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Plateau Pallet Turns to Profile Technology for Saw Blades and Indexable Tooling
Owen Horst of Plateau Pallet Co. has long relied upon indexable carbide cutters from Profile Technology. When it found itself needing strob saw blades, he turned to Profile Technology and its new line of strob saw circular blades.
Date Posted: 12/1/2012
CLARKRANGE, Tennessee – Most pallet manufacturers fall into one of two general categories, those that are started by an entrepreneur and those that are purchased by one entrepreneur from another. Plateau Pallet in Clarkrange, Tenn. falls into the second group. Owen Horst and his father Samuel were partners when they bought Plateau Pallet in 1999. In 2008 Owen bought his father out when he retired. In many ways Plateau Pallet is a prototype of an entrepreneurial pallet manufacturer, and in many ways it has some unique characteristics.
Located about 18 miles north of Crossville on Interstate 40, Plateau Pallet is deep in the heart of the Cumberland Plateau region in eastern Tennessee. Like many pallet companies, Plateau focuses primarily on serving customers in its local market. At one time it serviced customers as far away as Florida, but it is no longer feasible to ship these kinds of distances. Plateau probably handles 95% of its sales itself. As Owen Horst said, “It has been very difficult to make money on pallets over the past four or five years. Competitive prices have squeezed wholesalers out of the market. I now handle most accounts myself.”
Unlike many pallet companies, Plateau has focused solely on manufacturing; it is not involved in the recycling of pallets. Twelve employees build about 14 loads of hardwood pallets a week, in the neighborhood of 8000 pallets. It typically buys a couple of semis of cut stock a week but mainly buys mixed hardwood cants. Like many companies in the eastern mountain regions of the United States, most of Plateau’s employees are locals.
Machinery at Plateau Pallet
Most of the machinery at Plateau was there when Horst bought the company over 13 years ago. It cuts cants on a merchandizing system including a gang saw and an automated cutoff saw, made by Yoder. It cuts notched stringers on a West Plains double head notcher. Two Pendu 4400 stackers, one behind the gang saw and the other behind the notcher, stack the pallet cut stock. All of Plateau’s hardwood goes through this cutup system.
Horst recently needed some strob saw blades, but his local supplier could not take care of his needs as quickly as he would have liked. So he turned to John Lieber at Profile Technology who has supplied indexable cutters to him ever since he bought the company. Profile Technology has always been a good supplier of indexable cutters. As a result, Horst called Profile Technology to see if it could help him with his strob blade supply problem.
John Lieber of Profile Technology said, “We offer custom solutions all the time to customers with unique tooling challenges even if it is not something we have generally promoted to the industry.”
Plateau has always used Profile Technology indexable carbide inserts on its gang saw sizer head and its notcher. In fact, Horst recently bought a new Profile Technology head. So, Horst bought over 30 new 12 inch strob saw blades from Profile Technology. Horst’s philosophy is to be loyal and stick with good suppliers who take care of him. Horst was low on strob blade inventory and his normal supplier was unable to get him additional blades quickly, so Horst turned to Profile Technology. Because of his long term relationship with his normal saw blade supplier, he is not sure what he will do for new strob blades in the future. Horst had tried some local blade suppliers in the past, but their blades didn’t hold up. Profile Technology was able to supply Plateau Pallet with strob blades; Horst has been happy with the quality and how well they have lasted.
Like many pallet companies, Plateau Pallet is generally complimentary of its suppliers. Horst said, “We have had great experience with Profile Technology. We have never had any problems with their products or service. It was natural for me to turn to John and his company when I needed some strob blades.”
Plateau Pallet manufactures most of its pallets on an older Viking DuoMatic nailer. It also has a Pallet Chief for making smaller runs. Both companies have served him well. MidContinent Nail has been Plateau Pallet’s bulk nail supplier over the years.
Plateau Pallet has two Peterbilt trucks with two flatbed trailers and one van. It uses a Volvo L60 wheel loader, one Mitsubishi forklift, and two Nissan forklifts. Owen said, “I don’t like the computerized stuff they have on forklifts today. I usually keep my forklifts for about 12,000 hours and then consider trading them.”
Our interview took place on the day after the presidential election. Horst, was not happy with the outcome. He said, “I told my employees a few weeks ago that if Obama wins, I am thinking about quitting and shutting it down. But I promised my people I would hang in for a while and try to make things work. I went from making good money at one time to literally making nothing in the past four years. I worked four years for nothing.”
Many small business owners, including pallet company leaders, are concerned about the prospect of taxes going up and regulations increasing under a second Obama administration. Horst said, “We have no more room for regulations.” After an exhausting election, the country pretty much got what it already had. And it seems like there remains a lot of uncertainty about future economic policy.
While just about all small manufacturing businesses are somewhat unhappy about today’s business conditions, the pallet industry has survived the last four years better than many industries. Conversations with pallet companies tend to register some concerns but with an optimistic hope for tomorrow. After all, people do not buy pallets because of desire; rather they buy pallets out of need. So, the future is there for those who pursue it.
Profile Technology Expands Into Strob Saw Blades with its Established Commitment to Serving Customers Where They Are
For 42 years, John Lieber has worked with woodworkers, including the pallet industry. After purchasing the assets of his father-in-law Norman Schwend’s business, John Lieber incorporated Profile Technology. Lieber has served the sawmill, pallet and lumber finishing industries with a willingness to help meet a customer’s individual needs. Profile Technology’s product line has been known for its carbide indexable inserts used in notching heads, planer heads, chamfering cutters, hogger saws, side head saws, saw blades, moulder heads and shaper cutters. It also offers a variety of other tools for the primary and secondary wood industry.
The pallet tool designs are adaptable to rotating or changing out wood cutting indexable inserts. Twenty years ago, Profile Technology added its NAILBUSTER® indexable inserts, which allows a pallet recycler to machine and surface wood with nails in it.
Profile Technology’s heads are designed with solid cutters and keyways using lock nuts or collars. This design provides maximum strength with minimum vibration, like gang saw arbor assemblies. The company has a reputation for assisting customers to adapt machinery with tooling or specialty cutting, grooving and profiling applications in the wood, plastic and non-ferrous metal industries.
While it has always been known for its cutter heads and specialty wood cutting tools, it has just recently become involved in the wood cutting saw blade market.
Lieber said, “We are targeting small and medium sized companies, or anyone desiring assistance, with our new strob blade products. It is a new undertaking. We have received calls over time about strob blades but have not had our own line of blades to handle customer requests. Most people who called us were unhappy with their current blade suppliers for a variety of reasons. Often their blades did not hold up or they were unhappy with their general performance. There have been a lot of low priced strob blades available. If you buy the wrong blade, particularly if you misuse it, don’t be surprised if you are not happy with their performance.”
Profile Technology has strob blades available in 10”, 12”, and 14” sizes. It can supply any size and style blade but can provide the more common sizes quickly. Lieber said, “We try to provide something that will do a better job for our customers. We do not use a hard sell approach. Other than our Nailbuster® blades, we have not been known for saw blades until now.”
Providing customers critical information to be successful with tooling applications is all part of the Profile Technology approach. Lieber explained, “We talk to our customers about their applications. We discuss things like plate thickness, blade maintenance, and the kind of material you are processing. Heat builds up in saw blades as the carbide tips start to dull. Moisture content is extremely high in green wood. The strob slot acts as a wiper to keep the cut line behind the saw blade from collapsing on the blade as wood passes over the blade. If a strob slot is working, you don’t have the pinching or collapsing on the blade. The blade is carbide tipped. We look at strob blade applications just like any other cutting applications.”
The process starts with asking the right questions and analyzing each individual plant process. Lieber said, “Most questions come in the beginning. We evaluate what they are doing now and what they don’t like. We talk about the machine, running characteristic, material, etc. Of course, we discuss blade maintenance. Most customers have a local saw service company. Our team tries to educate them about how to use their saw service effectively.”
“When Owen Horst from Plateau Pallet called me, he was having trouble getting strob blades to keep his operation running,” said Lieber. “We helped him with strob blades just like we have served him with carbide indexable cutters over the years. We let our tools speak for themselves. He was in a bind and couldn’t get production out.”