Indiana Company Blends BusinessSmarts, Sophistication, TechnologyTrace Equipment Supplies Four Machines to Boost Used Lumber RecoveryBy April TerreriContributing AuthorELKHART, INDIANA – Anyone tour-ing Universal Pallet Supply for the firsttime quickly would realize it is a unique,highly evolved company. It is poweredby innovation and some of the most ad-vanced technologies found in many in-dustries utilizing lean manufacturingand continuous improvement initiatives. The ISO-9001-2000-certified com-pany operates three separate businessunits engaged in manufacturing newpallets, recycling pallets, and pallet andcontainer management. The company began operating as Uni-versal Pallet Supply in January 2008 af-ter a minority-owned private investmentgroup purchased the assets of GlobalGroup Inc. and restructured the busi-ness. “Global Group, founded in 1999, was Universal Pallet has one man running each of the four Run-A-Gade bandsawa pallet company that was doing well, dismantling machines, which are set up in tandem and supplied by Trace Equipment.but they were at a point where they managers. and container management. All the fa-needed a new management team,” said “Pallet Track handles data collection cilities are tied into a virtual private net-Win Linder, 47, chief development of- on the floor, sending the data to work (VPN), and a voice over Internetficer for Universal Pallet Supply. PalMate, which is our Enterprise Re- protocol (VOIP) is used to communicate In its first year, Universal Pallet Sup- source Planning (ERP) system,” ex- between plants.ply achieved significant growth despite plained Jim Honey, director of informa- Universal Pallet Supply employsthe sluggish economy. “We focused on tion systems. The PalMate program is about 180 people. Full-time employeesrunning with the base that Global Group used to perform purchase orders, sched- are eligible for medical, dental and dis-had established and expanding upon that uling and shipping functions, added Jim, ability insurance and a 401(k) retirementhere in the Midwest,” said Charles Raiff, who has a bachelor’s degree in informa- plan. The staff includes five full-time28, project manager. “We can focus a lot tion management systems and holds six sales representatives and several part-better now after splitting the company certifications as a Microsoft Certified time sales personnel.into separate divisions.” Professional. Universal Pallet Supply operates a “We are still in the implementation fleet of 10 semi-trailer trucks, two 28-Sophisticated Pallet stage,” added Rick Willis, general man- foot-long straight trucks, 150 van trail-Recycling Operations ager of the new pallets division. “Our ers and several flatbed trailers, and it Technology is a big part of Universal goal is to be paperless out on the floor. employs 10 full-time drivers.Pallet Supply’s success. The company We have a series of (Innovative Datauses Innovative Data Systems’ Pallet Systems) kiosks throughout the floor High-Volume Pallet DismantlingTrack® in both the recycled pallets and that help us track inputs, outputs, costs, Universal Pallet Supply serves a widecontainer management divisions. Auto- labor, and yields. We track every point range of manufacturing industries, in-mated Machine Systems’ PalMate™is along the production process, which cluding automotive, construction, andused in the pallet manufacturing divi- helps us be more efficient.” Rick has a groceries, within a radius of about 250sion. Both software programs integrate bachelor’s degree in management and miles. It supplies pallets to Fortune 500to provide real-time information for bet- marketing. customers that require four to 11 trailer-ter data collection, which leads to more The company operates three plants for loads per week and other customers thatinformed, better decision-making by new pallet production, pallet recycling buy as few as 100 pallets a month.10 PALLET ENTERPRISE Request Advertiser Info at: www.palletenterprise.com/zip.asp
New pallets account for about 60% ofthe company’s revenues, followed by re-cycled pallets at 25% and containermanagement, 15%. “Our plant is set up for handlinglarge-volume runs, but we also operateindividual lines that can handle customunits up to any size,” said Charles, whois also responsible for the company’sproduct quality and safety programs.Recycled Pallets Division One of the unusual aspects of thecompany’s pallet recycling operations isthat it runs four Run-A-Gade bandsawsdismantling machines, which were sup-plied by Trace Equipment, set up in tan-dem for improved efficiency. “We put a lot of thought into this sys-tem,” said Win. “We looked at a lot ofother manufacturers before we decidedthat Run-A-Gade machines were thebest out there for our application. Mona Viking Turbo 505 at Universal Pallet Supply, Inc.Tracy (of Trace Equipment) visited us (Also pictured, Linc Systems Fox Jet Pro pallet digital printer – center)several times and showed us a lot of businesses that are operating two Run- them in tandem on one line or run twodifferent applications, and she helped us A-Gade machines in tandem, according saws in tandem with each other and rundesign some of the work flow and come to Win, but none is running four. “We two separate lines.”up with this configuration.” knew we wanted to run four saws,” he The company wanted to maximize There are some other pallet recycling said. “The only way to do that was to run production of recycled lumber and do it
in as compact a space as possible, so inches. “The conveyor levers and the larly impressed by the rugged construc-they decided this innovative configura- pneumatic blade tensioner are right in tion and durability of the Run-A-Gadetion made the most sense. “Mona was front and are easily accessible, so the machines.very excited when we told her we wanted machine is very ergonomically designed Working with Mona and her businessto give this idea a try,” Win said. and operator friendly,” Win added. was a successful experience for Univer- The Run-A-Gade machines were at- sal Pallet Supply, and the company planstractive to Universal Pallet Supply for Trace Equipment to seek out her assistance and advice as itseveral reasons. “They use a heavier Mona was very helpful in explaining continues to grow. “She has been in thisgauge sheet metal as well as a heavier the pros and cons of various equipment industry for a number of years, and she isduty 15 horsepower, three-phase motor he was researching, according to Win, extremely knowledgeable about the ma-for more power,” explained Win. “The whether or not she represented the manu- chinery,” noted Win. “She is also verylarger, 25-foot-4-inch blade cuts better facturer. “She set up meetings for me at choosy about which machines she willfor us and lasts longer than the standard some of her other customers so I could sell.”blades we use.” The machine runs the see this equipment in action. From the In the company’s pallet recycling op-blade at a speed of 4,500 feet per minute moment I saw how they operated, I knew erations, there are four docks to receiveand can dismantle pallets up to 60 this was the way to go.” He was particu- inbound pallets. At a staging area, pallets go through an initial sort, and they are designated either for grinding or recy- cling operations. Pallets to be recycled are loaded onto a 250-foot oval conveyor system. “We developed this design in conjunc- tion with AMS,” explained Win. The cir- cular conveyor system enables the com- pany to sort pallets quickly while mini- mizing labor. Eight people work in this area, including the forklift operator. Workers are on both sides of the con- veyor, sorting out the 30-60 sizes the company stocks. The pallets are pulled off the conveyor, sorted by size and grade, and stacked by hand. Ready-to-go pallets are put into inventory and the other pallets are moved to pallet repair or lumber recovery operations. The pallet tear-down area is about 20 feet away. As the pallets are dismantled on the Run-A-Gade machines, the deck boards fall down a chute onto a 24-inch wide conveyor belt. “The standard on that system is an 18- inch-wide belt, but we had it widened because we knew we would be running four saws down the same system,” said Win. “Trace Equipment had these cus- tom built for us.” Since the machines are in tandem, the chutes dropping the used lumber onto the conveyor are staggered so all the boards are not dumped onto the conveyor at one place. The used deck boards are conveyed to a 12-foot rotating round table. Workers sort through the lumber and place the material into two Pallet Repair Systems trim saws to be cut to length; the trim saws are designed to cut four or five dif- ferent lengths. The finished material is removed from the outfeed, stacked, banded and put into inventory.
about 4,000 pallets daily. The company receives 60-70 trailer- loads of scrap per week. Wood that can- not be used for pallets is processed into mulch with a Vermeer grinder; mulch production is about 10 trailer-loads per week. New Pallets Division The plant housing the pallet manufac- turing operations is about 127,000 square feet. This division produces about 20,000 pallets per day. The company buys hardwood cants in a variety of sizes as well as rough lum- ber, such as kiln-dried Southern yellow pine. Cants range from 2-½ inches to 5- ½ inches and up to 16 feet long. Brewer Cut-Up Lines, Four Viking Nailers Innovative Data Systems Computer Kiosk running Pallet Track® are located at the Universal Pallet Supply operates a end of a Viking Turbo 505. This computer station is used for floor data colection, cut-up area with three lines of equip- and the information is sent and processed with AMS PalMate ERP system. ment; each cut-up line consists of aPallet Repair Line end of the line is a worker and five AMS Brewer Inc.-Golden Eagle multi-trim The Run-A-Gade operators toss the high-speed automatic stackers; he per- saw, gang saw and bandsaw.stringers onto a different conveyor on forms a quality inspection of each pallet “We use our PalMate software to helpthe other side of the machine; this con- and pushes it to the infeed of the appro- us determine what size deck boards orveyor moves in the opposite direction priate stacker. stringers to get out of each cant,” saidand carries the used stringers to another On this repair line, each worker pro- Rick. “This helps us minimize wastearea to be recycled. duces about 300 to 400 pallets per shift. material. If we are working with an 84- Universal Pallet Supply has one man The bar codes, scanner and information inch cant, the trim saw might cut thatrunning each Run-A-Gade. “Each of our system capture production data. “We into a 44-inch section and a 40-inchfour operators can tear down 300 to 450 can document the grades and the number piece to best utilize the material for run-pallets during a shift,” reported Win. of pallets repaired during any given ners.” Pallets to be repaired are brought in day,” said Win. The cants, now cut to the correctstacks to work stations located on both The pallet recycling division operates length, travel via live rollers to the gangsides of a 140-foot conveyor. About in a 70,000-square-foot building. “In the saw to be resawn into deck boards orseven to 10 people work at these sta- course of about 12 months, our recy- stringers. The finished lumber feeds outtions, repairing pallets. As they com- cling has doubled,” Win reported. “This to a conveyor, and workers along theplete a pallet, they tag it with a bar code significant growth was the result of our conveyor sort the material, pulling andand place it onto the conveyor. As the focusing on a segment of the business stacking new deck boards and stringers.pallets move down the line, the bar that Global Group had been ignoring for Any deck boards or stringers that arecodes are scanned automatically. At the quite some time.” The company recycles culled are placed on a belt and sent to the14 PALLET ENTERPRISE Request Advertiser Info at: www.palletenterprise.com/zip.asp
Container Management Division ply has its own employees working at the In order to keep growing, the company Container management operations are customer’s facilities to manage pallets. hired several sales representatives who livehoused in a 30,000-square-foot building. The company also uses a high-tech ap- some distance away and work off-site.The focus of the division is providing proach to tracking pallet inventories for The company likely will acquire otherreverse logistics services and a closed some customers. “We have also started businesses as it continues to grow, accord-loop program for customers who pur- using Internet-based technology with ing to Win. How soon? “The market willchase heavy-duty pallets. “This is a spe- cameras at some of our customers’ facili- give us that answer,” Win said. The com-cial program for customers who want to ties so we can log on at any time to check pany expects to make its first acquisitionuse pallets multiple times,” Charles ex- inventory levels,” Charles explained. perhaps as early as the spring of 2009 andplained. “Many times people buy pallets A special component of the maybe another by the end of 2009.based on cost, but they don’t consider PalletTrack software also helps the com- “We plan to grow through acquisitionreusing them to keep their costs down.” pany keep track of inventories. if we can find the right companies to work For these customers, Universal Pallet with,” said Win. “If we can’t accomplishSupply retrieves the pallets from compa- Progress, Vision for Future Growth this through acquisition, we will purchasenies that receive them under load. “We The management team at Universal property, buy the equipment, and developpick up the pallets from our customers’ Pallet Supply is proud of its ISO-9001- the customer base. This is not new to usend-users and bring them here,” said 2000 certification. “We are one of the because we have a lot of collective experi-Charles. Universal Pallet Supply person- few pallet manufacturers nationwide and ence in our group of leaders.”nel inspect the used pallets. “If a pallet is in our region with this certification, “We have been on a very aggressivestill in good condition, we place it back which is pretty much unheard of in this growth pattern but the financial marketinto the loop,” said Charles. “If it needs industry,” said Charles. and economy have changed,” Win ac-repairs, we repair it,” and the pallet is “What this means for our customers is knowledged, “so we are taking care ofput back into service. “It is a very green that we work within a quality manage- what we have now until the economyand efficient system.” ment system,” he said. “We looked at the recovers. We have a number of key Representatives of Universal Pallet standards set forth by the National agreements in place, and when it makesSupply visit customer locations regularly Wooden Pallet & Container Association, sense, we will move forward.”to track their inventory of pallets. For and we went above and beyond those For more information, contact Win at Uni-some customers that are located a dis- standards in setting up our own internal versal Pallet Supply, (574) 293-1949 or e-tance from Elkhart, Universal Pallet Sup- quality standards manual.” mail firstname.lastname@example.org. PE16 PALLET ENTERPRISE Request Advertiser Info at: www.palletenterprise.com/zip.asp