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Timber Products Inspection Inc. A Partner to Pallet Manufacturers
Timber Products Inspection: Timber Products Inspection partners with the pallet industry to provide third-party auditing and certification services for heat-treating and more.
By Thomas G. Dolan
Date Posted: 2/1/2007
CONYERS, Georgia — Timber Products Inspection Inc. (TP), a testing and consulting company with expertise in all phases of the wood products industry, was founded in 1969. Although TP was not involved in wood packaging materials until 1990, pallets became an important part of its business plan and have provided steady growth.
Howard Powell founded TP as an alternative to inspection agencies in the South with the vision of growing it into a national company based on professionalism and customer service.
Howard sold the company in 1994 to three of his employees, one of whom eventually sold his share to the other two: Jim Respess and Ronnie Williams remain the owners.
Ronnie “saw the opportunities for pallet inspection and had the vision that this was possibly what the industry needed,” said Jay Moore, vice president of operations.
The opportunity presented itself in 1990 when the National Wood Pallet and Container Association (NWPCA) approached TP. The NWPCA was looking for a third-party inspection agency to monitor the SPEQ program (Specialized Pallets Engineered for Quality). “We felt we could blend this type of inspection with our current core business,” said Jay.
TP launched its inspection capabilities into this new arena and was well positioned when the pallet industry needed a new type of third-party inspection service. This happened on two fronts. In 2001 the European Union required export wood packaging to be heat-treated to eliminate wood-eating insects. The heat-treating (H-T) program requires coniferous wood packaging to be heated to a minimum core temperature of 56 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes. Hardwood packaging was not required to meet the requirement.
About the same time, the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) was developing guidelines for regulating wood packaging material in international trade, which became known as ISPM 15. This international standard requires solid wood packaging — regardless of species — to be heat-treated according to the European Union 56/30 program. This standard is readily available for adoption by countries choosing it as their import standard for wood packaging material.
These initiatives were undertaken to prevent wood-eating insects from migrating from country to country in wood packaging – notably, pallets and containers. The heat-treating process kills the insects as well as larvae and eggs.
An alternate to the heat-treatment program required by the IPPC is fumigation with methyl bromide. (TP has an affiliated company, Timber Products Services (TPS), whose staff has had formal training to audit and certify fumigation programs for solid wood packaging.)
Companies that supply wood packaging that has been heat-treated or fumigated in compliance with ISPM 15 are required to have a third-party company audit and certify their processes.
The move into pallet inspection provided a big growth spurt in the company. It now has over 100 employees and serves over 2,000 wood products companies throughout the world, and its list of clients continues to grow.
TP is one of several agencies accredited by the American Lumber Standards Committee (ALSC). It is the third-largest untreated material grading agency, the largest treated material monitoring agency and the largest monitoring agency for wood packaging material (WPM). TP is the only agency in the U.S. that has representation in each of the above disciplines in all regions of the U.S. As an independent inspection, testing and consulting company, TP’s staff has expertise in all phases of the wood products industry, especially in the area of sawmills, lumber drying and component fabrication.
TP has an extensive physical testing laboratory. The lab has grown with TP and expanded with equipment, two facilities, and accreditation to meet the demand for accurate third-party testing and test witnessing in the U.S. and abroad. The lab is thoroughly equipped for the most modern analysis of all types of wood and preservatives, including x-ray fluorescent technology, auto-titrators, high-pressure liquid chromatography, gas chromatography and spectrophotometers.
The lab is capable of a wide range of tests, including physical and mechanical properties of clear wood specimens, full size lumber analysis, wall racking, panel products and adhesive analysis related to structural engineered wood products. TP is one of only a few test facilities in the U.S. equipped to perform long-term creep-rupture tests that building codes now require in qualifying new engineered wood products. In addition, the lab supports research and testing for fingerjointing lumber, machine stress rated lumber, pressure treating and gluing.
TP breaks its inspections down into different divisions, noted Jay: lumber, treated lumber, wood packaging (which includes pallets, skids, and crates), trusses, log homes and utility products (such as utility poles and cross-arms).
“We operate 14 plants, and TP has done an excellent job,” said Jennifer Daniels, a spokeswoman for PalletOne in Bartow, Fla. “They are prompt, helpful, and provide the information we need to get certificates. They have been very helpful in assisting us through the unique supply chain circumstances which have come about when the global standards were adopted.”
“We started using TP’s services for inspections for our new and refurbished pallets in six different states,” said David Caltrider, president of the Nelson Co. in Baltimore. “They’ve done an excellent job. All our export pallets are fumigated in the way that’s required. The people at TP are easy to work with. They’re here when we need them and are honest.”
The importance of lumber standards was recognized in the 1930s and 1940s, but standards for wood packaging have evolved only fairly recently. Bryan Smalley, WPM program manager for TP, noted two reasons. One is the growing global economy and the global rule for export wood packaging. The second is the overall issue of liability, which has become an increasing concern for businesses.
In terms of pallet inspection, there is no single standard outside of the rule for export pallets. Standards generally vary with both the customer and the intended use of the pallet.
Pallet components can be inspected for proper dimensions, knots, bark, and moisture content. TP pallet inspectors make sure their clients meet calibration standards, adapt to changes of rules and also provide training.
“We will train for quality in the plant where we are sent to identify product flaws,” said Bryan. “A deck board
For heat-treatment certification, TP inspects both lumber and stock that a company may purchase already treated or which the company itself treats.
Heat-treated lumber or pallet components must carry the American Lumber Standards Committee marking. Are any fraudulent? “TP and the agencies within the ALSC, including the ALSC itself, have made significant progress in identifying these fraudulent stamps and their origins,” said Bryan. “These violators will be prosecuted.”
For a pallet company or other business that is heat-treating lumber, air flow is important, Bryan explained. “During a qualification audit, TP will test a chamber for heat displacement by placing several probes in a charge of material. We search for cold spots. That’s where we want the probes to be.”
For treating solid wood packaging for export with methyl bromide, TP inspectors require fumigators to be federally and state licensed. Between three to four pounds of methyl bromide is used for 1,000 cubic feet of air space; the lumber must be fumigated for 24 hours.
“Typically most people use heat-treatment for steady production inventories,” said Bryan, “but due to its mobility, fumigation works well in bulk situations, per-container shipment situations or in infrequent product situations.” TP inspectors undergo fumigation-related training by the National Wooden Pallet and Container Association and Great Lakes Chemical Corp.
For more information or to contact Timber Productions Inspection, call (770) 922-8000.