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Storti GSI 170 Offers a Flexible Block Pallet Nailing System to Meet the Emerging Costco Block Pallet Market
Pallet Machinery Group introduces the Storti GSI/170 TA AL pallet nailing system into North America as a nailing solution for the emerging Costco block pallet market. The GSI/170 TA AL offers a beginning system that is flexible to expand for higher production numbers. The GSI/170 TA AL is a well established machine that is just surfacing in North America.
Date Posted: 1/1/2011
The Emergence of Block Pallets in Costco
The Costco block pallet requirement has emerged on the scene with a deadline of January 2011. There has been a great deal of talk about block pallets in North America. For many years, from time to time the Enterprise has carried articles about the benefits of block pallets. The handwriting has been on the wall that many pallet users prefer block pallets, typically because of their full four-way entry. Since pallet and vendor choice has been primarily based on initial purchase cost, pallet specifications have evolved, particularly when it comes to reducing the volume of lumber, hence the weight, of a pallet.
Many pallet users have stated their theoretical preference to block pallets, but in spite of what people may say, the final decision so often comes down to dollars and cents. A careful analysis of pallet buying habits has always shown that before a switch from a stringer pallet to a block pallet design is likely to occur, a design change will probably have to be pulled through the system, not pushed through. In other words, it will probably require that the company receiving the loaded pallet will require a different design.
So why block pallets? The preference is simple. A block pallet offers a more flexible four-way materials handling platform than a notched stringer pallet. When CHEP switched from its initial stringer pallet design to its current block pallet at the turn of the century, the grocery industry was introduced to block pallets in its logistics system for the first time. Large grocery companies soon started stating their preference for block pallets, but nobody stepped up to the plate agreeing to pay the higher price required by a block pallet. Through the first decade of the century, the hardwood stringer GMA pallet continued its grocery market dominance, but block pallets continued their expansion as CHEP’s switch to its perimeter based block pallet grew in influence.
Everybody knows that a perimeter based block pallet, like the ones used by the CHEP and PECO rental systems, is much more expensive to manufacture than a stringer GMA. They have more lumber, a wider variety of lumber sizes, more nail sizes, and more complicated nailing patterns. The positioning of deck boards during assembly is more delicate, and clinching nails requires a more complicated assembly step. A typical perimeter base block pallet costs about twice as much to build as a new GMA style stringer pallet.
For several years, the NWPCA has been aware of the looming potential of block pallets gaining favor. In response to this potential, it encouraged the design of the PIMS (Pallet Industry Management System) block pallet as a white wood alternative to the CHEP and PECO pool pallets. Once Costco announced its block pallet requirement this fall, the people working to develop the PIMS program increased their efforts to put the finishing touches on the PIMS program and convince Costco to add it to the list of block pallets Costco will accept. A PIMS committee met with Costco in December; to our knowledge no final decision has been made about whether or not Costco will accept a PIMS block pallet. The PIMS pallet is designed to satisfy the Costco specification, which followed the established CHEP and PECO pallet spec.
Of course, most pallet manufacturers in North America are setup to build stringer pallets. Many have very limited machinery for cutting blocks and nailing either perimeter base or Euro-style block pallets. Many block pallets are made on hand tables. A few North American machinery companies offer machines to build block pallets; some others are just starting to build or represent block pallet nailing machinery lines. Both the Costco and PIMS specifications call for machine-built block pallets. To the best of our knowledge, what this means is not particularly well defined at this point. But it is clear that the Storti line of pallet manufacturing machinery has several options that build high quality block pallets, including perimeter based units. There has been a great deal of speculation and discussion surrounding the potential thrust in block pallets. The Costco announcement in early October that they will only accept perimeter based block pallets starting in early January certainly seems to be supplying the push through energy that may cause a switch to perimeter based block pallets.
For a number of years, Pallet Machinery Group (PMG) has been representing Storti’s line of pallet and sawmill machinery, including its block pallet nailing lines. This article focuses on the GSI-170 and GSI-270 Storti block pallet nailing lines, including an explanation of their nailing processes.
Most block pallets are made from softwood lumber. The new PIMS specification calls for kiln-dried (19%MC) southern yellow pine (SYP), Doug Fir, or radiata pine. The implication is that hardwoods are not acceptable, but time will tell whether or not some hardwoods appear in this block marketplace.
Storti GSI-170/270 TA Block Machines
Storti, represented in North America by Greg Wine and his Pallet Machinery Group, is well known worldwide as a supplier of pallet manufacturing machinery and sawmill machinery. Storti has a widely recognized line of nailing machinery, particularly in Europe. Its reputation has spread globally. Storti makes a wide variety of block pallet manufacturing options. Its manufacturing facilities in Italy are certainly one of the nicest at any pallet machinery company.
The Storti GSI/170 TA AL is a single nailer system that can be expanded later for higher volume block pallet production by adding a second nailing unit and converting it into a GSI-270 system. The standard GSI-170 block nailing system is probably Storti’s best machine to meet many pallet manufacturing company’s initial needs. It is designed to build a perimeter base block pallet with bulk nails. Its flexibility allows a pallet company to build enough perimeter base block pallets to meet its demand and still adjust to future growth in demand. These Storti nailing systems do not actually make a mat, which is a common step in many of the block pallets currently made in North America. Instead, they make the top part of a block pallet which includes both the mat and the attached blocks.
Certainly one of the outstanding features of a Storti nailing system is its capability of nailing either stringer or block pallet designs. The potential to manufacture both of the common pallet types is a unique versatile feature of Storti nailing systems. A pallet company can buy a system which will allow it to get into the relatively new perimeter based block pallet market but maintain the flexibility of manufacturing stringer pallets on the system as well. In a sense you can have the best of both worlds and leave yourself an option of increasing future production with a second nailing machine in an upgraded Storti nailing system.
On a Storti GSI/170 TA AL, two operators flip the top of a half finished pallet, including both a top mat and nine blocks, from the second nailing position into the first nailing position (the one closest position to the nailing machine) and then hand place the boards for the perimeter bottom. Then the two operators hand place the blocks, stringer boards, and top deck boards for a second pallet top in the second nailing position jig.
These two pallets then pass through the nailing machine, which drives the nails according to the preprogrammed nailing patterns. The machine can nail up to three different nail sizes; common sizes include 3”, 2-1/4”, and clinch nails for the top mat. If so desired, it is possible to use short ring-shank nails instead of clinch nails for the top joints where there are no blocks.
After both pallets go through the nailer, the completed pallet in the first nailing position is ejected toward the stacker and the completed mat and block unit returns back through the nailer. The operators repeat their sequence of steps, flipping the nailed mat and blocks from the second nailing station into the first, placing the bottom perimeter base boards on this partially built pallet and laying the blocks, stringer boards, and top deck boards for a second pallet into the second nailing station. The completed pallet is flipped over so the top is properly oriented and then stacked with other pallets.
One of the benefits of this particular system is that it can be expanded later by adding a second nailing system and making the proper adjustments to approximately quadruple the system’s nailing capacity.
In addition to the Storti GSI/170 TA AL and GSI/270 systems, Storti offers a number of different nailing systems. Some are designed to build both stringer and block pallets. Some handle and position all the boards and blocks automatically, letting the nailing line work at full speed with fewer operators. The line of Storti nailing lines also includes the GSI-150 AL, GSI 150/250-SV, GSI-180/280 TA, FLEX 60/160/260, and FLEX 61/62 lines.
Keeping the boards together with consistence alignment requires that jigs and counter-jigs work together in perfect sync. In the joints between the top deck boards and stringer boards where there are no blocks, Storti has an automatic clinching system that hits the tip of a clinch nail back, forcing it to assume the classic hook shape. With its integrated nail sensors, the Storti nailing machine can detect if a nail is missing from a chuck. It can recall it back automatically. The operator is alerted by the machine if any errors in nail placement are made. Some Storti options are available only on its two nailing machine systems.
Storti offers the potential to modulate machinery investment in several steps to react to the growth in a customer’s block pallet demands. It probably has the widest range of nailing options available from any pallet machinery manufacturer. Its flexibility ranges from 1.2 to 13 pallets a minute production.
The Storti GSI/170 TA AL is designed to meet the flexibility many pallet people prefer. You can start with a single machine, producing a PIMS or other block pallet or any kind of stringer pallet with a low speed (maybe one-and-a-half perimeter based block pallets or two stringer pallets per minute). When you need more assembly speed, add a second nailing machine and expand the line into one that can nail up to five block pallets a minute. Anybody who is currently hand nailing block pallets on tables can start with a single machine and put themselves in a position to adjust as their company grows and their need for block pallets expands. Thus the GSI/170 TA AL has the versatility to grow along with a customer’s needs.
From its beginning, Storti’s pallet machinery produces both block and stringer pallets. Its machines are not just an early adaptation of stringer machines to block machines. As the Storti people put it, “Ours are truly native block pallet machines.”
Storti nailing machines have chains that carry jigs that are designed to spot both blocks/stringers/boards and stringer boards. An operator can adjust a machine’s dimensions according to pallet dimensions either manually or electronically. The nail distribution systems are specifically designed to carry more than one nail size in each nail box. In addition, it is possible to alternately drop different nail types on each chuck. Thus, at different times different nails can be dropped in the same position.
For additional information concerning the Storti nailing options, contact the Pallet Machinery Group by calling 540/644-9220 or visit www.palletmachinery.com. You can find additional information on Storti nailing systems by visiting www.storti.it.