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Ro-Mark Pallet Adapts in Order To Prosper, Thrive in Nevada Desert
Ro-Mark adds new GBN Explorer nailing system, increasing pallet production 40%.
By Jack Petree
Date Posted: 6/1/2003
LOVELOCK, Nevada—An old axiom in business is that the simpler something can be kept, the more likely the potential for success. Ed Macedo’s business, Ro-Mark Pallet, is an example of how carefully designing a production system to achieve efficiency and simplicity can pay off in uncommon success.
In Ro-Mark’s case, a production system designed to eliminate complexity where possible allows just 10 people to manufacture, sell, and deliver 1,000 to 1,500 new pallets per day year-round. The company uses pre-cut pallet stock and a newly installed GBN Explorer nailing machine, with hand assembly for small orders. Its production philosophy is designed to reliably provide for a smooth flow of materials throughout the manufacturing process.
On a daily basis, Ro-Mark Pallet manufactures products that range from massive, heavy-duty pallets for the mining industry to barrel pallets and box bases for specialty manufacturers, block pallets, and heat-treated pallets for customers shipping to overseas markets.
A visitor to the north-central Nevada town of Lovelock could be forgiven for wondering how a pallet manufacturing business could survive in the middle of the desert. The community has a population of only about 2,000 people, yet it is by far the largest population center within a 75 mile radius of Ro-Mark’s plant.
The location has its advantages, however, as Ed pointed out. Nevada is tremendously rich in minerals, and mines dot the region within 125 miles or so of the Ro-Mark plant. Most of the mines need heavy-duty pallets for their operations.
Lovelock is astride Interstate 80, a major freeway connecting the Nevada city of Reno and Salt Lake City, Utah. The company has convenient access to the major highway routes serving the region.
In addition, Nevada has been one of the nation’s fastest growing states in recent years. The state has been aggressively courting and encouraging manufacturers to locate or relocate to Nevada. Sparks, a next door neighbor to Reno and less than 100 miles west of Ro-Mark, has blossomed as a result. Elko, about 200 miles east on Interstate 80, also has enjoyed significant manufacturing growth in recent years.
"The manufacturers in those cities ship to markets around the world," Ed said. "They require a reliable source of first class, custom built pallets supported by excellent service. We have gone to great lengths to provide those companies with exactly that, and they’ve responded by supporting us with their business."
Ro-Mark was a much larger business, located in a different state and servicing a different customer base, when Ed joined the company some 35 years ago. Its market was manufacturing and agricultural customers around Sacramento, Calif. The company was a multi-million dollar business and employed about 45 people.
"In 1974 the plant burned to the ground," Ed recalled. "We had built a substantial presence in Nevada at the time, so we moved to Lovelock until
The business in Nevada and operations in Lovelock eventually became the dominant part of the company, and Ro-Mark discontinued its operations in Sacramento in recent years. The company found a single plant location to be more efficient for its manufacturing operations.
When Ro-Mark first began to build pallets in Lovelock, the company used an old FMC nailing machine. By the late 1980s, though, the machine had outlived its usefulness. After exploring options for nailing machines, the company shifted to a Campbell 1202.
"We were very happy with that machine because it was simple to operate, easy to work on, and reliable," said Ed. "The extraordinary service we had from Campbell has been continued with GBN Machine and Engineering . So when we decided recently we needed to look at modernizing, we looked to GBN as our first option."
Reliability in machine performance and strong support from the manufacturer are even more important to a company like Ro-Mark because of its remote location, Ed noted, and Ro-Mark has been accustomed to both from GBN. A company in the wilds of Nevada is not able to send someone across the street or on a drive across town for a replacement part. Reliability and rapid, dependable service take on a great deal of importance when considering equipment.
Ro-Mark’s manufacturing operations amount to simplicity personified. The company uses virtually all pre-cut lumber. (When Ro-Mark was based mainly in Sacramento, the company had its own resaw operations there.) An old, heavily modified trim saw is sometimes used
The shift to pre-cut at Lovelock was the result of a combination of factors, Ed explained. At the time, the economy lumber that a resaw operation depends on was declining in quality while prices were going up. In addition, Canadian and American lumber manufacturers began to provide sufficient quantities of competitively priced pre-cut stock to the marketplace.
"It really wasn’t that difficult a decision," Ed said. "We have no convenient way to dispose of large quantities of waste here. Using pre-cut allows us to get by with a smaller workforce, which is a big deal in a remote area with a small population. And we’ve been able to
Because of its remote location and other factors, Ro-Mark used to maintain an inventory of 1.5 to 1.8 million board feet of pre-cut lumber. But reliable transportation connections and good service by suppliers have allowed it to reduce its inventory to less than 1 million board feet. Material is delivered at a measured pace throughout the year with an
Because many of its customers ship to worldwide markets and need pallets that meet export-import requirements, Ro-Mark buys a considerable quantity of certified heat-treated lumber. The heat-treated material is segregated in the company’s yard to ensure that it remains disease and insect free. Since there are no forests nearby, there is little concern that treated material could become newly
Small orders of custom pallets are assembled by hand at work tables, but the vast majority of the company’s pallets are assembled on the new GBN Explorer. The old Campbell machine still performed well, but it was too out-dated to keep up with the demands of the company’s growing business. "We bought the new machine because it was completely up-to-date technologically and could enhance our production while still being similar to what we had."
A feature of the GBN Nailers that Ed especially likes is the pneumatic set-up system. "The chucks are air controlled," he noted. "That allows us to make changes very quickly. Because we do such a wide range of custom work, it is important to us that we be able to switch from one configuration to another as quickly and easily as possible. We can do that with this machine."
The GBN Explorer has enabled Ro-Mark to significantly increase production. With the same number of workers, the company can produce 40% more pallets, according to Ed. "We can do in three days what took an entire week to do before. The increased capacity means we can go after additional business without having to make dramatic change in our processes."
In recently deciding to invest in a new nailing system, Ed also was interested in pallet quality. "Today’s manufacturer wants a pallet built to the highest standards of the industry," he said. "Our old machinery was getting dated. The new technology GBN offered us allows Ro-Mark to consistently produce the best pallet on the market with everything perfectly squared and all the nails properly driven. In a very competitive industry where people are working within two or three cents of each other, that quality is critical."
Aside from the changes in pallet machinery and equipment in recent years, the most significant change in the industry is supplying certified treated pallets for manufacturers that ship to overseas markets, according to Ed. Ro-Mark has responded by purchasing heat-treated wood and manufacturing pallets that meet the requirements of countries in Europe and elsewhere.
"I think any serious manufacturer has to make heat-treated pallets available to their customers," he said. "It provides their customers with a high level of confidence, and I think it will be a near-universal requirement in the international marketplace in the not too distant future."
As a pallet manufacturing business, Ro-Mark is a modest-sized operation. As a supplier of shipping platforms for its customers, the company is at the leading edge of its industry, and that is what sets it apart. Perhaps more than anything else, Ro-Mark demonstrates that it is not necessary to be an industry giant to be at the top of your game in today’s marketplace.
Using the most modern equipment available anywhere, a manufacturing process designed to eliminate wasted time, money, and effort, flexibility in terms of products offered, and a dedication to quality and service, Ro-Mark shows everyday that a modest-sized enterprise can fully supply sophisticated manufacturing businesses with the cutting edge wood packaging they require.