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Celina Pallet Turns to Pallet Chief Again for More Nailing Capacity: Texas Pallet Manufacturer Adds Third Machine from Pallet Chief
When Michael Ross decided he needed a new pallet nailing machine, he knew he wanted something that would be efficient, productive, and easy: a Pallet Chief.
By Carolee Anita Boyles
Date Posted: 12/1/2005
DALLAS — Michael Ross is a man who knows what he wants. When the owner
It didn’t take him long to decide that he wanted a Pallet Chief Manufacturing automated nailing machine. It wasn’t a hard decision since Michael had purchased two other Pallet Chief machines in the past and had been happy with both of them.
"Celina Pallet bought their first piece of our equipment back in 1993," said Burl Landers, general manager of Pallet Chief, located in Sylacauga, Alabama. "Michael bought the second one in 1994, and the most recent one in 2005."
Celina Pallet was originally started by Woodrow Wilson Kindle in the mid-1970s as an added business to his existing lumberyard. In the late 1970s, Woodrow sold the lumberyard and moved the pallet business to a new
"I was working in construction, and I had a friend who knew Woodrow and said he needed some help," Michael said. "I came down and interviewed with him, and I’ve been here ever since." Michael eventually bought an interest in the company, and he bought the company outright when Woodrow retired 10 years ago.
Woodrow and Michael bought their first Pallet Chief machine shortly after the company first started selling them. They chose their first Pallet Chief nailer because it was efficient, productive, and easy to maintain.
"It seemed like it would be easy to work on," said Michael. "An average Joe can get in there and run it. At the time we didn’t know what kind of personnel we might have in the future, and we wanted a machine that would be flexible and easy to use."
Flexibility and ease of use are part of Pallet Chief’s purpose in design. The company also manufactures machines with pallet production in mind.
"We fit into a special niche in the market because of those aspects of our equipment," Burl said. "The simplicity of our equipment is useful in the pallet industry because there’s a lot of dust and low-end labor. Our equipment has no computer components, and we have no hydraulics on our equipment. It’s all compressed air and 110 volts, and it can be modified to handle 220 volts."
Pallet Chief machines are equipped with pneumatic nailing tools and use collated nails. They are simple to operate, with only minimal training required, and simple to maintain.
As things have turned out, Celina Pallet does have some multi-cultural employees who speak little English, and having machinery that is easy to use has been a considerable advantage.
"We have 12 employees, counting myself, but the only ones using the machines are the ones who have been trained on them," Michael said. "I have several really good Hispanic employees who work on the older machines, and once they understand them, they don’t have any problem at all with them. I have a couple Hispanic employees who also speak good English, and I have them explain things to the ones who don’t speak English, but it’s kind of hard to have them drop everything and run and explain something all the time. But the way the older machines are set up, language isn’t a barrier to using them; they’re pretty self-explanatory."
Price was also a factor in Michael’s decision about nailing equipment. "Our equipment has a lower upfront cost than other equipment," Burl noted. The most expensive machine from Pallet Chief costs about $70,000, he indicated, well below other manufacturers.
Michael also has been pleased with the service and support that Celina Pallet has received from Pallet Chief.
"Burl and the other guys at Pallet Chief have been really easy to work with," he said. "Any time I’ve had any kind of problem, they’ve been more than willing to help me work through it. They’re a lot like us because they’re very customer oriented, and we’re the same way. That’s a big plus for us."
Flexibility also is important, because Celina Pallet makes a number of different pallet sizes and styles during the course of a work week.
"We may do a run of 100 of one size, and then change over and do another short run of a 100 of another size," Michael said. "We change so many times that we really need a machine that will allow us a lot of flexibility."
Over the years, although the philosophy at Pallet Chief has remained the same, some of the features of the company’s nailing machines have changed.
"The first Pallet Chief machine that Michael bought was our earliest machine, which was the Pallet Chief 1," Burl said. "It was a manual triggered machine. That is, the nail gun on the machine was fired manually. When Michael bought it, it was the only machine we had to offer."
Although that model was well received and was successful, the company kept looking for ways to improve it.
"We’ve advanced through the years with upgraded models," Burl said. "One of the ways we’ve done that is by learning from our customers. We’ve listened to them and made upgrades based on what they want and what they need."
The first improvement Pallet Chief made was to modify the Pallet Chief 1
The next model the company developed was the Pallet Chief 3. Last year Michael looked at the Pallet Chief 3 and considered buying one, but he had a couple of concerns about how the machine would work for him. When he mentioned those concerns to Burl, the result was that Pallet Chief made some modifications to the Pallet Chief 3.
"The change that Michael wanted on the machine was to the top board holder," Burl said. "So we added one
Specifically, Michael was concerned that deck boards would bounce over the top of the board spacers, which was a problem that some other pallet manufacturers were experiencing with the early version of the Pallet Chief 3.
"We came up with a way to do that that used very simple air logic or pneumatic components," Burl said. "The changes we made fit into the simplicity of the machines that we already have. Our goal is to make our machinery more efficient and more productive without losing its simplicity. When you combine that simplicity with the dependability that we have, you also come up with low maintenance costs."
Shortly after Michael purchased his Pallet Chief 3, the company added another feature to it.
"That feature is called an anti-jamming switch," Burl said. "It keeps the pallet from being ejected from the machine until the board spacers are out of the way. We were able to send Michael what he needed to retrofit his machine, so it has that new feature."
The most recent improvements to the Pallet Chief 3 are a lead board flusher and a floating gantry.
"The lead board flusher holds the lead board on the pallet flush with the end of the stringer to accommodate varying widths of deck boards," Burl said. "The floating gantry accommodates varying board thicknesses, as the gantry floats over the deck boards to compensate for those different thicknesses."
"We’re always looking for improvements to make so we can better suit the needs of our customers," Burl said. "Our ears are always open to hear what our customers have to say, because who better is there to tell us what will work on our machines than the people who use them day in and day out?" Pallet Chief has tentative plans for a new model.
Celina Pallet manufactures strictly new pallets. The company does not use any recycled lumber and has no pallet recycling operations.
"We use predominantly Southern yellow pine that we buy from brokers," Michael said. "We tried buying straight from mills, but it was too big a hassle with having to set up trucks. So we decided to go through lumber brokers so we didn’t have that headache, and so we don’t have to put on extra personnel and maintain the trucks." For remanufacturing lumber into pallet components, the company is equipped with a Brewer Inc.-Golden Eagle horizontal bandsaw and a few pop-up saws and radial arm saws.
Celina Pallet supplies pallets for manufacturing customers in a number of different industries. "We do a lot of specialty pallets for the automotive industry," Michael said. "We do a lot for the plastics industry, and we do some larger pallets for the siding industry."
The sizes and types of pallets that the company manufactures are just as diverse. "For example," he added, "the ones we do for the automotive industry have a little saddle on them where they put product, like an engine stand. The ones for the plastic industry are more of a standard pallet, but they have 1-inch deck boards and are real heavy."
"We may run 200 to 300 on one day, and 500 on another day, because they’re all different," he said. "Most of the sizes we do, we don’t run more than a couple 100 before we change over and do something different."
Although Michael tries to buy well in order to minimize waste, the company still does generate a small amount of waste wood material. In the past, Michael has had the waste wood hauled off as trash, but he is in the process of developing a way to recycle the scrap wood – a grinding contractor.
"We’re working on a deal…to carry our wood down there and have him grind it," said Michael. "We look at that as a savings on our trash, and at the same time it’s giving him a product."
The thing that Celina Pallet does best is provide strong service and support to customers, said Michael.
"When a customer calls us and needs something, our number one priority is to make sure he’s content," he said. "If he wants us there first thing in the morning because he needs something taken care of, we’re there."
"There’s a lot of competition out there," Michael added. "You’ve got to have an edge. If you don’t provide your customers with good service, they’ll go somewhere else, because there’s not a big difference in pricing in pallets
The biggest challenge the company faces in the next few years, Michael said, will be the continuing increase in the cost of materials.
"Alternative materials were kind of a factor for a while, and they’ll continue to be a factor," he said. "But they’re not