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Relationships Built Garmar Industries: N.J. Company Is a Leading Supplier of Cut Stock, Industrial Lumber
Garmar Industries: Relationships, key machinery utilization and broad product offerings make this pallet stock and lumber remanufacturer stand out. Find out why Garmar has become a strong ally for its customers.
By Tim Cox
Date Posted: 4/1/2016
Relationships, key machinery utilization and broad product offerings make this pallet stock and lumber remanufacturer stand out. Find out why Garmar has become a strong ally for its customers.
WOOLWICH TOWNSHIP, New Jersey — Jerry Bernard started a pallet and container business when he was a young man, but it evolved into something different, becoming a major supplier of pre-cut pallet stock and industrial lumber. Today, Bernard, 76, is still going strong, and so is Garmar Industries.
Garmar Industries is located in Woolwich Township in southern New Jersey, which straddles the New Jersey Turnpike roughly half-way between New York City and Baltimore, Maryland.
The company employs 32 people at its operations in New Jersey. It has a 15,000-square-foot lumber remanu-facturing plant fully equipped with “state-of-the-art machinery,” said Bernard. The company ships an average of about 10-15 tractor-trailer loads of pallet cut stock or industrial lumber components per day. Garmar Industries also brokers loads of pre-cut stock and industrial lumber on a mill direct basis.
Jerry Bernard went to work for a container manufacturing company after graduating from Drexel University. He enjoyed the business but was troubled by the owner’s lack of integrity; so Bernard launched his own business in 1972.
Focusing on Pallet Lumber
Garmar Industries started out making pallets, skids and export boxes. As time went on, the company also began selling a small volume of industrial lumber products. “When it got to the point where the volume of lumber rivaled the pallets and skids, I had to make a decision because I did not want to compete with my customers,” recalled Bernard, customers that were making pallets, skids, and containers.
Although the company still does a very small volume of pallets and skids, it evolved into a supplier of industrial lumber products and pre-cut pallet stock. “Basically, I have partnered with a lot of pallet companies,” said Bernard.
Garmar Industries can design a pallet — it does a considerable amount of work providing design services for pallet companies — and supply all the components to assemble it. “All they have to do is nail them together,” stated Bernard. In fact, the company also has a collated fastener division that supplies nails for pneumatic nailing tools.
Bernard launched the business by renting some space from a retail lumber business in Swedesboro, a small town that is encompassed by Woolwich Township. As the business grew he took it to Maple Shade Township further north, just above Camden. The company was situated there for 20 years before returning to its current location, a 12 acre site that satisfies all of Garmar’s present and future needs.
With good reason. Garmar Industries is located on the site of a former Wicke’s Lumber Co. store and yard. Besides the lumber remanufacturing plant, the facilities include 8,000 feet of office space, two warehouses with a combined 21,000 square feet, two sheds with a combined 24,000 square feet, and its own rail spur.
The company also has excellent access to major highways. It is only a mile from exit no. 2 of the New Jersey Turnpike, less than three miles from I-295, which parallels the turnpike from Trenton to the southern terminus of the turnpike, and less than 5 miles from Interstate 95, which also provides access to the Pennsylvania Turnpike and points north, east, and west.
It also has two satellite offices in Quebec City, Canada, and West Point, Virginia. Personnel in the satellite offices do both sales and purchasing. The Virginia office is the liaison to Southern Yellow Pine and hardwood mills while the Canadian office handles most spruce purchases from major producers and French-Canadian mills in Quebec; the company contracts with several Canadian mills for aspen pre-cut pallet stock.
Garmar Industries is a family-owned business. Bernard is the majority owner and is chairman and chief operating officer of the corporation. He serves as company vice president while his brother, Howard, serves as president. Howard, an attorney, certified public accountant and certified financial planner, handles all contracts for the company and oversees its banking relationships.
Bernard has two sons in the business; Mark, 46, runs the collated nail division, and Gary, 44, oversees the sales staff and also is involved in negotiating contracts to buy material. Bernard’s wife, Betty, does clerical work part-time, and his sister, Arlene O’Neill, is the company’s bookkeeper.
Specialty Lumber and Components
Garmar Industries is a specialty supplier of industrial lumber, Bernard emphasized. About 70-80% of the company’s business is pre-cut stock for pallets, skids, and containers. “Our bones are with pallet components and industrial lumber,” exclaimed Bernard. Although Garmar manufactures deck boards and stringers for GMA pallets, it supplies pre-cut stock for many different sizes of pallets and skids. The company also supplies panel components for slave pallets. In addition to serving pallet companies, customers include wood container companies, export packers, and certain industries, such as metal converters and paper converters.
A typical order for Garmar is a tractor-trailer load of pre-cut material. With its diverse customer base, there is no typical truck-load of finished product, however. A truck may be delivering an entire load of one product or as many as four different items — or more.
Garmar has a fleet of seven tractor-trailers for making deliveries within about a 150-mile radius. When brokering loads the company can deliver as far west as Chicago, as far south as South Carolina, and as far north as Maine. The company has customers in all the New England states, the mid-Atlantic region, south to North Carolina and South Carolina, and, to a lesser degree, West Virginia and Ohio. It does considerable business in Illinois and even some in Indiana.
For its lumber remanufacturing operations, Garmar buys a variety of material, hardwood and softwood. It buys spruce and aspen from suppliers in Canada, for example, and kiln-dried surfaced Southern Yellow Pine and rough Southern Yellow Pine from mills in the Southeast. Garmar Industries buys surfaced spruce from 2x4 up to 2x10 and surfaced Southern Yellow Pine from 2x4 to 2x12 and in timbers from 4x4 up to 6x8. It also buys Southern Yellow Pine cants and cants of poplar, oak, and mixed hardwoods; cants range in dimension from 2x8 to 8x12
Lumber Remanufacturing Done Right
One of the key machine centers in the company’s remanufacturing shop is a Holtec package saw, which is used for cutting to length bundles of lumber. The Holtec machine can cut to length within “a couple of millimeters,” noted Bernard. For even greater accuracy, the company relies on a Cornell (the Cornell brand is now owned by Pendu) five-head multi-trim saw. “If we have less trim, we use the Cornell,” said Bernard. Material is fed automatically to the multi-trim, and the cut material is stacked by machine. A 54-inch McDonough band resaw is used mainly for splitting 2-inch material into two 1-inch pieces.
The company also has two Brewer Golden Eagle cant lines. A live deck feeds cants to a Brewer dual cut-off saw first for the material to be cut to length. One line has a single-arbor gang saw, and the other a double-arbor gang saw. The Brewer lines, custom made by the manufacturer to meet the requirements of Garmar Industries, have additional capability for cutting grooves and notches in material — notches for stringers, for example, and grooves for banding material.
Brewer had never designed and built lines like those built for Garmar Industries, according to Bernard. “We had so many different things that we designed what we needed in the line...It gives us a tremendous amount of flexibility and punching power.” Both Brewer lines process material at a speed of about 100 feet per minute.
The company has sophisticated automated systems for collecting and handling waste wood material. A dust collection system gathers sawdust and shavings from the Brewer cant lines. (The two lines each has a planer head for sizing the cant.) The material is collected into a cyclone. Twelve-inch augurs move the material into one of two open-top, live deck trailers in a double-bay metal building; the system automatically transfers to the second bay and trailer when the first one is full.
The region is known for thoroughbred horses, and all sawdust and shavings are supplied to that market. Block ends and trim ends are sold to a company that grinds them into mulch and produces colored mulch; a similar double-bay system automatically loads live-deck trailers with the material.
Heat Treating Pallet Lumber
Heat-treated wood pallets and containers for export shipments will continue to be an area of significant growth for the company as well as the industry, Bernard predicted. “We’ve been...in the ground floor since this came into fruition in 2000,” he said. “This I see being the biggest growth in our industry over the next 10-15 years.”
Garmar Industries buys kiln-dried material that meets the ISPM-15 specifications for heating treating, and it also partners with some pallet companies that have their heat-treating capacity, relying on them primarily to heat-treat hardwood material.
The company’s heat-treating certification is overseen by Package Research Laboratory. “They’re an extraordinarily professional company that has been very, very helpful to us,” said Bernard. Package Research Laboratory has handled the company’s inspections and certification process since the adoption of heat-treating standards in 2000.
Working with experts like Package Research Laboratory has helped Garmar develop a strong heat-treated lumber business.
Longstanding Personnel and Strong Partnership with Customers
Garmar Industries added a division for selling fasteners about 20 years ago. “It was a natural,” explained Bernard. The company serves a number of customers that rely heavily on Garmar Industries for pre-cut components because they have no lumber remanufacturing operations; they buy all pre-cut material and assemble them with pneumatic nailing tools into pallets, skids and containers. For customers like that, it made perfect sense also to become their supplier of collated fasteners. The company’s collated nail division buys collated fasteners from manufacturers in the United States and around the world. Its chief domestic supplier of collated nails is Mid-Continent Nail.
Bernard attributes the company’s success to its relationships with employees, vendors, and customers. “We’re about relationships,” he said. “We have relationships with customers that go back over 25 years uninterrupted in a very competitive market.” He also pointed to vendors that have done business with Garmar Industries for 30 continuous years. He noted the importance of getting a fair price for the company’s products but also the importance of treating customers, vendors and employees fairly. The company’s office manager, for example, has been employed by the company for 29 years, and the yard superintendent, 28 years.
They have a reciprocal arrangement with pallet company customers. If Garmar sales representatives get referrals for pallets, they refer those calls to their pallet customers. By the same token, if their pallet customers get referrals for pre-cut stock or industrial lumber, they refer those calls to Garmar. “And that reciprocity has proven to be beneficial,” added Bernard.
Bernard oversees the day-to-day operations of the company. His duties include supervision of the employees in the satellite offices as well as being involved in negotiating large-scale purchases of lumber and handling of some national sales accounts.
The recession hit the company hard, albeit briefly, in 2008. Bernard met with all the employees. The message he delivered: Everyone must work together and do whatever is necessary to help the company. The company did not lay off any employees or lower anyone’s compensation. The only people who took pay reductions were the owners, Jerry and his sons, Mark and Gary. “It was a one-year dilemma for us,” he recalled. Sales began to rebound the following year and continued to climb.
The demands of the business prevented him from spending as much time with his sons as he wanted when they were young, so he was delighted when they wanted to join the business. “It’s great. I see them every day.”
Bernard still keeps up a busy schedule. He still gets to work every day around 7 a.m. and works until 5:30-6 p.m. “at least five days a week” and usually works a couple Saturdays each month, he said. “It’s a labor of love,” said Bernard.
“Make sure you enjoy what you do,” suggested Bernard, because we spend a great deal of time in our occupation.