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Arrington Lumber & Pallet Finds Agility as Key to Success in Shifting Market: Relies on Crosscut Saw by Pacific Trail to Improve its Lumber Processing
Agility: Arrington Lumber & Pallet has developed versatile sawmill capabilities to succeed in shifting lumber market conditions. The company has turned to Pacific Trail’s crosscut saw to process kiln dried pine for producing crossties and pallet components.
By Chaille Brindley
Date Posted: 4/1/2013
JACKSONVILLE, Texas – For years, Arrington Lumber & Pallet Co. has been one of the largest pallet manufacturing facilities in Texas. Located less than a day’s drive from five of the largest metropolitan areas in the country (Houston, San Antonio, Dallas/Ft Worth, New Orleans and Oklahoma City) allows the company to service many large companies involved in the petro-chemical, construction supplies, computer manufacturing and food processing industries. Vertically integrated, Arrington Lumber & Pallet Co. operates six saw lines and has made changes to become more agile – capable of producing almost any mix of lumber to meets its needs.
A number of years ago Arrington Lumber & Pallet Co. added an Accu-Cut 132-26C crosscut unit saw from Pacific Trail Manufacturing. “Pacific Trail’s crosscut saw has become an integral part of our kiln dried pine processing operation. Our facility can now cut to length crossties and kiln dried pallet components,” said Kyle Arrington, chief operating officer for the Arrington Lumber & Pallet Co.
Shifting lumber markets have impacted what material is available as well as what is most economical to cut. Arrington said, “The biggest change for us over the last 10-12 years is that we used to be a hardwood only facility. We used to rally against kiln dried pine.” He added, “Through the years we have opened up to using green pine and now kiln dried pine. Today, we can utilize any size or type of log available from a lumber material perspective.”
Shifting Lumber Markets
While there is still an abundance of hardwood lumber in many markets, a lot of hardwood sawmills have closed their doors and are not likely to return. Arrington stated, “Green pine has the possibility of opening up a market for us as hardwood becomes harder to get.” Also, Arrington has noticed the number of loggers out there continues to decline, which means the logging community is consolidating.
In 2012, Arrington Lumber & Pallet Co. processed 182,000 tons of logs. Although the company works with about 40-50 logging crews per year the actual volume has consolidated where a bulk of the material comes from four crews amounting to about 75% of the company’s log intake.
Arrington explained, “We started seeing a change when diesel flew through the roof. Small guys couldn’t pay the fuel bill any more. We had a credit crisis. The housing market collapsed. Small loggers just couldn’t survive… Somebody has to fill the void. The operators who were better at business were the ones who survived.”
Although supply problems loom as a threat in the future, there are still opportunities to make the concern work for you. Arrington commented, “There is a lot of the six inch stuff out there. Because we haven’t locked ourselves into certain diameter hardwoods, we can be more agile.”
Flexible Processing Capabilities
Operating its own sawmill facilities, gives Arrington Lumber & Pallet Co. the ability to process whatever makes the most money. Over the last ten years, the company has boosted production from three to six sawmill lines. It has four sawmills at its Jacksonville, Texas location. It also has two other sawmills at its Good Springs facilty, located about 25 miles away.
One of Arrington Lumber & Pallet Co.’s biggest assets in its lumber and log purchasing area is the ability to leverage different products and compete for timber in markets traditional sawmills or pallet operations could not.
In January 1998, the company completed installation of a then state-of-the-art Cooper scraggmill which features computer-assisted processing, laser-enhanced cut-ups, and two semi-automated slab-reclamation saw lines. Then, in 2002 Arrington Lumber & Pallet installed a Baker Tri-Scragg Mill, which allows it to utilize a smaller log to cut lumber without sacrificing efficiency. The decision proved to be so effective that the company installed another in 2005 and again in 2007. This decision proves again and again to have been a game changer in terms of sheer production.
Arrington Lumber & Pallet Co. operates three Baker Tri-Scragg lines. Arrington said, “The Baker Tri-Scragg allows us to get into log markets that previously we couldn’t process, logs that used to go for pulp wood. We can now process six-inch-top logs and above and still make usable lumber from it. The Tri-Scrag is very quick as well. Faster than Baker will tell you it is.”
Although the process is fairly labor intensive, it does allow for a potential extra board cut from each log due to the small kerf of bandsaws and the way the Tri-Scragg processes the log.
Pacific Trail Crosscut Saw Enhances Capabilities
Back in 2008, Arrington Lumber & Pallet Co. added a Pacific Trail crosscut saw to bolster its efforts in selling crossties as well as processing kiln dried pine for pallet components. Arrington explained, “The Pacific Trail saw works really well and has added versatility to our operation.”
Pacific Trail saws are known for precision cutting and can cut to ±1/32 inch tolerance. Tom Langton, president of Pacific Trail, said that there is no contest between his crosscut saw and radial arm, pop-up or gang saws when it comes to precision cutting.
The Accu-Cut offers the following standard features: in-feed loading capabilities of 52 inch H x 52 inch W with choice of 16-, 20-, 24- or 26-foot lengths; 20HP TEFC electric motor direct drives .404 pitch, .063 gauge saw chain; both carbon and carbide saw chains available; cut counter and amp meter helps monitor important wear items; state-of-the-art electronic inverter drives and digital length measuring ensures perfect positioning for every cut; material staging increases production; and kerf collapse relief protects saw bar and chain. Read the sidebar on page six for more detailed information on the Accu-Cut saw.
Arrington Lumber & Pallet Co.’s model has a 26 foot long carriage to hold multiple units of lumber at one time for greater production. It also features a wire mesh door on the operator cabin that is tied to a shut off switch. If the door is open, the saw stops.
“In terms of bulk cutting operation, we have nothing else that will do what the Pacific Trail saw will do. We process crossties, dimension lumber, and some plywood all on one package saw with precision and great effect for our business” said Arrington.
Information Provides Reliable Business Intelligence
Information and data management have become an increasingly important part of the business over the last few years. Skilled with computer database development, Kyle Arrington built an enterprise resource planning (ERP) software from the ground up for the company. The ERP system is web-based and can track orders, invoices, pallet lists, production records, log intakes, lumber yield, mill production, etc. It also ties into the financial aspects via Quickbooks integration.
Arrington Lumber & Pallet Co. has a hand punch time tracking system that integrates with QuickBooks as well. Currently, the company employs about 250 people, but workers are getting increasingly expensive says Kyle Arrington. “The impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is going to be huge for our industry. People are a large cost consideration. The ACA has the potential to force us to re-evaluate the size of our workforce – even if we lose some efficiency in the process.” The company’s thin kerf operations require a lot of manpower and they are uncertain where the break point on employees will be when the full ACA is put in effect.
Looking at the likely impact of the ACA, Arrington said, “The only choice when it comes to the bill may be to pass along the cost to customers… It’s possible that the penalty is going to be cheaper for manufacturers than the premiums cost.” The ACA penalty could cost businesses up to $2,000 per employee, which is going to be huge money for any pallet business.
Through the years Arrington Lumber & Pallet Co. has grown its pallet operations. It now runs three Viking 504s and three Viking 505s. The company also hand-nails block and some specialty pallets.
Arrington said, “The pallet market has evolved from primarily a manufacturing business to a service-focus industry, even though we still build one of the best quality pallets in Texas.”
One way that Arrington Lumber & Pallet Co. has offered good service is to develop solutions to the mold problem some of their customers experience. Arrington said, “Mold is a short term problem – about 30-45 days. Once a pallet has been out of the kiln that long, it gets dry enough to avoid growing much mold.”
Probably 80-90% of the company’s pallets are heat treated in a Converta Kiln heat treatment chamber. This process allows pallets to be marked according to ISPM-15 for international shipment. The heat treatment process can create the right conditions for mold spores to grow on the surface.
Due to the climate in the Gulf Coast region, most pallets shipped to that area will be treated to inhibit mold growth. Arrington indicated they have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on research to come up with the right system to prevent mold on pallets. Arrington added, “The process we employ is suitable for use in most any industry. We are confident that our process works better than any other available method.”
The process also includes educating customers on strategies to prevent mold. This includes allowing space between stacks of pallets, moving air through stacks, first-in/first-out pallet inventory management, etc.
Arrington’s History and Family Drive
Arrington Lumber & Pallet Co. has been building quality wooden pallets since 1963. The operation began building pallets at a rented facility near Rusk, Texas. Two men cut the lumber to proper specification, swung hammer at nail to build the pallets, and loaded them just a few at a time. During those days they produced one full truckload of pallets per week. After a couple of years a visionary hometown banker financed some used equipment for the company, and they were able to increase production to two, three and more loads per week. As production increased, other workers were hired and facilities were expanded.
Eddie Arrington joined the company in 1972, and then everything else was history as the business embraced automation. Pallets were built at three different locations until Arrington Lumber & Pallet Co. moved to its present location just south of Jacksonville, Texas in 1975. Production gradually grew, and today it is capable of manufacturing more than 12,000 pallets per day.
In 2004 Eddie was joined by his son Kyle who represents the third generation of Arringtons to have a hand in the company. Truly the definition of a family business, under Kyle’s direction the company has adopted even more technology to collect, track, and report on operations, manage the information flow between Arrington and its customers, and reduce the latency of internal communication.
Kyle Arrington said, “Dad has been fantastic in embracing the changes that I see. He created this explosive growth, and we outgrew our management structure. Now we are looking to develop top leadership.”
As a matter of fact Kyle did not work in the business when he was in high school or college at Texas A&M University. He intended to pursue a career in computer programming and software design. Arrington explained, “My dad never wanted to pressure me to come back although I think he was glad that I did.”
Making the generations work requires listening and learning. Arrington said about his father, “He always took ideas I brought to him at face value. We had a very good transition of day-to-day operational leadership.”
Accu-Cut Crosscut Trim Saw Benefits and Features
By Tom Langton, president of Pacific Trail Manufacturing
Pacific Trail Manufacturing offers its most sophisticated crosscut saw, the Accu-Cut 132-20C, which is ideal for cutting studs for the housing industry or pallet stock. Below is a list of key features for the Accu-Cut saw.
• Electronic controls, not hydraulic. Infinite control over positioning for a cut and speed of cut is to your advantage. The carriage moving material to each cut position is electronically controlled. Because of this precision control, there is no wasted time overshooting the cut line. Saw bar movement through the cut is electronically controlled by electric motor and ball screw. This gives a smooth consistent speed and allows for an amp meter display to monitor wear item life.
• Stock digital length measuring. No chains that stretch. No cables to damage. The Accu-Cut’s rack & spur gear design of this stock feature supports the importance that positioning for the cut is just as important as the cut itself. What you see is what you get…every time…over the life of the machine.
• Stock staging & kerf relief. Production for a unit saw is not only the speed of the cut, but more importantly the material handling into and out of the saw. Staging arms on the out-feed side of the saw hold finished material while the saw is being loaded and / or is cutting at the same time. Production can be dramatically increased. The kerf relief feature protects the saw bar and saw chain from kerf collapse pinching when non- uniform cants or kiln stickers are present.
• Saw chain direct drive. This part of the Accu-Cut design has eliminated the old saw bar mandrel, belt and sheave assembly. It has been replaced with a faster 3450rpm direct drive to the saw chain. The cut is faster and smoother and there are less moving parts to wear out and replace.
• Extended wear item life. A crosscut unit saw’s cutting tolerance is wholly dependent on how well the saw bars and the saw chains perform. This performance is a direct result of how long they last during normal wear. The Accu-Cut comes with a unique lubrication system that delivers oil to the outboard bottom side of the saw bar, the cutting side. The other method of delivery at the drive end of the saw forces the saw chain to drag the oil around the bar. Lubrication is lost as it travels around the idler wheel at the tip of the bar. Wear life is then shortened, the cost to run the saw is increased.
• Brute strength. The Accu-Cut is built from heavy structural steel tubing. Pound for pound, much stronger than wide flange or I-beams. Take the saw head’s 10" x 10" square tubes for example. They hold the saw bar extremely rigid through the cut. Do you need to make half kerf end trims? Worried about deflecting the saw bar and cutting out of tolerance? The Accu-Cut can handle it.
• Flexibility. Partial cuts? The Accu-Cut’s vertical cutting head supports this. The Accu-Cut also has a fully automatic option. Just push the button and put the saw to work while the operator is on his forklift. How long is your material? We’ll custom build a carriage length to suit. Want even more production flexibility? We’ll add in-feed staging to keep the saw fully loaded no matter what you’re cutting.
Popular options include the following:
• Fully automatic & remote controls increase production per man hour
• Wire mesh door from operator platform to saw-head shuts down the saw when opened.
• An E-Stop cable can be installed completely around the saw. (More common with the fully auto option above.)
• In-feed staging for pre-loading the saw while cutting.
• Laser positioning light assists in making first end trim cut and then the digital measuring takes over from there.
• Vacuum systems to capture sawdust separately.
• End-trim waste conveyors to transport waste in any direction. (Less expensive self dumping hoppers are available as well.)
• Short-cut capabilities allow for cutting to the tail end of a unit without skewing.
• Operator platform roofs for protection against the elements.
• Unit aligner.
• Extra saw bar and chain.