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Alabama-Based Coxco Provides Link Between Pallet Suppliers and Users
Coxco: Alabama pallet supplier provides a link between numerous pallet manufacturers and recyclers and pallet users; Coxco represents mills in 12 states and supplies pallets, containers and other products to customers in 20 states.
By Diane M. Calabrese
Date Posted: 5/1/2008
BESSEMER, Alabama — From accountants to technology advisors to wedding planners, experts bridge the divide between the end and the means. They take care of the ancillary ‘must-do’ tasks so we can focus on our core enterprises.
Coxco Inc. is such a bridge. The Coxco team of five employees takes on any aspect of pallet procurement, billing, shipping and disposal. Their customers, the pallets users, get what they want, and the pallet suppliers represented by Coxco can focus on their core activities of pallet manufacturing or recycling.
In fact, Coxco approaches each prospective buyer with a simple question: What do you need?
“We supply pallets,” acknowledged Renee B. Cox, president of Coxco and who founded the business in 1983. That’s where it all begins (and all began), but the company supplies many related products and services a customer may need, including crates and boxes, industrial grade lumber, corrugated cartons, heat-treated or fumigated materials, pallet repair services, recycling of wood waste, and more.
It’s a business relationship that benefits both Coxco’s pallet-using customers and the mills it represents. Coxco has the advantage of dealing with numerous pallet manufacturers and recyclers and can pick and choose from among them to fill a certain order. Representing many pallet companies gives it more flexibility and resources than a single pallet manufacturer that is trying to service a customer. Mills benefit because they can focus on their core business activities – manufacturing pallets, containers, industrial lumber, or pallet recycling.
The suppliers that Coxco represents must meet high standards. “Quality is the most important thing,” said Renee. In addition, she has sought out pallet suppliers for their honesty and integrity. The Coxco staff regularly visits pallet suppliers the company represents in order to stay abreast of their operations and ensure the mill meets the company’s standards.
Coxco, which sold 1.5 million pallets in 2007, has customers in a number of different industries, including automotive and grocery. The chemical industry is probably the company’s biggest customer sector. Coxco also does business with the federal government. In all, Coxco has customers in approximately 20 states.
The company works very closely with more than 10 pallet manufacturers and recyclers, although it does business with about 30 mills in all in about 12 different states. Of the 10-plus closest business partners, Coxco sells the core business of about six to eight pallet suppliers.
There are definite benefits to representing different pallet manufacturers, noted Brian Cox, Renee’s son and sales manager of Coxco. One benefit is that it enables Coxco to accommodate various needs of customers and to make changes in production scheduling.
Also, some mills specialize in certain types of pallets or containers or industrial lumber products. “We find out what the customer needs,” said Brian. “We know who is best suited to make that product…That’s one of the reasons we get very familiar with the mills, to learn their strengths and weaknesses.” Being knowledgeable about the mills and their operations enables the Coxco team to match a customer’s certain order with the appropriate producer.
The company regularly gets calls from other mills, too, looking to sell industrial lumber or wood packaging.
Coxco can provide any type of pallet or container, including custom pallets. “Everything’s tailored to the need of each individual customer,” said Renee. For example, it has supplied huge pallets or skids that weighed hundreds of pounds. Coxco makes sure that a customer’s pallets are “manufactured correctly, billed correctly, and delivered correctly,” Renee added.
Coxco has more than 200 active customers on its books. “We are a company that is going to do whatever we can to make things easier for them,” said Renee.
Coxco sells new and recycled pallets. The company’s annual sales normally run about 50% new pallets and 50%recycled.
Coxco’s pallet manufacturers and recyclers can supply heat-treated pallets, painting services, and much more. Inthe near future Coxco will have the capability to provide pallets tagged with a bar code.
Properly servicing customers as a non-manufacturing supplier means maintaining close relations and contacts with both customers and pallet manufacturers. “Attentiveness to customers is where it all begins,” said Renee.
Brian makes many of the visits to vendor shops and mills. Renee’s daughter, Melanie Dawson, is office manager for the company. Renee’s sister-in-law, Wanda Johnson, is the fourth member of the team; Wanda does customer service and inside sales. The newest member of the staff is Chris Langley.
Customers that buy from Coxco order a wide range of quantities “from 50 pallets up to a few hundred thousand,” said Renee. Coxco’s customer accounts area is predominantly located in the Southeast but the company has customers as far away as the Northeast and California.
To gain a full understanding of a customer’s requirements, Coxco representatives frequently meet on-site at the customer’s place of business. Many customers also visit Coxco’s offices in Bessemer, which are located conveniently off I-459, the beltway around Birmingham.
Coxco is a member of the National Wooden Pallet and Container Association (NWPCA). In 2006, Coxco was ranked No. 10 in the top woman-owned businesses in Alabama by www.DiversityBusiness.com. A few years earlier, Coxco won similar recognition from Birmingham Business Journal.
Coxco has been involved in providing waste management solutions for customers for about 15 years. The facet of the business “started about the time used pallets became the norm,” said Renee.
Requests for help with pallet recycling have accelerated in recent years. “We’ve gone through a couple of ‘green’ periods,” said Renee. “As people couldn’t take pallets to the landfill, ‘green’ became a buzz word. In the 1980s, ‘eco’ became a buzz word. People realize you can’t just throw things away.” The cost of trucking and tipping fees at landfills are economic disincentives that nudge businesses to recycling, she said.
The pallet industry has changed a lot, said Renee. “But the principal design of the pallet is the same. Since day one, everyone has been trying to cheapen up the grocery pallet, lighten up the deck boards.” In one sense, things have not changed; when Renee entered the industry in 1983, the economy was in a recession, and “people were trying to find ways to save money.”
Renee enjoys owning a business. “It’s a challenge,” she acknowledged. “There’s something new every day.”
Renee is an avid gardener in her leisure time, and she enjoys every minute she gets to spend with her plants. “Gardening is my passion,” she said. “It’s a therapy for me. I love to see things grow – nurture them.”
She also wants to see Coxco continue to grow. “I look for us to continue another 20 or 30 years,” she said.
(Editor’s Note: pallet suppliers interested in contacting Coxco may call the company at (877) 912-6926 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Coxco has a Web site at www.coxcoinc.com.)