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CJ Pallets & Recycling, LLC Expands Production with New Baker Lumber Cutup System
CJ Pallets & Recycling, LLC and the Crowe family are growing their family run pallet business to meet expanding customer demands. CJ Pallets turned to Baker Products for its new lumber cutup horizontal thin-kerf resaw line.
By Ed Brindley
Date Posted: 5/1/2012
LaGrange, Georgia—CJ Pallets & Recycling LLC in Georgia is a good example of an entrepreneurial, family-run pallet company that is growing to meet the expanding needs of its customer base.
Like so many other pallet companies, CJ Pallets was born to satisfy a specific need. Bobby Crowe, founder and president of CJ Pallets, worked in materials handling at the Atlanta area Ford Motor Company plant. Crowe saw a need and set out to satisfy it. He noticed that the trash bins filled up fast with pallets; so he started a pallet recycling operation under his car port. Crowe retired from Ford 14 years ago and moved full time into his pallet company. CJ Pallets has expanded to a customer base of about 35 today, most located within an hour to an hour and a half of LaGrange. The Atlanta Ford plant has now closed, but the Crowe family continues to pump their energy into an expanding business.
Business fell off during this recession but has now recovered back to about 5000 pallets a week. Crowe expects business levels to hit pre-recession levels later this year. CJ Pallets grew from recycling to its current business of about 50% recycled or rebuilt pallets and 50% new. Its pallet pickup service uses two trucks and ten drop trailers. Counting the driver, CJ Pallets has rebounded back to eleven employees; it is not back to the pre-recession level of 18 employees but has just about regained its production through increased efficiency. Crowe said, “We are building up to previous production levels but with fewer people working more efficiently.”
Crowe’s family is heavily involved in the business. His wife, JoAnne, and younger daughter Jennifer Self, who lives in Hannibal, Missouri, handle the bookkeeping and trucking records, as well as office management responsibilities. One son Jason runs the plant, and another son Mark, who supervises an aluminum foil warehouse, does plant maintenance in the evenings. Crowe and his wife Joanne have three sons and two daughters, ten grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. The third generation is starting to make a contribution. Two grandsons worked at the plant during spring break; one is graduating from high school this year. Crowe said, “The Lord has taken care of me and my family through the years. I am blessed to have enjoyed 72 years with my family. The Ford Motor Company, my former employer, put us in business; it has been a blessing. The Lord has taken care of us through the years. We are dedicated to giving the best service to our customers. CJ Pallets recycles and manufactures pallets which are good for the environment.
CJ Pallets Turns to Baker Products for Expanding Lumber Production
While visiting his daughter in Missouri, Crowe decided to move ahead with a new cutup line of machinery. Crowe had liked his 1992 five-head Baker resaw, so he decided to take advantage of his trip and visit Baker in Ellington. He liked what he saw operating at Baker’s own pallet plant and ordered a complete four-head resaw cutup line. Crowe decided to shut down the logging operation and emphasize its lumber processing. Late this February, Baker installed CJ Pallets’ new lumber resawing system. Crowe said, “Our new cutup operation is running well. We are happy with it but never really doubted it would do for us what we wanted.”
Crowe said, “Our new Baker line cuts fine on both hardwoods and softwoods.” The new system requires three to four people to run. It starts with a Baker three-strand automated unscrambler. The lumber and cants then move through a single-head circle saw multi-select cut-off system to cut material to the desired lengths. The new system includes a Baker heavy-duty in-feed trough conveyor, a Baker 8’ pan style incline waste conveyor, and a Baker two-yard self-dumping hopper.
Resawing is done on a new Baker four-head “C” model band resaw with 20 hp motors and a return conveyor. Baker accepted CJ Pallets’ 1992 “C” model five-head resaw on trade. After resawing to the desired thicknesses, finished lumber travels through the new Baker M41 deduster with a hopper feed and variable speed drive.
Other new materials handling equipment includes a Baker 15’ flat-top tailing conveyor with a backstop and a Baker three-strand 12’ lateral transfer conveyor. A Baker four-bay stacking rack brings up the end of this new system. One or two people stack lumber on the tail end.
The Crowes are expanding their physical plant as well. They are definitely interested in expanding their physical plant. Recently they bought a used 108x60 building and are in the process of moving it to LaGrange.
Manufacturing and Recycling Pallets and Boxes
CJ Pallets started in recycling but has expanded into both new and recycled pallets, as well as wooden crates. They custom cut both Southern Yellow pine and hardwood lumber on their new Baker resaw line. Hardwood is more dominant. As Crowe said, “We can buy more hardwood than pine for your money.” New pallets and remanufactured pallets using recycled lumber make up the bulk of CJ Pallets’ business. Plywood crates for exporting, particularly to China, are custom built to customer specifications.
Heat treating is one of the customer services that CJ Pallets offers. In addition to plywood boxes, CJ Pallets builds heat treated pallets for export. The company also heat treats for others. CJ Pallets bought a Kiln-Direct propane heat treating chamber some seven to eight years ago. It is very pleased with this unit. Timber Products Inspection handles the heat treating certification for CJ Pallets.
CJ Pallets nails all of its pallets and crates, both new and used, with Bostitch pneumatic tools. Fastening Solutions supplies the collated fasteners. CJ Pallets builds about 80% of its new pallets on its GAP nailing system. It requires two operators to run the GAP nailing system, which runs about two-thirds of the week. It bought the GAP nailer some seven to eight years ago; the Crowes are happy with it. They use one nailing table and have a second one ready to setup when needed.
CJ Pallets recycles or repairs common pallet sizes when feasible. It cuts down odd pallet sizes and makes remanufactured pallets from the retrieved lumber. It has not been as active in 48x40 GMA grocery pallets as are many recyclers. One of the things Crowe wants to do in his new building is expand this part of the business.
CJ Pallets uses its MSI dismantler to take apart pallets and develop its used lumber supply. It cuts back used lumber on its Smart trimsaw. Both of these recycling machines have run exceptionally well according to the Crowes.
The Crowes try to keep their machinery up to date. Other than a little bit of wear on wear parts, they indicate they have really not had many maintenance issues.
CJ Pallets went through a period a few years ago where #2 pallets sold at ridiculous levels, which was fairly common for the Atlanta area market. They avoided becoming involved in this practice, one which they are happy to say seems to have changed.