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Innovation Gets Oregon Pallet Recycler Off to a Fast Start
Oregon Pallet Co. has enjoyed extraordinary success for a young business; new West Salem Machinery Brute Portable Wood Recycler was developed especially for companies like Oregon Pallet.
By Jack Petree
Date Posted: 6/1/2001
Oregon Pallet Co. has enjoyed extraordi-nary success for a young business. Begin-ning with just one account three years ago, the family-owned pallet repair and recycling company did more than $2 million worth of business in just its second year of operation. This year, its third, the company expects annual revenues of $3 million and projects $4-5 million next year.
The company is owned by Tim Garrison, his sister, Carly, and Carly’s husband, Bryce Taylor. It has managed to grow so rapidly, according to Tim, because it has been innovative in the marketplace in terms of both products and service.
A significant part of the company’s revenue stream comes not from pallets but from processing waste wood into value-added products. Like other pallet recyclers, the company generates waste in the form of scrap pallets and scrap material. It combines this material with construction debris and other clean wood fiber. The wood is processed in a West Salem Machinery (WSM) portable grinder designed especially for the rigors of handling material like that from a pallet repair facility. The addition of the mobile West Salem equipment has made Oregon Pallet more competitive in the pallet end of the businesses while adding revenue from grinding services to the building industry and sales of processed wood fiber products.
Tim’s father had a successful pallet business but sold it when he decided to retire. Tim, who had been in the pallet business doing off-site accounts for more than 16 years, decided together with Carly and Bryce to start their own company. They established yards in both Salem and Portland and began offering services to manufacturers, distribution facilities, and other major pallet users.
Growth has been rapid. What sets Oregon Pallet apart in the marketplace, Tim said, is the company’s operating philosophy and the increasing focus on post-manufacture recycling.
A strong service orientation has been critical to the company’s success with pallet customers, according to Tim. Every customer is different, he noted, so each customer requires a different kind of service. "We work with the customer to determine what we can do to help them make their operation more efficient," he said. "Instead of telling them, ‘This is what we do,’ we listen to them, work with them, and find ways to make our operation fit their needs. That’s been important in growing our business."
The wood fiber recycling portion of the business has risen in importance. "Lumber recycling and grinding have become a focal part of our business right now," said Tim "We have found that to be a much needed service as well as one that we feel is socially responsible. We’ve really concentrated on grinding, and it is proving to be very successful for us."
Oregon Pallet’s repair facilities are very similar to other pallet repair operations. The company obtains damaged pallets, both repairable and non-repairable, from a variety of sources. They are sorted and then repaired or dismantled to recover lumber and then resold or returned to the customer.
The company’s recycling yards are equipped with several Smetco band saw dismantlers and an Industrial Resources Pass One disc-type dismantler for recovering usable lumber. Deckboards and stringers are cut to size on Pallet Repair Systems trim saws.
Oregon Pallet recycles about 6,000 pallets per day. Customers include distribution facilities, manufacturers, shippers and other traditional pallet users. Oregon Pallet provides both contract repair services and damaged pallet removal and replacement.
Oregon Pallet’s post-manufacture recycling operation is decidedly different from most. First off, the company was faced with dealing with its own volume of scrap pallets and material. In addition, distribution centers, manufacturing facilities, and other commercial enterprises accumulate large volumes of waste wood, cardboard, and plastic; Oregon Pallet has been willing to work with these customers to find ways to dispose of these unwanted materials. The challenge of handling waste material led to serious consideration about what could be done to generate profits from disposal rather than losses.
The trio of owners realized early that the waste produced as a byproduct of pallet recycling was not really waste at all. It was a raw material looking for a market, said Tim. Early in its business life, Oregon Pallet began to grind its waste and sell the resulting product. That initial effort led to expansion of the "waste" end of the business.
Oregon Pallet picks up and disposes of both repairable and non-repairable pallets. It provides drop boxes for recovering other wood waste at manufacturing, distribution, and industrial facilities. The company also provides drop boxes to building contractors as well as other businesses that generate large quantities of wood waste. Oregon Pallet takes delivery of clean wood waste from anyone who wants to dispose of the material in an environmentally sensitive manner.
Oregon Pallet chose West Salem’s "Brute" Portable Wood Recycler because it wanted the close control of chip size and quality associated with a stationary grinder and also required mobility to service its two locations and on-site customers. Chip quality is important, noted Tim, because it has a big impact on price. Oregon Pallet’s two recycling yards are about 50 miles apart, and servicing both required portable equipment. In addition, there was a need for a grinding service that could go to customers. "People are willing to pay us to go out to a site and grind for them," said Tim. "West Salem built us a machine that was both portable and heavy duty enough to do the job we had to get done."
The WSM Brute Portable Wood Recycler has provided a solution for dealing with Oregon Pallet’s own waste. More importantly, it has allowed the company to develop a service and products that have added significantly to revenues and allowed Oregon Pallet to quickly grow its wood recycling operation into a profit center.
The grinding operation "is absolutely profitable," said Tim, and has an unlimited future. It is becoming a focal part of the business. In fact, it is growing so rapidly that Oregon Pallet is considering adding a second grinder in the near future. "We have so much work available right now just on site that we have no flexibility," said Tim. "People are willing to pay us to come out and grind their good, clean wood waste, so we need to expand."
In addition to adding to the company’s profits, the grinding service helps conserve natural resources, Tim noted. "The grinding fits into the needs of our pallet operation perfectly. But beyond that, it provides a valuable service to the community. The wood waste we recycle is converted into building materials like press board, particle board, and oriented strand board that are then reused in construction. That means we can make a profit and still be responsible because the wood we save from the landfill or burn pile becomes a needed product that can be produced without cutting down more trees."
In using their WSM Brute Portable Wood Recycler to add value to what would otherwise be an ordinary commodity, Oregon Pallet is on the leading edge of a movement taking place throughout the forest products industry. Adding value to products and services is important in today’s industry. The highest and best use of wood fiber enhances profitability and conserves natural resources. As Oregon Pallet and West Salem Machinery have shown, everyone benefits — the business, its customer, and the environment.