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Minnesota Company Committed to Quality in Pallet Recycling
Berry Pallet Uses Viking Champions to Nail Recycled Lumber
By Jack Petree
Date Posted: 11/3/2003
The distinction is important, according to Richard, because Berry Pallet focuses on supplying quality pallets. Yet, it also can supply quality pallets made with recycled lumber. In fact, the case can be made that recycled wood offers better quality, Richard noted.
"Most of our pallets are made on Viking Champions and are constructed to the highest standards in the industry," he said. "The only real difference is I think nails hold better in recycled wood, so there's less likely to be a problem with a nail pulling loose on one of our units than there might be on one made out of new wood. Other than that, we try to put the same pallet out the door as we make with all new wood."
Berry Pallet is located in Waseca, a small town in southern
Berry Pallet evolved in the late 1980s when Richard began to dabble in repairing and selling pallets he used in association with a firewood business he operated in his spare time. He began the old-fashioned way, removing broken boards and nailing on repair stock by hand. Later he ‘graduated’ to air compressors and power nailing tools. By 1995 he was repairing enough pallets to justify quitting his job and devoting himself full-time to his pallet business.
Today Berry Pallet supplies 8-10,000 pallets per week, serving customers scattered throughout the region and north to Minneapolis-St. Paul. The company’s 27 employees manufacture a broad range of pallets – about 30 sizes -- for customers in such industries as printing, housing, automotive, medical, electronic, food, and heavy manufacturing. Most orders are for truck-load quantities. Pallets are delivered on the company's own fleet of 40-plus tractors, trailers and vans.
From the beginning, Richard has focused his company on manufacturing a recycled pallet to the standards expected of a new pallet. "We felt, and have seen, that there is a market out there for a quality pallet manufactured from recycled lumber," he said. "So we go to great lengths to make that kind of superior pallet here."
Used pallets that are repaired and resold make up only a small volume of the company’s business. "We don't go to great lengths to repair marginal pallets,” said Richard. “Even after the pallets are sorted, if the employee at the repair table thinks it will be more work than it's worth or if a really good pallet can't be made from it, it will be pulled and put through the disassembly system." The company uses ‘plug’ stringers in its repair operations. It also may upgrade a used pallet that has a ‘plug’ by removing it and replacing it with a regular stringer.
Berry Pallet also supplies a large volume of pallets made entirely from recycled wood. Generally, the operative factor in deciding whether to build mostly wholly recycled pallets or ‘combo’ pallets is the supply of recycled lumber, Richard observed. "Sometimes we can get enough wood to recycle and sometimes we can't."
The company also manufactures some pallets made of all new lumber. However, over time most customers that think they need a new pallet learn the benefits of ‘combo’ pallets.
Richard is a big believer in putting technology to work in his plant. Whenever possible he prefers to put “as few fingerprints as possible" on a pallet before it goes out the door. As a result, the Berry Pallet plant features a good deal more automation than some pallet recycling plants. However, it is equipment that has proven it will enhance the company’s operations. Richard’s machinery investment decisions are based on how the equipment will help the company improve pallet quality and production and reduce costs.
Berry Pallet is located on a 160-acre farm. The company has six buildings with a total of about 25,000 square feet under roof. Each building houses a particular facet of the company’s operations.
Incoming pallets are sorted into two categories: those that can be repaired readily and those that will be disassembled. Pallets to be repaired are sent to another building. In the repair shop, a Minick Any Board Remover is used to prep lead boards and broken interior deck boards while a Heartland bandsaw dismantler is used for removing defective stringers. A dead-roll conveyor moves the pallet onto a repair station equipped with Pallet Repair Systems (PRS) plating tables. After the pallet is rebuilt, it is moved to Pallet Repair Systems stackers and then to storage prior to delivery.
Pallets not suitable for repair are disassembled using a Pallet Repair Systems bandsaw dismantler and Heartland bandsaw dismantler. Recovered boards are fed to a round table for sorting and then, if necessary, trimmed on one of two
The company’s pallet recycling operations use a Pallet Repair Systems stringer sizer to ensure consistent quality in stringer height.. The sizer is equipped with Profile Technology Nailbuster™ tooling. Profile Technology named the tooling the Nailbuster because it is strong enough and durable enough to cut material containing nails, so there is no need for an added step of compressing nail stubble. The Nailbuster removes any nail stubble and resurfaces the wood in the same process.
Berry Pallet builds recycled pallets to the same standards as new pallets, so all reclaimed stringers are put through the PRS stringer sizer to make them conform to the proper height. It ensures that every recycled stringer is the same height and contributes to pallet quality. It also speeds the assembly process because workers do not have to search through containers or piles of recycled stringers to find one the right size.
Berry Pallet also is equipped with a cut-up line to make new pallet components. The company uses resaw equipment to process hardwood and softwood cants, SPF dimensional lumber, and kiln dried aspen into deck boards and stingers. A Baker Products Model A bandsaw is used to resaw lumber and a Baker two-head ‘Baby’ Bang Saw is used for resawing cants. A Newman KM-16 multi-trim saw cuts material to length. Stringers are notched with Baker and Hazledine notching machines.
Berry Pallet uses automated pallet assembly equipment – Viking Champion machines – for nailing pallets made of recycled deck boards and stringers.
The company is equipped with three Viking Champion machines. Richard bought the first one in 1995, the year he began working full-time in his business. He invested in a second Champion in 1998 as volume grew and added a third in 2002 to accommodate even more growth. The Viking Champion machines have proven themselves when it comes to automatically assembling pallets made of recycled lumber.
Not only are the Viking machines very capable of assembling pallets with recycled lumber, but the move to bulk nails produced considerable savings for the company, according to Richard. "We can use bulk nails rather than the collated nails hand nailers require," he noted. "That saves a lot of money on nails alone."
Other benefits of the Viking automated nailing equipment include increased production, reduced labor costs, and less fatigue for workers.
There are some subtle differences between building a pallet on the Viking Champions with recycled lumber instead of new lumber, Richard noted. The most important difference is that the operators have to be more alert in positioning the lumber into the machine. Because recycled deck boards sometimes still contains nails, the operators have to make sure the lumber is placed into the bed of the machine with nail heads down and shanks up. This significantly reduces the chance that a new nail will strike an old one and bend when driven.
Asked why he has turned to Viking each time he has decided to invest in automated nailing equipment, Richard replied, “Once you've used a Viking, you don't want to go to anything else."
Viking Engineering "...has been really good to me,” Richard added. “They've bent over backwards to make sure I have all the information and support I need to keep everything operating the way it’s supposed to, and their service department has been just great."
Richard has been an innovator when it comes to using wood waste material and heating the company’s plant in the long, cold
Pallets manufactured from recycled wood used to be viewed as a ‘second class’ and only suitable for applications where a ‘good’ pallet was not required. In recent years, however, because of the approach taken by progressive pallet suppliers like Berry Pallet, recycled pallets have come to represent a cost effective, efficient, and environmentally friendly option to companies that are concerned about maintaining pallet quality while remaining competitive.