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Cold Snap: Peter C. Herman Relies on Biomass Combustion Systems to Make the Most Out of Waste Wood
Peter C. Herman: New York pallet company focuses on quality control and efficiency. Using a wood furnace from Biomass Combustion Systems has helped the company reduce its energy bills, better utilize wood waste.
By Tim Cox
Date Posted: 10/1/2015
Peter C. Herman:
New York pallet company focuses on quality control and efficiency. Using a wood furnace from Biomass Combustion Systems has helped the company reduce its energy bills, better utilize wood waste.
MARION, New York – Longevity requires doing things right. And Peter C. Herman Inc., a leading pallet manufacturing company in upstate New York, has used furnaces from Biomass Combustion Systems to keep its heat bills in check for the last 15 years.
Biomass Combustion Systems, based in Massachusetts, manufactures a shop heater line of wood burning furnaces. Over the years, Herman has purchased furnaces from Biomass Combustion Systems to heat plant buildings, and the investments have paid off.
Committed to Controlling Its Process and Quality
Peter C. Herman is located in the town of Marion, about 20-plus miles east of Rochester. The business was founded by Peter Herman in the early 1960s. A truck driver, he began recycling used and damaged pallets left over from his deliveries, launching the business in his garage.
Today, Herman employs nearly 50 people and has seven buildings situated on 37 acres. The company has a forestry division and operates its own sawmill. It supplies pallets – predominantly new pallets – and containers to customers within about a 100-mile radius of Rochester. Herman is headed by the founder’s son, Matt, whose wife, Laurie, also works part-time in sales for the company.
Herman manufactures about 14,500 new pallets per week along with 2,100 recycled pallets. In its pallet recycling operations, the company strictly refurbishes standard 48x40 pallets, which is the GMA pallet footprint, using new stock #2 and #3 material from the cut-up operations for repairs. Herman does not dismantle scrap pallets to reclaim used lumber nor does it make ‘new’ pallets out of recycled components or combination pallets made of both new and used lumber.
About 65% of the company’s pallet production is hardwood and the remaining 35%, softwood. The company produces about 40 different pallet sizes. The standard 48x40 footprint makes up the biggest volume; other footprints include 48x42 and a 1200x1000 stringer pallet. Wood bins are supplied mainly to farmers and growers harvesting apples and potatoes in the fall.
New pallets account for about 70% of revenues, and recycled pallets, 20%. The other 10% of revenues are derived from sales of bins and crates, logs and residual products - wood slabs sold for firewood, sawdust and bark mulch.
The company is committed to overseeing its entire supply chain from raw logs to finished products. Herman buys timber and subcontracts with several logging companies to cut it and haul the logs. Low-grade logs are trucked to the company’s sawmill, and grade logs are supplied to sawmills that manufacture lumber. Herman also buys about 25% of the low-grade logs it requires for its own sawmill. The Herman sawmill processes hardwood logs from 9-30 inches in diameter and 8-14 feet long and softwood logs 10 inches in diameter and larger and in 8, 10, 12 and 14-foot lengths.
Herman cuts both hardwood and softwood. The hardwood logs going through the sawmill include ash, hard and soft maple, beech, hickory, cherry, and red and white oak. Softwood logs are mainly aspen and pine.
The company manufactures pallets and skids, including slave pallets, stringer pallets, block pallets, panel deck pallets, and pallets for limited or multiple use. Services include pallet repair and recycling, pallet design and prototype development, and inventory management.
Manufacturing Process at Herman
Bark is removed from the logs by an HMC debarker. In the sawmill, an HMC headrig is used solely to square up the logs into cants, typically 4-inch and 6-inch random width cants.
The cants are processed in another building. The cut-up operations are equipped with Brewer machinery. The first stage is a Brewer twin-select cut-off saw that cuts the cants to the appropriate length. The blocks are then resawn on a Brewer gang saw to produce deck boards or stringers. The cut-up shop also is equipped with a Brewer chamfer and a West Plains notching machine.
Herman produces about 70% of the pallet lumber it requires. It buys the remaining cut stock it needs from mills in the United States, which supply about 80% of the remainder, and also Canada, from which it mainly gets aspen material.
For pallet assembly operations Herman is equipped with two Viking automatic nailing machines and an old Morgan nailing machine. The company has two different Viking models, a Viking 505 and a Viking Duomatic. The Morgan, a beam-type nailing machine, “works like it did when it was new,” said Matt Herman, president. About 90% of the company’s pallets are assembled on one of the three nailing machines, and the other 10% are assembled by hand with Bostitch pneumatic nailing tools.
Herman has had a strong relationship with Biomass Combustion Systems about the past 15 years. The pallet business has six of the company’s wood-burning furnaces to heat the Herman buildings. The furnaces burn mainly scrap green wood material from the sawmill and cut-up operations. Most of the buildings are about 10,000 square feet, and each has one furnace except for the sawmill, which has a different heating system.
Skids of fuel wood are staged near the furnaces, and they are fed by the employees who work nearby. Matt is considering having Biomass Combustion Systems add systems that would add fuel wood — like sawdust or chips — automatically so the buildings could still be heated at night.
Herman purchased its first furnace from Biomass Combustion Systems in 2001, replacing a unit supplied by a different manufacturer. Since then it has added five more. The fuel is free, and burning the wood remnants and scraps eliminates the challenge of disposing of it.
Herman has “gotten tremendous value out of its furnaces,” said Charlie Cary, a principal of the Biomass Combustion Systems.
The benefits of a Biomass Combustion Systems furnace include durability, longevity and low maintenance. The company’s furnaces will last 15-20 years, according to Cary, which is considerably longer than other brands. “They can take an incredible beating,” he said.
The furnaces also are easy to maintain, he noted. “Any local welding company can work on them,” said Cary.
“We have a lots of customers in the pallet industry,” added Cary. In fact, the pallet and container industry is the biggest market for the company. Other markets include companies that manufacture trusses, cabinets, and millwork, and other wood or lumber products. “Anybody that has wood residue,” added Cary.
The company relies on Dinosaw, which has locations in Hudson, New York, and also Pennsylvania, for saw blade sharpening and new blades. Cutters for the West Plains notching machine are supplied by Econotool. Herman purchases collated and bulk nails from Linc Systems.
Herman, a member of the National Wooden Pallet and Container Association and the Empire State Forestry Association, has seven trucks to make deliveries. The fleet of trucks includes trailers that are staged at some customer locations to store pallets or pick up pallets for recycling.
The production staff works five 10-hour days with some working a half-day on Saturday as needed. The company conducts regular monthly safety meetings for employees. In addition, it offers a free employee assistance program: workers may get a referral for free consultation for services related to alcohol or drug abuse, family or marriage counseling, or legal issues, for example. Herman also provides group health insurance and pays half the premium for employees.
Herman is in an area served only by residential power lines. Consequently, it operates three diesel generators to provide electric power. The diesel fuel bill can be expensive; in recent months it was up to about $6,500 per week although at the time Matt was interviewed for this article it was down to about $3,200. Still, it is considerably cheaper than the $1.2 million the electric utility would charge in order to connect the company to the nearest main power line more than two miles away.
Scrap pallets are processed by a Cresswood grinder, and the grindings are sold for livestock bedding. Bark is processed by a Morbark horizontal grinder to be converted to premium mulch.
Herman is certified to supply heat-treated pallets and containers in compliance with ISPM-15. The company is equipped with a Kiln-Direct heat-treat system and treats about 2,000 pallets daily.
The company employs its own foresters to provide woodlot management services. The foresters work with landowners to help them identify forest goals and objectives and to provide forest management planning, and they offer free, no-obligation woodlot appraisals.
Herman has a good reputation for customer loyalty. Some businesses have been customers for 30-40 years. And that’s the ideal picture of business longevity when you can retain customers for decades. Similarly, Biomass Combustion Systems does the same with its furnace and boiler units thanks to the long life of its products.
Biomass Combustion Systems Turns Wood Waste into a Big Win
Every day you could literally be burning money if you pay too much to heat your facility. And many pallet and lumber companies have found value in turning waste wood into heat by using a unit from Biomass Combustion Systems.
The company’s efficient, durable wood-burning shop heaters, furnaces, and boilers enable pallet and lumber companies to heat their facilities without paying for fuel; the company’s furnaces can burn green or dry wood material. Diverting residuals for fuel also solves another problem – how to dispose of waste wood material, which can be a cost for a business if it lacks markets for the material.
Biomass Combustion Systems furnaces are available in models ranging from 250,000 BTU per hour to 500,000 and 800,000. The company also manufactures fully automated wood-fired boilers to produce steam and hot water from 100 to 600 hp; it can supply retrofit kits to turnkey co-generation packages.
The benefits of a Biomass Combustion Systems furnace include durability, longevity, and low maintenance. The company’s furnaces will last 20-25 years, according to principal Charlie Cary, which is considerably longer than other brands.
The reason is in both the design and construction. Biomass Combustion Systems uses 3/4-inch steel in its furnaces. The fire boxes are circular, which allows the expansion and contraction of heating and cooling to be evenly distributed throughout the cylinder; in rectangular or box-like construction, that expansion and contraction impacts cracks and corners. In addition, Biomass Combustion System furnaces feature a fire box that is mounted on a cradle instead of being welded into place, which allows it to expand and contract on the cradle.
The warm air captured by the heat exchanger can be ducted however a customer desires.
Although most pallet company customers feed their furnaces by hand, the furnaces can be automated. In order to automate the process of providing fuel to the furnace, the wood material has to be in the form of chips or grindings, and a company must have a place to store the material.
The furnaces are efficient. They feature an afterburner that re-burns the flu gas; the systems literally burn the smoke, getting all the energy out of the wood.
For more information about Biomass Combustion Systems and its products, visit the website at www.biomasscombustion.com, email email@example.com, or call 508/798-5970.