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Timpack – New Zealand’s Largest Pallet Company: Focus on Providing Professional Service and Products at Every Opportunity
Timpack — New Zealand’s Largest Pallet Company: The pallet industry in New Zealand has a major export influence, particularly in meat, dairy, produce, and light manufacturing. Timpack has an interesting mixture of value added services and products that may interest our North American readers.
By Ed Brindley
Date Posted: 7/1/2007
Hamilton, New Zealand —
New Zealand Pallet Overview
In March of 2007, I was fortunate to be one of about 30 people who spent two weeks visiting the beautiful island country of New Zealand, including a tour of several pallet companies and sawmills and the first pallet industry meeting ever held in New Zealand.
New Zealand is an absolutely beautiful country where people drive on the left hand side of the road and offer some of the best hospitality you will find anywhere. Once you visit you will want to return; I certainly do.
New Zealand is a fairly isolated narrow and long island country with two major parts, the North Island and South Island. New Zealand has very little heavy manufacturing but focuses on light manufacturing and agriculture. It is a relatively new country with a fairly young population. New Zealand functions as an importer of many manufactured goods and exporter of fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy products.
New Zealand’s closest trading partner, Australia, is known for being strict on its phytosanitary requirements related to importing. So, it is not surprising to find that much of the New Zealand pallet manufacturing business relates to specialty pallets, boxes, and crates; there is not a heavy emphasis on a uniform size, such as the 48x40 GMA in North America or the 800x1200 or 1000x1200 metric sizes in the EU. Pallet recycling is still in its infancy in New Zealand, probably because so much wooden packaging is exported and the pallet sizes are generally reefer and dry shipping container compatible.
The pallet meeting in Auckland was the first industry meeting ever conducted in New Zealand. This is the first of several articles that will feature our New Zealand trip, as well as the pallet companies and sawmill we visited.
It has probably been at least 20 years since I first met Rob Wood of Timpack on one of his many visits to the U.S. Immediately I was attracted to his dedication and professionalism. I was not surprised to learn that Timpack is the largest pallet company in New Zealand. Rob, a founding member of Timpack Industries Ltd. in 1984, has grown the company to its current leadership status with six manufacturing locations in Hamilton, Auckland, Mount Maunganui, New Plymouth, Nelson, and Dunedin. Including the head office in Hamilton, Timpack employs more than 200 people with about half located in Hamilton. Timpack is about 39% unionized. Approximately 33% of its people are Maori, Tahitian natives who migrated to New Zealand before the Europeans. The Maoris are hard working people that make up about 18% of New Zealand’s population. At this point Timpack doesn’t have any Asian employees.
During our New Zealand meeting and tour, I had the pleasure of getting to know Jason Togia, the Branch Manager of the Hamilton manufacturing plant. Timpack’s professional management staff includes a Board of Management consisting of Debra Cowen, General Manager of Dairy Logistics Ltd., Sharyn MacKenzie Group Administration Manager and Jason Togia. This group is supported by five other plant managers Ross McMillan, Graeme Woollett, Maurice (Mo) Holdin, Ron Blair, and Peter Dyer.
In addition to Rob, both Trevor McKee and Geoff Brindley, who had former ownership involvement in Timpack, have made a number of visits to North America. All three men have become friends over the years, which is indicative of the professional commitment of Timpack to the pallet and container industry.
Rob started Timpack in 1984 and moved into a new Hamilton facility in 1998. Timpack has grown to become the country’s leading supplier of wooden pallets, bins, crates and drums to New Zealand’s dairy, horticulture, meat, manufacturing and other export industry sectors. Initially, Timpack manufactured pallets and bulk bins for the dairy industry but rapidly expanded to produce a diverse range of timber products, including boxes, crates, cable drums, and furniture components. Its pallet and bin solutions have expanded to include third party management and control systems.
Timpack’s pallet production includes a total spectrum of both block and stringer pallets. It manufactures about 450,000 new pallets, 50,000 bins, and 140,000 crates a year. It is the only New Zealand company approved to manufacture both European CHEP pallets and U.S. CHEP pallets. In a typical year, Timpack builds about 30,000 CHEP Mark 55 block pallets. CHEP supplies Chilean Radiata pine cut stock to Timpack to make its pallets. CHEP uses these pallets to ship products to the EU and U.S., where they become part of the company’s pools in those areas.
Timpack is the only licensed user of the PDS computerized Pallet Design System in New Zealand. Other pallet firsts in New Zealand include being the first pallet manufacturer to gain New Zealand Standards certification for finger jointing lumber components. It has been finger jointing for about 12 years; acceptance of finger jointed pallet parts to engineering standards has been OK according to Rob.
Rob stated, “Being a leader means being out in front to lead. We have a reputation for innovation and have recorded many firsts in the industry.” Timpack is the first company in the timber industry to be certified to the international ISO9000 Quality Systems standard with stamps 001 through 006. Rob indicated that Timpack is the only New Zealand company with pallet testing equipment of ISO 8611.
Specialty wood products include collapsible bins that use Hardy-Graham fastening systems to clip plywood panel sides and tops onto a base for easy shipping and easy access.
Drew Graham of Hardy-Graham said, “Timpack has been a good customer since the 1990s. It built about 160,000 plywood containers for its dairy customers to carry 650 kg of dry powdered milk each. The powered milk is stored in gas barrier plastic bags that are carried and protected by the plywood containers; Hardy Graham spring clip fasteners hold the panels together.”
Timpack had a very high rejection rate on its previous closure systems which it replaced with Hardy Graham fastening systems. The plywood containers have supplied years of successful shipping from the milk drying plants in New Zealand to customers both within New Zealand and in other countries. After the powered milk is unloaded, the containers are shipped back flat to Timpack where they are cleaned, refurbished as needed, and reused. The plywood panels and closure systems have a long life.
Since the initial fastener order was filled, Timpack has still had to occasionally order spring clips to replace those that wear out or are lost. The refurbishing process sometimes requires that the plywood panel sides be sanded to remove chards and old product labels. Timpack has bought Hardy Graham fasteners to ship some other products as well, such as delicate kiwi fruit.
Picking bins, cable drums, and beer crates form part of Timpack’s product mix. Rob smiled when he said, “Beer crates have been a part of New Zealand’s social scene for over 50 years. In addition to protecting their precious contents, they are often used as furniture in student flats or serve either as grandstands at rugby grounds or as an extra chair on picnics.”
Timpack’s passion for customer service is enhanced by its six multi-site facilities that provide widespread support for their customers’ ever-changing needs. The Nelson facility has a sprinkler system; all the other locations have heat detection systems for fire protection.
Apart from supplying the bases, Timpack also acts as Weyerhaeuser’s logistics and distribution agent for its range of SpaceKraft bulk bins.
The company is certified to meet the ISPM-15 Standard for Wood Packaging Material for International Trade and was the first company certified with producer numbers 001 through 006.
Processing Lumber at Timpack
Timpack started moving its lumber processing plant in late 2006. It finished its move in February of 2007 into a large, exceptionally clean building with 66.5m x 44m of floor space (2,926 m2 or 31,500 sq.ft.); the transition worked very well.
During our visit to New Zealand, the forestry industry headlined the news. Forestry is important to the country and its economy. The New Zealand government decided to sign the Kyoto treaty and counted on its growing Radiata forests to earn it carbon credits. Because farmland has recently become a better investment than forest land, more and more land owners are clear cutting their timber and converting their land into agriculture. We passed quite a few acres that had recently been clear cut. As a consequence, the country is concerned about its carbon credit balance, and industries, like pallets, that use lumber are finding material supplies to be more limited. There is no doubt that the New Zealand pallet industry is concerned about its future lumber supply.
A number of tree species have been introduced into New Zealand over the years, including Redwoods. But Radiata pine dominates the New Zealand forest scene. Timpack buys dry treated industrial grade Radiata pine; it processes about 60,000 cubic meters of lumber a year (close to 25 million bd.ft.). Timpack is the largest purchaser of #3 industrial grade Radiata pine, the quality that typically goes into pallets. Timpack strives to develop and keep strong relationships with its sawmill suppliers; the country’s limited geographic size makes it difficult to replace valuable suppliers if that becomes necessary.
Radiata pine typically arrives as random length 100x50 mm, 150x50 mm, or 100x40mm. Standard pallet decking is 150x25 or 100x25, which comes from resawn 50 mm material.
An overhead view of the new lumber and wood processing building shows the spacious building in which all kinds of incoming material are resawn, planed, or remanufactured into useable lumber and wood products. Because most lumber is random length, using a package saw is not practical. Instead most lumber is cut to length and remanufactured on optimizing saws.
Two new (a Dimter and System TM) optimizing saws scan incoming lumber, determine how to best cut the material into the most useful products to fit Timpack’s needs, and cut the lumber to length into the optimum pieces. The processing plant is designed to match incoming materials to the company’s lumber needs using a mixture of saws — a Weinig 22AL in-line planer, a Crown 23C stand-alone planer, Stenner resaws to resaw 2x6s and 2x4s, a Gre-Con finger jointer, and a Carpenter CR-650 double surface planer with multiple rip saw for ripping particle board and putting grooves in the panel bottoms. A mixture of various ripping, planing, color printing, edging and finger jointing operations are used to remanufacture lumber and panel products into the desired pieces.
Because the processing building is so new, the company is still adjusting a little here and there to gain additional efficiencies. While finger jointing is not widely used in New Zealand’s pallet industry, Timpack is effectively using finger jointed material in pallets and wooden packaging, as well as in other lumber products it sells.
Covered storage includes a building with 22 bays to keep lumber products dry.
Timpack has a variety of assembly and processing options in its pallet manufacturing building. An automated Cape nailing system can build both block and stringer pallets. This nailing system has anchored the Hamilton plant’s nailing operation for about five years. It takes about four hours to change over between stringer and block pallets, so the Cape’s time is scheduled carefully. During our visit, Timpack was building U.S. CHEP pallets on its Cape. A cursory inspection showed the quality that the Cape is capable of manufacturing. The Cape is fitted with a block feeder; blocks are shipped from Chile instead of being cut on site. A stringer hopper, paint booth, and stacker help automate the system. Operators place the decking.
Other nailing at Hamilton is done either by using hand tools or on an older Bohm & Kruse nailing machine that has been remodeled and computerized. During our visit, the company was manufacturing large five-stringer pallets with doubled up outside stringers on the Bohm & Kruse.
Timpack has a Corali nailer at its Nelson plant. All plants have hand nailing using collated tools. All the nails are imported ring shank bulk and collated nails from China.
A Cape notching machine and Storti chamfering machine handle these operations at the Hamilton plant. Stenciling and bin assembly are done by hand.
Timpack manufactures about 20 to 30 thousand heavy-duty dairy pallets a year. Only five of these large loaded pallets fit into a 20 foot container for exporting.
Pallet and Bin Recycling
In New Zealand, pallet recycling is in its infancy. Pallet recycling in New Zealand and North America are two entirely different concepts. Our recycling is built around 48x40 pallets as the core. These pallets come from a wide variety of sources and are sold to an equally wide variety of customers. In New Zealand, many pallets are used for exporting; so you typically never see them again. Those used domestically may be repaired, recycled or cleaned as needed. Products coming into the country are often placed on CHEP pallets at the dock for domestic distribution.
Timpack is one of the few companies at the first New Zealand Pallet Summit that is currently involved in recycling. It has a pallet/bin refurbishment and recycling operation at each of its six sites. Timpack receives over 500,000 used pallets a year, washes 20,000, and repairs about 350,000. About 700,000 bin components are recycled each year by Timpack.
One of the things that caught my eye was the pallet washing system for cleaning large, heavy-duty dairy pallets. The need for sanitation and the tendency for milk spills to contaminate have made the dairy industry a significant target for this washing. High pressured water and antibacterial, cleaning solutions combine to sanitize pallets that need this treatment. The dairy industry, a major customer for Timpack, benefits from this sanitation process to clean permanent pallets, which are used for both domestic and export applications.
At the time of our visit, Timpack had just accepted delivery of a new heavy-duty PRS (Pallet Recycling Systems) sortation system. The new system was being stored until a new recycling/repair facility is built between the new lumber processing building and the assembly building. This is the heaviest sortation system that PRS has ever built. Jeff Williams of PRS said, “It seems like each sortation system project is unique to fit a customer’s needs.”
Rob wanted his sortation system to be very heavy because his large dairy pallets would give any system a workout. It has been physically difficult and often inefficient to sort and clean the large dairy pallets. Jeff said, “Rob sent us at least a dozen blue prints of mostly large solid deck pallets. One large milk powder pallet is a 45.7”x86.7” six stringer unit.”
The new PRS sortation system is PLC controlled and automated with one upender or tipper and four pallet stackers. Even with these very heavy pallets, the system is designed to require only three people, an inspector and up to two repairers when needed.
Pallets are indexed one at a time to the inspector who inspects them on a bi-fold table that mechanically turns each pallet. The inspector pushes any pallet that needs repairing (a fairly small percentage) down a gravity roller to the two repairers, who make the repairs and then slide each pallet back onto the live conveyor. The inspector can direct a pallet to any of the four available stackers for different grades or categories of pallets. Selection options include pallets to be washed, those to be repaired, and those that are ready to go as is.
This new system will greatly reduce the amount of physical pallet handling required in the past for these heavy-duty pallets.
Timpack has a single-head dismantler in its recycling area. Much of Timpack’s recycling focuses around maintaining pallets in the dairy pool.
Just about any phase of supplying and maintaining wooden packaging is part of Timpack’s stable of products and services. My initial reaction to Rob Wood has proven to be true. He and his company represent true professionalism in our industry to his New Zealand customer base.
Timpack’s Hamilton location is one of the most impressive pallet and container plants I have had the pleasure of visiting in my 30 years of working with the industry.