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Wisconsin Pallet Company Changing Under New Leadership, Adds Nail-Mate from Universal Machinery Sales
World Wide Box & Packaging: Wisconsin company in transition to second generation family ownership, a company review focuses on automation and future investment in machinery. World Wide Box partners with Mona Tracy and adds Nail-Mate system to reduce labor challenges.
By Tim Cox
Date Posted: 7/1/2016
World Wide Box & Packaging
Wisconsin company in transition to second generation family ownership, a company review focuses on automation and future investment in machinery. World Wide Box partners with Mona Tracy and adds Nail-Mate syste
RACINE, Wisconsin — World Wide Box & Packaging is transitioning into new leadership as the next generation of the Miller family takes the helm. And a complete review of the entire operation was one of the first things that Trever Miller did when he took over from his father, Robert Miller. Trever Miller found a strong base to build on and realized he needed to continue the company’s focus on efficiency, which includes future investments in machinery and equipment.
The Millers have a strong relationship with Mona Tracy of Universal Machinery Sales and has kept up with technology, most recently adding a Nail-Mate automatic nailing jig to produce pallets.
When Trever Miller took over as CEO, he hired a business consulting firm to review the company’s operations and make recommendations. “That’s been very beneficial,” said Trever. The consulting firm had a person on-site for four weeks and provided guidance on everything from managing employees to bookkeeping and legally organizing and structuring the business. The company implemented many of those recommendations.
“We were growing,” recalled Trever, “but it seemed we were making less money as we were getting bigger.” When a business grows, “you lose control over different areas,” he added. The company implemented some organizational changes to regain that type of oversight. At the same time, they were able to eliminate three positions. “We were over-staffed.”
By cutting staff and deploying the right equipment, Trever has been able to reduce overhead and improve profitability.
A Strong Company History
Trevor Miller credited his father for building a strong business. World Wide Box & Packaging was launched by Robert Miller and a couple of partners in 1983. They acquired a pallet business in 1992 that shared a building with them and added custom pallets and recycled pallets to a business whose primary focus was making custom wood shipping crates and boxes.
Robert’s son, Trever, worked briefly in the business as a young man before enlisting in the Army. After his military service, he received firefighter and EMT training and worked for several years before joining World Wide Box & Packaging.
Trever served as plant manager since about 2007-08 and took over as CEO in 2015 when Robert bought out his one remaining partner. Robert, 80, still comes in and opens the shop every day at 6 a.m. and works most of the morning. Trever, 46, oversees the company’s operations.
Trever has improved efficiency in the pallet shop and made some investments in machinery, partnering with Universal Machinery Sales and its owner, Mona Tracy.
World Wide Box & Packaging employs about 16 people in its operations. The company uses about 16,000
feet in two buildings on 20 acres, moving to its current location in 2010, closer to the Milwaukee side of
. “We’re trying to get into the Milwaukee market more,” said Trever. Racine is located on the shore of Lake Michigan and less than 30 miles south
Revenues are split about 50-50 between wooden shipping crates and containers, and pallets. In the pallet side of the business, about 75% of the company’s production is recycled pallets and the remainder new custom pallets. Wooden boxes and crates are custom made to ship a wide range of heavy products. The company also builds wooden crates for customers who need to ship big pieces of machinery.
Deploying the Right Equipment Makes All the Difference
Since the majority of the company’s pallet production is recycled, World Wide Box & Packaging needs a steady supply of reclaimed pallet parts. For that reason the shop is equipped with a Run-A-Gade bandsaw pallet disassembler from Universal Machinery. The Run-A-Gade disassembler works in tandem with a conveyor system and a trim saw. As a pallet is disassembled, the material drops onto the conveyor and is carried directly to the trim saw. Deck boards are immediately cut to length on the trim saw while stringers are pulled out stacked to be cut to length later on a radial arm saw.
Initially, when the company purchased the Run-A-Gade, reclaimed deck boards and stringers were conveyed to a table and separated by hand and wrapped in bundles, stored until they were moved later to the trim saw. Trever later decided it would be more efficient for the conveyor to move the reclaimed material directly to the trim saw and to have a worker immediately cutting the used lumber to length.
World Wide Box & Packaging recently purchased a Nail-Mate nailing jig from Universal Machinery, an improvement over assembling pallets by hand on spin tables. The company invested in the Nail-Mate primarily to assembly pallets made from both new and recycled material, otherwise known as combo pallets.
The Nail-Mate resembles a jig that angles slightly away from the worker. The automatic, air-powered gantry moves downward after the components have been loaded for the bottom face of the pallet, and after nailing the operator flips the pallet and loads the boards for the top face. The top face similarly is nailed automatically, and the operator removes the pallet. The Nail-Mate can be set up with three or four pneumatic nailing tools, depending on the type of pallet and number of stringers.
“It saves us a lot of labor,” said Trever.
Universal Machinery promotes the Nail-Mate with a production capacity of one or more pallets per minute with new material, which is more than 400 pallets in an 8-hour shift. Using recycled material, World Wide Box & Packaging is assembling 300 pallets in an 8-hour shift.
The company first began doing business with Mona Tracy in the late 1990s when it purchased some hand tools. The first machine it purchased from her was the Run-a-Gade.
Trever has taken advantage of Mona’s consulting expertise about shop layout and design and automation. “I’ve picked her mind quite a few times,” Trever said. “She’s been in the business quite a long time. She’s a good one to talk to.”
Trever has a five-year plan that includes future investments in machinery and equipment, and he has discussed that plan with Mona.
Custom Crating – More Than Just Pallets
Specializing in custom crates and boxes, World Wide Box & Packaging offers fully completed crates and boxes as well as kits for customers who want to do finished assembly on site.
Customers for crates and boxes include a business that manufactures electric hybrid motors as well as manufactures of aluminum, steel, plastic, machinery, tools, and electronic control systems.
World Wide Box & Packaging is certified to supply pallets and shipping containers that comply with ISPM-15. For customers that require export shipping, the company relies on another pallet company for heat-treating services. Stafford Inspection handles the ISPM-15 certification procedures.
Lumber Procurement & Strategy
Components for boxes and crates are remanufactured out of new lumber. The company buys a variety of new material, including random length softwood lumber, such as 2x4, 2x6, 2x8 and 2x10, 4x4 a 4x6, and 1x lumber, such as 1x4 and 1x6, as well as ½-inch and ¾-inch oriented strand board and CDX plywood. The material is cut to length with an assortment of table saws, radial arm saws and a panel saw.
For the pallet operations the company buys hardwood and softwood lumber as well as cut stock. Examples include economy 4x4 softwood for skids, rough cut 5/4 pine, and random length hardwood and aspen 2x4, 1x4, and 1x4 and 1x6 in various lengths. Most material simply needs to be cut to length on one of the shop’s radial arm saws or a trim saw. Some material requires remanufacturing — resawing and cutting to length — and those services are performed by another pallet company.
World Wide Box & Packaging buys cut stock from mills in Wisconsin and Michigan, and some in Minnesota, largely through Fox Lumber Sales, a Montana-based lumber broker. The company buys truckload quantities of 40-inch deck boards and stringers and also buys recycled stringers and other material from other pallet companies.
The company is equipped with semi-trailers and contracts to have them pulled by a local trucking company. It also has its own fleet of straight trucks for hauling lumber and delivering goods.
Scrap wood material is supplied to a couple of businesses that haul it away and grind it for mulch products. One keeps an open-top trailer staged at World Wide Box & Packaging, and the other keeps a 40-cubic-yard roll-off dumpster on-site. The company supplies the scrap wood material for free, and the vendors haul it away.
The crate and box operations employ four full-time workers and two part-time workers. “Every once in awhile, we’ll grab someone from the disassembly crew if it’s real busy in the box shop,” said Trever.
About three or four workers are dedicated each day to building pallets, and one or two repairing pallets. In addition, three workers keep busy running the disassembler, cutting material and sorting.
Besides making new and ‘combo’ pallets, the company makes ‘new’ pallets from all recycled lumber.
Incoming pallets are unloaded by a forklift, and the operator sorts them by hand on the outside docks according to three categories: standard 48x40 pallets, odd-size pallets, and others that will be disassembled. The pallet repair shop, with one or two workers, is housed in a building next to the outside docks. The worker who refurbishes the 48x40 pallets inspects each one and determines if it requires repair or can re-sold as is.
In addition to standard pallets, World Wide Box & Packaging supplies such sizes as 48x48, 48x45, 48x36, 45x45, 42x42, 36x24, 36x36, 32x32, 24x24. “We build a lot of pallets out of recycled material,” said Trever. “We build almost every size we repair.”
The company has an old single-head notching machine — inherited when it purchased the pallet business — that continues to function well. It is equipped with an Econotool notching head.
A local business, AS&T, supplies saw blades and sharpening services. Max and Paslode nailing tools are supplied by Blackhawk Industrial as well as collated nails.
Employee Training & Development
World Wide Box & Packaging provides employees with paid holidays. Workers get a week of paid vacation for the first three years, then two weeks.
Trever began using a temporary employment service to fill positions on a trial basis about 18 months ago. The agency screens candidates, and if they work out well, Trever offers them a position.
Trever also uses a third-party business to conduct annual safety training. It is a comprehensive service that includes first aid, licensing for forklift operators, hazardous material handling, and lock-out, tag-out procedures. “So everyone is trained or re-certified every year.”
The business has been growing steadily in recent years without the need for Trever to spend much time marketing or calling on prospective customers.
“We’ve grown every year,” he said. “It’s been good.”
When the economy nosedived around 2007-08, “That hurt business.” Since then, though, business has been steadily improving. “We’ve been getting a lot of new customers,” and orders with existing customers have been increasing incrementally.