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Cimino Box – A Traditional Pallet Recycling Company Relies Upon Saw Service as a Supplier
Over time Cimino Box made the unusual move from a box manufacturer to a pallet recycler. Cimino does not depend heavily on automation but works with Saw Service & Supply for its blades and dismantler and trim saw needs.
By Ed Brindley
Date Posted: 4/1/2010
Very few pallet recycling companies can date their origin back to 1945, but Cimino Box started as a wooden box company in a garage. In 1942, Frank Ritson’s grandfather, Frank Cimino, moved from the coal mines of West Virginia to Cleveland to work in the steel mills. In 1945, he started a part-time business building welding rod boxes and over the next two years his business grew to the point that he was able to quit his job at the steel mill and make a living with his own business. Cimino Box became a supplier of boxes for bottles of beer for four Cleveland area breweries, including Black Label, POC, Schaefer and Schmidt. Frank Cimino’s wife and three daughters worked by his side in the shop building boxes and loading trucks during the 50’s and early 60’s. In the early 70’s when the breweries started moving out of Cleveland, Cimino Box turned to pallets. Frank brought in odd sized pallets and tore them down with a crow bar. He focused on remans or rebuilds. Used 4 x 4’s from the railroad in Lorain, Ohio were gang ripped into 2 x 4 stringers, and decking came from boards that Cimino got out of dismantled ten foot long wooden boxes and odd sized pallets.
Frank Ritson started working with his grandfather in 1978, as a 13 year old teenager sweeping floors and doing odd jobs such as tearing down wood crates and pallets with a crow bar. He worked through high school on afternoons, Saturdays and summers. During this time, his grandfather started to downsize the company and was down to a handful of customers and three employees. When Frank graduated in 1983, like so many teenagers, he did not know what he wanted to do, so he stayed with the company where he felt comfortable. When his grandfather passed away in 1988, Frank took over the business starting with a 1985 Ford 12 ft. flatbed truck and little equipment, a few accounts and a building with about 3,000 sq. ft. of space. He continued supporting his grandmother and started building his own business.
Over the years, Cimino Box has grown to about 25 employees who have built the business into one of the largest pallet recyclers in the Cleveland metropolitan area. Cimino wholesales most of its new pallet orders to Amish pallet shops and focuses its own energies toward recycled pallets. The company has never really gone out and knocked on doors looking for business. Frank has relied on referrals and relationships to grow his customer base.
Like most recyclers, Cimino focuses mostly on GMAs but will handle just about any pallet it can get. They make a lot of reman pallets, using reclaimed stringers and boards to build remanufactured pallets. Cimino Box sells and ships around 7,000 pallets a week, as well as some Gaylord boxes when available. Most of his pallets are hardwood.
Cimino concentrates on GMAs and other standard pallets. It has three different versions of an A pallet. The so-called Sam’s club grade AAA has seven over five deck boards, six-inch leads, and no chips in the lead boards; it is close to a new pallet. A “standard A” may have 3-1/2” lead boards with a minimum of seven over five. A close gap A grade has eight or more top boards and five bottom boards. B grade pallets can have reinforced stringers. A grade C GMA has thinner or light weight decking (1/2" or less).
Its reman pallets are typically not 48 x 40s; most are under 36 x 36 size. Cimino makes a wide variety of smaller sizes, including 24 x 24, 30 x 30, 32 x 32, 34 x 28, etc. Any teardown boards that are 40" or longer are used for GMA repair, while anything under 40" is used for building remanufactured pallets. Since Cimino doesn’t need many stringers for GMA repairs, all stringers from teardown go to remanufacturing.
Cimino moved out of its old shop in 1995, moving a short distance to a property with three buildings, one for tear down (7,000 sq. ft.), the largest for repairing and reconditioning pallets (18,000 sq. ft.), and a third for remans (3,000 sq. ft.). A paved 120,000 sq. ft yard has helped Cimino avoid weather related problems. They don’t have to worry about mud and it makes it a lot easier to plow snow.
Like so many pallet recyclers, Cimino relies heavily on the efforts of its people to handle required repair functions. It has six repair tables and three manufacturing tables, all using Stanley Bostitch staple and nail guns. Frank said, “I have tried other nail suppliers, but Bostitch supplies the fasteners, tools, and service once a week. They take good care of us.”
While Cimino Box is not machinery heavy, it does have some key machines for dismantling pallets and trimming reclaimed lumber. It has relied upon nearby Saw Service and Supply for machinery, saw blades, blade maintenance services, and needed personal gear. Cimino has two Saw Service “Hawk” bandsaw pallet dismantlers, one Saw Service Lead Board Remover, and three Saw Service trim saws. Frank said, “We don’t have a lot of machinery. We really don’t need a lot of equipment. I have thought about getting a more automated repair line but so far have not made that move. One radial arm saw that my grandfather used back in the 50s still runs every day.” Saw Service has supplied blades for that saw since the 50’s and both companies have grown significantly since that time.
When asked about Saw Service & Supply, Frank said, “I have had other companies call upon me about blades, but I am 100% dedicated to Saw Service. The people at Saw Service, Dale Belock, Nate Belock and Gary Snyder go out of their way to take care of my needs. This means a lot to me. Their products do the job at a reasonable cost.”
Service With a Smile
One of the keys to a successful pallet company is delivery. Cimino Box serves the Cleveland area, so it stays fairly close to home base with its core pickups and pallet deliveries. It uses about 20 drop trailers to acquire pallet cores and ten for deliveries. Three 26 foot diesel trucks handle most small deliveries. Two semis are on the road full time. In addition to acquiring pallet cores using its fleet of trailers, like so many recyclers, Cimino buys pallets from a number of independent contractors; three of them have been supplying pallets to Cimino for over 20 years. The company pays individual contractors per pallet. Many drop trailers are paid for by the load, and some are on a count basis where Cimino analyzes each load after picking it up. There are still a few accounts that give Cimino pallet cores for free.
Incoming drop trailers, containing mostly GMA pallets, are taken straight to the piecework repair tables where they are fixed and sorted before being placed in inventory. Mixed loads are presorted by a two person team before being processed. Franks says these two sorters have been with Cimino about seven years and are very good at what they do. Because Cimino processes mostly GMA pallets, it does not have as much scrap fiber to handle as many recyclers. A supplier company spots a 48' trailer to collect Cimino’s unwanted pallets, hauls it away and grinds it for mulch. Each week Cimino fills up about one pallet trailer and an 80 yard roll-off container with broken boards and smaller pieces. Cimino gives away most scrap pallets and receives $50 for each roll-off container.
Cimino uses a forklift fleet of over a half dozen 3000 to 5000 lb. pneumatic forklifts from a variety of manufacturers.
The Cimino People
Cimino Box has an unusually stable workforce of about 25 people including his wife, Laura, who manages the office. Frank has five Amish men and a variety of ethnic groups. He laughed when he said, “Our Amish workers bring their own hammers.”
In spite of the most stable work force he has had, Frank indicates that establishing and keeping a stable productive work force is his biggest challenge. He said, “Once you get above about 10 employees, you keep going through them.”
Frank gets along well with his employees. He indicates that most of them do not look at him as a boss, he is a hands-on-owner. He gets his hands dirty just like they do. Frank doesn’t hesitate to jump on a forklift and help in the yard or load a truck, whatever needs to be done.
Cimino Box has a drug free work place program that has worked real well. They drug test new hires and anybody who is injured or causes an injury or an accident. Frank runs a better drug and employee program by being in a group with other businesses. They learn from each other and benefit from working together. The group randomly selects some people for drug testing as well.
The human resources group helps with workers comp rates as well. It has helped identify people who are not contributing as they could. The quality of work at Cimino is better. The company no longer allows any horseplay. Injuries have become a thing of the past.
Cimino had a medical plan but had to drop it about a year ago; it just could no longer afford it.
The company pays its pallet builders and repairers by piece work. The rest of the people are hourly.
When asked if he has any words of wisdom to share with readers, Frank said, “Be careful of what you wish for. You might just get it. You need to be very consistent and very committed to your business and you must take care of your customers. Even when I am on vacation, my customers can reach me on my cell phone.”
Frank’s second biggest challenge is competition. Every year it seems to get harder to make money. It seems like we have to do more volume to make any money. Frank stated, “Margins are small. There is always somebody else out there who is willing to do it for less. Everybody is trying to survive and stay in business. Everybody is cutting prices. I have heard a lot about matching prices during the last year. Sometimes our service and history get us through. Sometimes we may have to make a concession.”
Saw Service & Supply Services Recyclers
Saw Service & Supply Inc, a Cleveland based company, has an extensive history in the steel cutting industry and technology. The company has built and maintained saw blades for the steel cutting and fabricating industry for over 60 years in the Midwest region. As a dominant saw, supply and service facility, it has applied this knowledge to the pallet recycling industry. In particular, it has developed and introduced a line of pallet recycling saw blades and pallet recycling machinery.
Saw Service & Supply entered the recycling blade market in the mid-1990s. This company is all about service and they work hard to bring the very best possible service to their customers each and every day. Gary Snyder, along with Dale Belock and Nathan Belock, work closely with the pallet industry throughout the US. They specialize in solving technical problems and delivering cost effective saw blades and supplies to the pallet recycling industry.
In the pallet recycling arena, the company has a full service saw blade manufacturing and repair facility. They market and build custom circular saw blades for their line of NailCutter chop saw and conveyor saw blades. These blades are built with nail cutting tips, custom ground to the customer specifications, and the tips are guaranteed not to come off the blade. The company proudly indicates it was the innovator of the Disposable Circular Saw Blade program in 1997. This program eliminated the need for the pallet recycler to ship, sharpen and have the blades repaired by a saw shop. With the implementation of this program, the pallet recycler could now use a cost effective $10.00 saw blade for several days and throw it away. This has eliminated the need for sharpening and it has become a big cost saving program for many recyclers throughout the U.S.
The company has one of the largest band saw blade weld centers in the country. Utilizing seven top of the line Ideal welding machines, the company is able to weld any length, build large volume orders and ship same day. They supply MORSE bi-metal and carbon band saw dismantling blades to customers through out the US, Canada and overseas. Saw Service also supplies MORSE band saw blades for band resaws, sawmills, and portable sawmills.
The company also sells safety equipment and miscellaneous supplies, such as ear plugs, dust masks, safety glasses, and work gloves. Gary said, “These supplies are priced attractively. We trust that our customers look at us as a “one call can do it all” and they can order all their supplies via one supplier. Customers are saving time and money and their order is delivered to their front door in a day or two.
Saw Service also sells its version of popular pallet recycling machinery. They market the very durable “Hawk” band saw dismantler, a dismantling machine designed to increase pallet dismantling production and extend blade life. Their “10 Inch Trim Saw” uses the cost effective throw away blades and can be found in many pallet recyclers across the U.S. To complete the line of machinery, they recently introduced the “HD Heavy Duty Chop Saw”.
For more information about Saw Service & Supply Inc, call 800/735-5604. See its web site www.sawservicesupply.com.