non-certified wood had to be addressed. Chandler Packaging had a customer with more than $1.5 million worth of reusable wood containers that would need treatment and certification. Together they performed an extensive search for a solution and determined that the Pest-Heat system was the answer. Supplier and customer also took a unique approach to the need for heat treating equipment; they partnered together to purchase it, and the system was installed at Chandler’s facilities.

"Operating the chamber is a piece of cake," said Chandler operations manager Mark Kloever. "I consider the unit to be very user friendly." The Pest-Heat system is also efficient, Mark noted; operating costs are minimal.

"We have top ratings from our timber inspection bureau with regard to our heat treatment procedures," he added.

"When we did run into a slight equipment problem," said Mark, "we had a response and solution in two hours. Pest-Heat was very helpful and responsive to our service call."

Chandler Packaging provides heat treatment services to customers in southern California and Arizona and promotes the service on its Web site. In addition to treating pallets and containers, it has treated lumber and timbers up to 8x8 and 36 feet long.

A majority of its customers ship overseas, and the company has used the Pest-Heat system steadily. Chandler Packaging specializes in niche markets, and the Pest-Heat system has helped the company strengthen its position as a crating supplier in southern California.

The idea behind Pest-Heat was developed in the early 1990s by Daniel P. Topp, president of Topp Portable Air. His company partnered with the Defense Logistics Agency and the Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine to develop a system to treat and manage pests with heat instead of harmful fumigants, such as methyl bromide.

A variety of tests were conducted over a multi-year period. One experiment focused on pest infestation in wooden pallets. The goal of the test was to determine the combination of temperature and length of treatment period that was lethal to insects within the pallets. After the heat treatment process reached the desired temperatures in all probed pallets, there was no sign of pest survival. Other experiments involved heat treating stored food products and equipment, such as water coolers. The results of the collaborative studies led to the development of the efficient, effective Thermal Pest Management Chamber, and Topp Portable Air received the prestigious ‘Hammer and Scissor Award’ from the Department of Defense for helping to cut red tape.

"I was thrilled with the results of the tests," said Daniel. "We were convinced that these types of treatments offered a healthy and environmentally safe way to kill pests." His company holds multiple pending patents on its heat systems to control pest in shipping materials.

Topp has supplied heat treatment systems for the water cooler industry. Pest-Heat has heat treatment chambers throughout the U.S. and Canada operating daily at companies that supply water coolers. These companies rent water coolers to customers, and they frequently refurbish water coolers to rent them again. Rebuilt water coolers are heat treated -- instead of using fumigants or pesticides -- in order to eliminate any pests. The water coolers are loaded on pallets and heat treated in the Pest-Heat chamber for four to six hours.

"The heat treatment system is still a relatively new product for the water cooler industry," said Daniel. "With the recent air flow improvements on the system, we have stepped up our marketing program two-fold to sell to those companies that currently use fumigation for pest control. Heat is a great way to safely rid products of pests."

In response to the proposed regulations for the wood pallet and container industry, Pest-Heat re-evaluated its existing heat treatment chamber to meet and exceed both the 2001 European Union requirements as well as the upcoming IPPC requirements. With years of testing and experience in this field, Pest-Heat was well positioned to become a leader in this market. In early 2001 several improvements were made to its existing model, resulting in the system the company has in the field today. "We made quite a few design and engineering changes to shorten the overall treatment time of the system," said Pest-Heat engineer Tim Pettijohn.

After completing testing, Pest-Heat wanted to be certain that its improved product exceeded all possible requirements. It collaborated on additional tests to ensure that the core temperature criteria was achieved in the most efficient way possible. The testing involved U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines, which ultimately led to the system receiving agency approval as an export device.

Pest-Heat did not stop there. The company wanted further tests from outside, unbiased industry professionals. The company turned to Virginia Tech pallet laboratory director Dr. Marshall White and retired Virginia Tech professor Dr. Fred Lamb. They consulted for Pest-Heat to calculate moisture loss in pallets from treatment and to measure any degradation in pallets that might occur. Pallets made of three types of wood -- hardwood, SPF, and recycled mixed wood -- were treated and tested. The research showed no significant degradation to pallets made from any of the three types of wood.

An important feature of Pest-Heat’s technology is that it is a closed, re-circulating system; the outside air does not dry the wood. This allows the system to treat pallets rapidly without negatively effecting the integrity of the wood.

Pest-Heat has been a pioneer in heat treatment technology and for applications for eradicating pests in wood packaging and wood products. Its system guarantees certification from accredited agencies to receive the ‘no bug’ stamp.

With patents pending on both the use of heat to control pest in shipping materials and the apparatus for heat treating wood pallets and wood products, Pest-Heat stands 100% behind its heat treatment systems. Product manager Mack Reed said, "We want our customers to be assured that Pest-Heat supports each and every customer through every stage of purchasing a system. We take pride in servicing our customers, from initial delivery to monitoring their ongoing satisfaction after the systems go online in their production facilities. I personally want to make sure a customer is completely comfortable when dealing with anyone from our Pest-Heat staff."

For more information on Pest-Heat and its Thermal Pest Management Systems, call the company at (877) 234-5630 or visit the Web site at www.pestheat.com.

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