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High-Tech Customer Service: Oakland Pallet Takes Marketing to the Next Level, Similar to Its Key Supplier HUB Industrial
Top Tech: Oakland Pallet uses social media, smartphone apps, website tools and grassroots marketing to better integrate with customers and drive sales. Bandsaw blades and safety supplies from HUB Industrial has been a key in its efforts to remain competitive in the market.
By Chaille Brindley
Date Posted: 3/2/2015
Top Tech: Oakland Pallet Uses Social Media
Plus smartphone apps, website tools and grassroots marketing to better integrate with customers and drive sales. Bandsaw blades and safety supplies from HUB Industrial helps company remain competitive.
With locations in central California not too far from Silicon Valley, it isn’t a surprise that Oakland Pallet is a technology pioneer in the pallet industry. The company services many customers in the wine, technology and logistics sectors, and it has a very active marketing focus including social media and other avenues that are not common for many other pallet companies.
From a modern website complete with integrated pallet design capabilities for customers to the most vibrant Facebook page that I have seen in the pallet industry to offering online ordering and account management via a smartphone app, the company wants to stay on top of technology. And Oakland Pallet, headquartered in San Lorenzo, also reaches customers with a very active marketing approach including trade shows, local outreaches, philanthropy, online advertising and much more.
Oakland Pallet’s innovative approach reminds me a lot of HUB Industrial, which has become a key supplier for the company. HUB offers a wide variety of consumables products for the pallet industry, especially bandsaw blades, safety gear, pallet mask paint, office and cleaning supplies, and much more.
HUB Industrial Supplies Critical Gear for Operational Success
You may think of HUB more due to its large supply catalog, use of remote control helicopters at trade shows, online videos or other attention-grabbing promotions. But Oakland Pallet has come to rely on HUB for its fantastic customer service according to Jose Padilla, operations manager for Oakland Pallet.
Jose said, “HUB has offered us tremendous customer service and turnaround time on the items we purchase. Most of the time we can get items faster from them than local suppliers.”
“HUB offers a great repair guarantee. If a bandsaw blade breaks too early, HUB will replace the defective blade with two blades,” added Jose. Oakland Pallet has tried a lot of different types of bandsaw blades through the years, and Jose suggested, “Overall, HUB offers the best mix of quality and price when it comes to bandsaw blades for pallet dismantling.”
Quick delivery and training are two more keys to the success of HUB’s approach for Oakland Pallet. Jose explained, “HUB has performed onsite training for our dismantling department. They have trained our employees on proper tension, guide bearing location, safety and top performance.”
Safety gear obtained from HUB is a big part of the company’s workplace safety program to ensure that employees have the right personal protective equipment. Ramona Padilla, office manager for Oakland Pallet, said that the company holds weekly safety briefings and managers will conduct safety inspections of individual work stations. She added that the company uses safety bingo and other prizes to keep safety on the forefront of employees’ minds as well as encourage safe operational practices.
Ramona commented, “We try to keep an open line of communication with employees and that improves how they view upper management.”
Social Media Done Right
Most pallet companies don’t do any social media. And even fewer carry it to the level that Oakland Pallet has done. Manuel Padilla, head of sales and marketing for Oakland Pallet, explained “Our focus is connecting with customers and employees on a personal level. We may bring attention to social issues that may need exposure. And we focus on explaining how we offer value to customers.”
The company’s Facebook page covers everything from the latest new features offered to customers to ways the company is serving the community to enhancements to the operation that are driving efficiency or making the company more environmentally friendly.
Manuel recalled, “When we first started doing social media, it was a slow moving process. We have finally gotten some traction with our programs, and Facebook has been our most successful platform by far.”
From coverage in trade magazines (Pallet Enterprise) to displays at local wine shows to its scholarship program for underprivileged children to homeless outreach at Christmas time, the company’s Facebook page shows how employees at Oakland Pallet are invested in the community. Jose and Manuel said that they grew up in the community and they know how hard it can be for many people to get by, and they have learned the value of community involvement. What they seem to have done better than any pallet company I have seen is present a compelling drama on the Facebook page. They have a story to tell, and it goes way beyond just pallets.
Jose said, “One of the goals of our social media campaigns is to show the range of services and products that we offer. We don’t just sell pallets. We provide onsite loading, pallet management, trailers, storage, recycling services and other logistics services as well.”
For example, a post earlier this year showed how the company is recovering and upcycling pallets and wood crates that were used by Tesla in shipping high-end products for making electronic cars.
The website and social media presence also shows the breadth of product that Oakland Pallet can process. Manuel explained “We take care of all sorts of pallet recycling for customers. This includes wood, metal, plastic corrugated, etc. Customers can put a large variety of recyclables in our trailers and have them hauled away and processed by our team.”
The Facebook page chronicled recent improvements to the facility including new eco-friendly trucks, the addition of solar power, upgrades to IT infrastructure, launching new facilities and much more. An example of local outreach is work that Oakland Pallet has done with inner city organic farms and food festivals. The company has provided pallets free of charge that are then used to develop mobile organic farming plots.
Targeting the wine and beverage industry by attending and providing pallets for scene arrangements at food and wine festivals, the company now does a lot of work with those sectors. Jose explained, “The wine industry is probably 30% or more of our total volume, and there is still more room to grow.”
Community involvement – “Many of the top leaders here grew up in the Oakland area, and we want to give back to the community, and know how hard it is for many people in the area to get by.” – Manuel said.
Oakland Pallet supports local non-profits with donations of pallets, money and goods including the Alameda Food Bank, Mothers against Drunk Driving, Special Olympics, local fire departments, religious organizations, organic farms and much more. Jose said, “We have focused on youth groups in the Oakland area.”
The Oakland Pallet website offers testimonials and real tools for customers to improve their pallet use. For example, it offers (http://pal-sketch.oaklandpallet.com/) an online sketch program where customers can specify pallets they need.
In addition, the company launched late last year a new smartphone app. Manuel explained, “The main purpose for the app is to provide a new avenue for customers to order pallets or communicate with Oakland Pallet.” The app allows customers to place an order, request a pick up or view recent account activity. It also allows a login interface for more detailed information available from Palmate ™, an enterprise resource planning software designed by Automated Machine Systems.
The reason for the smartphone app is that increasingly managers or forklift drivers in the warehouse may not have a computer, but they have a smartphone. This provides Oakland Pallet easy access to customers. On the first day the app went live, more than 80 people downloaded it. Manuel commented, “Our app has done pretty well, and it has provided another way to connect with customers.”
Oakland Pallet developed the app in-house using an online service that can customize a basic app interface called Appme.com. Manuel added, “Appme.com is a very simple startup interface. It is one of the most fluid sites I have seen for building a smartphone app.”
Oakland Pallet is always seeking to improve its operations. The company recently added a fleet of trucks that will reduce the impact on the air quality. This allows Oakland Pallet to stay compliant with the latest California clean air regulations.
Ramona added that the company over the last year has changed its phone system and replaced DSL Internet with fiber optics. The company is also changing its software to combine payroll and accounting. Progress in the area of communications and data management is a priority because data is important to be positioned for the future.
Jose also said the company is adding more machinery power too. He said that the company recently added two new Viking Champion nailing systems. These are used to produce hybrid (combo) pallets and new pallets. The combo pallet design calls for new end stringers and bottom decks while the rest of the pallet is made from reclaimed boards.
Jose added, “The Viking Champion gives us flexibility in terms of the material we use and the sizes we can build.”
The company also has a Storti line that is used primarily to build block pallets that meet the Costco specification.
Seeking a new power source is another way that the company has sought to lower costs and be environmentally responsible. Jose said, “We are estimating a pay off in five or six years for our investment in solar power.”
Grants have helped underwrite the cost of installing solar power. Jose commented, “Our out-of-pocket costs are relatively low, and it was a turn-key solution. So far it has been working fine. Our energy bill is down less than half of what it used to be.”
Jose suggested, “It is fairly maintenance free, and has worked for us. I definitely recommend investing in solar power, especially if you can obtain some grants.”
Dabbling in innovative plastic wood-pallet combination designs is something the company has explored. Oakland Pallet has offered a wood-plastic hybrid that is repairable, durable because the lead deck boards are made from plastic. Although this is not a huge market yet, it is something that has caught the attention of a few customers.
The latest addition to the company is a planned new location in Vacaville, California later this year. Looking over the company’s history, Jose stated, “The keys to our success include our strong customer service, reliability, quality, transparency, and consistency.”
He credited the relationships his company had with long-term customers as a key driver of the company’s success. And the only way to ensure that in the future is to keep thinking ahead. And you can see that commitment by what the company does with its website, social media program, online tools, app for smartphone and other electronic communication resources. Manuel suggested, “Long term, more customers are going to be computer and smartphone based instead of buying pallets over the phone, and it pays for us to stay up or ahead of the technology curve.”
New Block Pallet Recip Blade Cuts Better, Stays Sharper Longer
HUB Industrial Supply recently announced that it has finished testing of its new generation reciprocating blade used in sawzalls. The blade is now in stock and ready to ship to block pallet recyclers.
“This blade represents the next step in our never-ending quest to improve performance for our pallet clients,” said Gabriel Curry, HUB Industrial’s president. “This blade cuts faster, lasts longer, and has earned the right to bear the Nail Shredder Technology® name.”
For more information on this or any other HUB Industrial Supply products, call 800-743-9401 or visit the HUB website at www.hubindustrial.com.