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Innovation Drives PRS to Develop Unique Solutions for All Recycling Challenges
Recycling Innovation: From its three-tiered conveyor system to custom lines for handling large, heavy pallets to high-speed pallet prepping, Pallet Repair Systems offers solutions to boost productivity and lower labor costs. Learn from these three case studies of how the right automation has paid for itself.
By Chaille Brindley
Date Posted: 10/1/2014
Innovation Drives PRS to Develop Unique Solutions
From its three-tiered conveyor system to custom lines for handling large, heavy pallets to high-speed pallet prepping, Pallet Repair Systems offers solutions to boost productivity and lower labor costs.
Finding unique solutions to complex pallet recycling and handling scenarios is a hallmark of Pallet Repair Systems (PRS) of Jacksonville, Illinois. “An industry outsider could assume that pallet repair and pallet recycling is fairly simplistic, and anything but dynamic and complicated. But that would be a bad assumption,” explained Jeff Williams, vice president and head of sales for PRS.
The increasing cost of labor recently has led companies to evaluate how they can automate functions and reduce their workforce while boosting productivity. And PRS provides solutions that can do just that.
The PRS product line continues to expand and has become one of the most comprehensive in the pallet recycling industry. Today, PRS provides solutions that span from material handling equipment for lumber and pallets, to pallet sortation systems, automated pallet repair lines, pallet dismantling machines, lumber processing saws, as well as consumable supplies such as pallet plates and hand tools.
And over the past few years, PRS has added a huge selection of pre-owned pallet machinery. Unlike some other equipment suppliers that never take possession, inspect, or guarantee the used machinery they market, PRS stands behind the pre-owned equipment it sells. Each of the machines they offer are inspected and repaired by PRS and warranted for periods from 30 to 90 days. Williams commented, “Pre-owned equipment can provide the same type of solutions at a lower price point and a better ROI; we also offer trade-in opportunities which lowers the net price of our new equipment as well.”
Beyond just the domestic market, PRS has grown its international reach with customers in over 30 countries. PRS is busy due to the changing business landscape. Williams stated, “What has really happened lately is that tight labor supply and higher costs of labor amid an improving economy means that labor is more expensive than ever. Automation is really the best way to reduce cost and boost productivity over the long run. It is a smart business decision.”
Although it has a large catalog of products, PRS also does a lot of custom work and integrated systems that are designed from the ground up to solve unique recycling and materials handling situations. The three following case studies demonstrate the capabilities of PRS solutions to improve operational efficiency.
Bo’s Pallets – Lumber Reclaim Solution
Before the PRS solution, Bo’s Pallets and Mulch Inc. of Adairsville, Georgia primarily used forklifts and bins for moving pallets and lumber. Forklifts brought stacks of pallets to operators who dismantled the lumber and put this material into bins. Forklifts moved the bins to trim and chop saws. Forklifts took properly sized boards to repair tables or storage.
Greg Bowen, president of Bo’s Pallets, said, “When designing our system of product flow I could not find a solution for moving dismantled boards and stringers to the end trim saws separately without creating labor and forklift traffic. PRS was able to solve this issue by installing a three-tier conveyor. One conveyor takes scrap lumber to our grinder, another takes the deck boards to an end trim saw, and the third conveyor takes the stringers to another PRS end trim saw. This allowed for minimal use of space and labor.”
At the time of its development, this three tier conveyor design was unique to this project. The bandsaw “pull” operator separates deck boards, stringers and scrap and places each on its own tier. This leads to less picking at the trim saw area which increases the saws’ production. Scrap from the tear down process streams out of the building on the central scrap conveyor to a Rotochopper grinder.
After discussing his situation with a number of different vendors, Bowen selected PRS. He explained, “PRS did not try to sell me a pre-packed design. Instead, Jeff Williams listened to my vision and simply sold me what I needed to accomplish my goals without trying to sell me unwanted or un-needed equipment.”
While the old system worked, it was very labor intensive and costly from a forklift perspective. Bo’s Pallets also had older style, lighter-duty bandsaws to dismantle pallets. PRS replaced these slow, gear-driven bandsaws with high-speed, belt-driven bandsaws that have a larger pallet capacity, according to Williams.
The PRS PROSAW bandsaws in conjunction with the new materials handling system boosted productivity for the lumber reclamation line. Under the old system, each bandsaw processed about 400 pallets per day. The new system, which was installed in 2002, boosted productivity to 800 pallets per day per bandsaw. The PRS line also eliminated 1-2 forklifts and a number of bins while saving significant space and labor.
Automation has also improved order accuracy because the PRS line was integrated with a tracking system by Innovative Data systems. Bowen described, “We have no need to hand count pallets in our operation any more. Bar coding allows scanners to track core supplier numbers, production pay and inventory”
The right equipment also made ease of operation possible in the lumber reclamation process. Bowen explained, “With five dismantlers feeding material to the end trim saws simultaneously, we needed the ability to quickly and easily optimize the material coming thru the end trim area. The PRS Optimax saws allow an operator to do this by cutting multiple lengths at the same time. The operator simply cuts the longest length possible to the stops that are set on the saw.”
Since making the investment in this system as well as a PRS repair line, Bo’s Pallets has become one of the premier pallet companies in the Atlanta area.
Timpack – Automated Sort and Repair Line for Large Pallets
Handling large-sized pallets is a mammoth task, but Timpack in Hamilton, New Zealand makes it look easy thanks to a sortation and repair line by PRS. Before PRS, this difficult process was done manually using forklifts and two workers per repair station.
Jeff Williams said, “We had to make everything super large, super heavy-duty to handle these large pallets that were in essence 4x8 feet in size.” These pallets require six stringers and have one inch thick deck boards.
Pallets go through a PRS sortation line that was installed first, and an integrated repair and sort line was added later in 2013. Pallets are sorted and pallets that need repair go down the line to repair stations. Dispensers supply pallets to repair work stations. Operators handle necessary repairs then sort to determine if repaired pallets are ready for delivery or need to go to washing stations.
Williams added that labor rates are fairly high so eliminating labor cost was a priority. Alan Walters of Timpack commented, “The automation with PRS has taken a substantial amount of material handling out of the process which has allowed Timpack to reduce labor requirements by half (when combined with some in house built equipment).”
This customer has kept growing, so Timpack realized it needed to automate to keep up with demand. Adding more people just wasn’t cost effective. Walters explained, “Historically we have man-handled these large pallets weighing up to 70 kgs. Each. This process required two men all the way through the line. The PRS solution has taken away the material handling burden allowing Timpack to reduce labor and provide an improved health and safety environment for workers.”
Timpack operates a number of facilities servicing this customer and has added some degree of automation to each one, especially PRS dispensers and conveyor systems. The facility has transitioned from multiple forklifts to one. Also, the line used to have two people per bench, now the process only requires one worker per bench. With the right type of automation, no job is too big.
Correa – Custom Solution for Pallet Prep/ Repair Process
Correa Pallet in Pixley, California has grown its business with a lot of dedication and hard work. The Correa family has worked closely with Bob Coplea and the engineers at PRS to design a repair line system that perfectly suits the company’s needs.
Each operator used to have multiple stacks of pallets at each repair bench. The operator would repair the pallet and then walk it to one of four stacks depending on how things were being graded. Each station had inbound stacks, a lumber bin, a waste bin, and four stacks of finished pallets. This took up a lot of space and was very labor intensive with lots of walking by the operator. The objectives of the PRS improvements are efficiency, increased production and to cut labor costs.
This new system is also integrated with production tracking using equipment from Innovative Data Systems. This line is designed to repair GMAs used in the agriculture sector.
Williams said, “This solution is a bit unique. Correa is using one-man bandsaws to prep the pallets by removing boards before they go to the repair benches.”
Prepped pallets are placed on roll conveyors which feed repair tables, the repairmen finish the inspection and repair, place any scrap boards on the belt conveyor on the top, and the finished product on the bottom tier roller conveyor. The repaired pallets have bar code labels applied which a scanner prior to the stacker bank reads and the system automatically directs the pallets to the appropriate stacker. See the diagram on page 17. The Correa system is currently being installed and will be up and running soon. Look for more information on the cost savings and benefits that Correa Pallets realized from a PRS system in an upcoming edition of the Pallet Enterprise!
From Plates to Full Systems
Over 25 years ago, PRS began with pallet plates and plating machines. Now it offers a complete line of pallet repair and materials handling equipment for both pallets and lumber.
Finding the right companies to partner with is critical to any company’s success. Having developed so many innovative products through the years and remaining on the forefront of what is possible, PRS can be your critical partner in improving your production process. Its staff has seen a lot and can leverage its knowledge to benefit customers.
Williams commented, “Sharing the collective technical expertise and experience of the PRS team with our customers is at the very center of our value proposition as a solution provider to this industry.”
He concluded, “Evaluating our customers’ processes, intended direction and fully understanding their needs is the basis that our solutions are derived from and built around. It is much more than a simple machine sale, and the benefits realized prove it.”