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Getting Younger, Becoming Faster: Successful Growth and Transition Is Working at Remmey
Remmey – The Pallet Co: With the addition of younger staff and new equipment such as the GBN Patriot nailing system, the company is positioned for future growth with new manufacturing capacity, improved lumber processing operations and key personnel.
By Chaille Brindley
Date Posted: 7/2/2015
Remmey – The Pallet Co:
With the addition of younger staff and new equipment such as the GBN Patriot nailing system, the company is positioned for future growth with new manufacturing capacity, and improved lumber processing.
Rural Pennsylvania may be only 200 miles or less from New York City, but it might as well be on another continent when you consider the differences in work environment. That is one of the reasons why Ben Remmey decided to leave Wall Street to come back to work in the family pallet operation. And when he decided to do so, it surprised a lot of people, including his father.
Don Remmey, the president and owner of Remmey – The Pallet Co, said that he thought none of his children, especially his son, would ever join the family business, and he was running the company to eventually sell it off. But all that changed when Ben called his father to discuss coming to work in the family pallet manufacturing company.
Don explained, “Ben kind of always viewed the pallet business as my thing, and he wanted to go out on his own and prove himself. And he did a great job; I was very proud he left a very successful career on Wall Street to come and work for our pallet company.”
Ben explained his change of heart occurred when he stopped to take a look at the schedule and requirements placed by working on Wall Street. He said, “I started to appreciate the quality of life my father’s business allows. Most people that I worked with commuted an hour plus each way when I worked on Wall Street. You can’t spend as much time with your family, and I knew that wasn’t the lifestyle that I wanted.”
That decision changed Don’s game plan. At 63, and with no family in the business, Don was preparing the company to be sold in the next few years. When Ben decided to come into the business Don’s goals changed. No longer concerned with selling the business, the new strategy was to invest in new additional equipment, and grow the company together.
One of the most critical new additions to the company was a GBN Patriot nailing machine that was installed last year.
GBN Offers Versatility and Production
Although Remmey has five Vikings among its two plants, the company had
a need for a machine that could produce block pallets as well as very large stringer pallets. And the right machine for that job is the GBN Patriot according to Don.
Don explained, “What sold me on the GBN was its versatility to make both block pallets and pallets with as many as 7 stringers. Many of those are oversized, all of which we used to make a lot of by hand each week.”
The machine has been in operation for about six months and has really proven to be a smart move. Ben stated that the machine has increased productivity for that part of between 50-100% depending on the pallet design being built.
For about three days per week, the machine produces large stringer designs that used to have to be built by hand. The remainder of the time, it produces block pallets for customers demanding a Costco specification. Don added, “I have no complaints on the GBN Patriot at all. It is very easy to use and produces quality pallets.”
Contrary to what many others believe, Don disagrees that the machine has a long changeover time. It does require a little bit of planning. But the process is not that hard. He laughed and then commented, “From stringer to block or block back to stringer, the changeover time is about one hour. A stringer to stringer pallet depends on the complexity of the design but it is certainly less than an hour. Maybe a half hour depending on the design. Our changeover times are not bad.”
The versatility of the machine makes up for any lag in slighter longer changeover times. Remmey bought an extended carriage to be able to produce up to a 96-inch long pallet. The ability to produce really long pallets was another consideration to buy the Patriot.
And when it came to support, GBN went the extra mile. Don said that Paul Bailey of GBN came up and spent four days at the plant during installation and later came back for additional training to ensure everything worked right. Don stated, “The machine was easy to learn, including our Amish employees who typically have limited access to computerized equipment.”
The Patriot produces about 500-900 plus pallets per shift depending on the design complexity. Given the number of components in a block pallet the production process takes longer compared to a stringer. It is a versatile machine offering a wide variety of options to pallet companies that may need both block and stringer production.
Bill Schneider, the vice president of sales for Remmey, praised, “The GBN machine is phenomenal. It does a really nice job for us. Due to its versatility, and its block pallet capability, we can nail an extra two or three loads a week versus what we were getting off of our hand-tables.”
Putting Wood Waste to Better Use
As the company grew, so did its wood waste generation. One of the early projects that Ben worked on when
he joined the company was analyzing prospective purchases and running
the numbers. His experience in the
financial services sector gave him a strong understanding of return on investment and analyzing financial decisions.
One area that jumped out as needing attention was the wood waste part of the business. Ben explained, “We had a lot of wood waste, but were not getting the maximum return that we could. We found that we could be compensated much more for our wood waste if it were converted to grindings.Sustainability is also extremely important to Remmey. Having our own grinder allowed us to know exactly how our waste was being used – most importantly that it wasn’t ending up in a landfill.”
Wood fiber goes to a nearby pellet facility. Don commented that he didn’t want to be in the mulch business because it is seasonal, and they don’t have a lot of space for large mulch piles sitting around. Remmey tries to make sure its waste stream partners will take material on a constant flow basis every week.
Remmey bought a Rotochopper MC-266 in November of 2014. It grinds material down through a two-inch screen, which works well for its pellet customer. Don confirmed, “The maintenance has been very, very reasonable. We have been very pleased with how the Rotochopper functions.”
In addition, the company recently upgraded its truck fleet and went with more fuel efficient automatic trucks. The automatic transmission tractors were a first for Remmey. But the drivers eventually took to it because the design required less work for the driver when in heavy traffic. The big advantage is the fuel savings. The automatic tractors increase fuel efficiency by over one mile per gallon, which is big money when you consider Remmey trucks travel one million miles per year.
Remmey leases vehicles from Penske because the trucking company handles all road tax paperwork and will fix broken down vehicles and supply loaner tractors if necessary. Don commented that it is nice to have the same payment for six years and to know your costs and have limited hassles when it comes to trucks.
Lumber Processing Sets Remmey Apart
One of the most unique aspects of Remmey’s operation is its lumber procurement practices and processing operation. Don explained, “We take the lowest grade pallet lumber that you can buy and we sort it; and that is how we produce most of our 4/4 material.”
At its Beaver Springs plant, the company recently added a steel building that is 60x150 feet for sorting lumber. A grader marks the lumber to indicate the size, then the lumber moves down a green chain where employees pull off lumber and sort it onto 36 lumber carts.
Remmey at its Beaver Springs plant can cut both cants and boards. “In regard to the board line,” Don said, “We take 4/4, cut it to length, put it through a sizer and kind of clean it up and then resaw it through a bandsaw to make half inch boards.”
Don said, “We are feeding two McDonough 54-inch bandsaws simultaneously. And the other beauty of that is we can make combination cuts. For example I can get a 54 and a 42 inch board out of an eight foot piece of material. One operator stands there and feeds two bandsaws. And the multiple trim saw can keep up.”
About 4 years ago Don decided to replace an older model gang saw line. Having previous success with Pendu on an automated board processing line, Don again decided to work with Pendu on a new Gang Saw Line. After much discussion, they agreed on a system that includes a multi head trim saw, the gang saw, a stacker, an in-line notcher and another stacker. The line runs with 3 people regardless of what they’re cutting, deckboards, plain stringers, or notched stringers. They have been very pleased with the system.
Don praised, “From an engineering perspective, I think that Pendu has risen to the top when it comes to gang saws and cutting equipment.”
A Family Affair
One of the key reasons for bringing in Ben and a few other employees was to make the key management staff younger. Don said that he never really thought either of his kids wanted to come back into the company so he was getting it ready to sell one day.
But then one day that all changed with a phone call. Don said that Ben wanted to explore coming into the company. He added, “It was good timing for us because our senior management was getting older, and many of us were facing the likelihood of retirement in the next ten years or less. And we needed to get younger to position the company for the future.”
After Ben made his decision to join the company, Don also realized that the rest of the management team was getting closer to retirement. Bill Schneider, the Vice President of sales for REMMEY, highly regarded as one of the best pallet salesman in the country is approaching 60. Don felt that Bill’s son Will would be a good candidate to replace Bill someday, so he suggested they hire Will. Don felt that Bill’s knowledge and drive for perfection would be the best training for someone to replace Bill upon his retirement.
Bill remembered that Don said, “With Ben coming onboard, and with the average age of your sales force is being over 50 years old; we have a need to get younger.”
Will Schneider, Bill’s son, had been working in sales for performance auto parts used in off-road racing. Will laughed, “I realized that I needed to grow up, and I couldn’t play with cars the rest of my life. The position at Remmey is a more stable job.” He joined the company at 28 and has been assigned a territory previously unserved by Remmey and still works closely with his father as he continues to learn about the pallet industry.
Ben joined the company in May 2014 and started to learn all aspects of the business. Currently, Ben is learning the lumber procurement part of the business as well as contributing on process improvement analysis and safety/human resources issues. He has taken his expertise in financial analysis to help the company. With Ben’s strong background in analytics he has put in place key metrics to help systematically monitor and control productivity and costs. For years, Ben worked on Wall Street on the trading floor for JP Morgan.
A key for Ben’s transition has been that he has spent time learning from the Remmey staff. Many of those people have 20-30 years of experience with the company.
When it comes to sales, Bill told about how the younger generation is using social media to make business contacts. Shortly after Will joined the company in March of 2014, he landed his first new account. The contact came as a result of a social media post that Will made. He took a picture of a sample pallet strapped to the top of his car and posted on social media. An old friend who just happened to be in purchasing for a manufacturing company saw it.
Will laughed, “I got my first new sale thanks to a social media post that my father said was a waste of time.” Bill responded, “The younger generation does things differently with social media. People my age don’t put a lot of stock in it. But I am learning that the younger generation would rather connect electronically and deal with things on their own time schedule.”
The company is positioned for future growth with new manufacturing capacity, improved lumber processing operations and most importantly key personnel. The future looks bright as the company gets younger and the machinery becomes more productive.