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Changes Shape Tomorrow
Letter from Ed: by Dr. Ed Brindley, Jr., Publisher - 'Changes Shape Tomorrow'
By Dr. Ed Brindley
Date Posted: 6/1/2001
I have written before on change, a theme that runs throughout our society. In just the last couple of weeks, an unusually large number of changes that impact our industry have been in the spotlight.
Nothing is more important than people, so I will first focus on three pallet friends you should know. First, look at our association. Judy Peck, who handled a variety of NWPCA duties, including membership duties, retired from the NWPCA at the end of April. I cannot think of any NWPCA employee who has been more respected and appreciated than Judy. Her energy and dedication are contagious, and she will be sorely missed. No words can adequately describe how much our industry will miss Judy. We wish her the best as she joins her husband in his convention golf tournament business.
Just a few days ago I heard that my good friend, Emil Holzwart, passed away. Unfortunately, not many pallet people knew Emil, but he was one of the most knowledgeable people about pallet manufacturing that I have ever known. If he had been younger when our publications started having an influence, there is no telling what impact he might have had on the pallet industry.
Rich Jefferson is the third person I would like to mention. Unlike the other two, who have already impacted our industry, Rich is just starting. When ‘Fossil Bill’ Kramer passed away a couple of years ago, our editor, Tim Cox, suggested that we approach Rich to write an environmental column for our TimberLine publication. ‘Fossil Bill’ had become the most popular editorial attraction in both TimberLine and the Pallet Enterprise, but we decided to try Rich just in the TimberLine. His writing has gained my respect. I am certain that our readers will appreciate his candid way of getting to the heart of the issue at hand. Welcome on board, Rich.
Two of the most important aspects of the pallet industry, lumber and pallet management, are undergoing some important benchmark events. The U.S. duty on Canadian lumber imports ended after five years on March 31. There has been a great deal of conjecture about what the U.S. and Canadian governments will do next. It is interesting that we had five years to see how poorly the last duty structure worked, but sometimes we talk as if we know nothing. Now we are hearing that it may be late in the summer before a decision is made. Everybody knows that many — if not most — people will not like whatever they decide. Regardless of what they decide, they will certainly not solve the problem unless they completely change their approach. A true analysis needs to be made, but that seems foreign to the process.
In the pallet management field, the two parent companies behind Chep are merging. It appears the new company (Brambles) will have more freedom to raise money and spend it aggressively on the Chep pallet rental system. Chep had been stymied somewhat by having two owners. A new CEO will take the Brambles helm. While it is too early to know for sure what this means to the wooden pallet industry, it is a safe bet that Chep will be more involved, not less.
IFCO (formerly PalEx) is the final issue I need to mention. Of all the pallet industry networking efforts tried during the 90s, I thought that PalEx held the promise of being the most likely to work. As I am writing this letter, it is being rumored that IFCO may have successfully sold its pallet manufacturing division as planned (over $150 million worth of business). It is also being rumored that IFCO may be interested in selling its recycling division. Why has the new IFCO leadership lost interest in pallets? For one thing the German leadership comes from the plastic RPC rental industry. For another, maybe IFCO has learned that the pallet industry does not fit the publicly held, big corporate structure. We will see.
There is no doubt that change is gripping the pallet industry. How we manage this change will shape what the industry looks like tomorrow.