following article featuring Associated Pallet, Inc. and Industrial
Drying & Sterilization appeared in Pallet
Enterprise magazine. To see original article, click here.
Pallet Companies Share Their Expertise on Heat Treatment Systems
world steps closer to the implementation of a global standard for
treatment of wood packaging, pallet companies are evaluating various
treatment systems. With a wide variety of options on the market,
many pallet manufacturers are scratching their heads trying to figure
out what is the best match for their company. The Pallet Enterprise
staff has talked with some leading pallet manufacturers to gauge
their concerns and comments on the treatment technology.
you make a purchase, read this article. You could learn a tip that
could save you thousands of dollars or keep you from buying the
wrong treatment solution for your needs.
There, Done That
Pallet & Industrial Drying Sterilization in Bremen, Ky. has
been heat treating hardwood pallets for 12 years. Its customers
have requested treated pallets due to mold and sanitation concerns.
Some of these pallets have been used for export shipments. A pioneer
in treating hardwood pallets, Associated Pallet uses an all aluminum,
stainless construction, boiler-fueled kiln.
hundreds of thousands of dollars on its treatment facility, Associated
Pallet can treat 12-15 truckloads per week. "It takes more
than a drying chamber to provide what customers want," said
Mike Perry, president of Associated Pallet. To store treated pallets,
the company built a 25,000 sq. ft. warehouse.
his years of experience in treating hardwood pallets, Mike shared
that ambient temperature significantly impacts treatment time. Mike
prefers live steam because it heats the wood core faster than blown
air. Moisture can be a problem for pallets treated in a non-kiln
system according to Mike. "Moisture laden pallets are a recipe
for disaster if they go into a warehouse."
Playing a Game of Chicken
pallet manufacturers and some recyclers are facing a tough decision
when it comes to when to install a treatment system. Should you
go ahead and spend the money to install a treatment system before
customers start asking for treated pallets or do you play catch-up
when the orders begin to come?
Bennett Perry, president of Bennett Box in Ahoskie, N.C. plans on
going ahead with plans to put a treatment system in this summer.
Barbara expressed concern about meeting demand once the international
community began requiring treatment for hardwood pallets. She did
not want to lose customers due to the treatment issue. Bennett Box
needs to be able to treat one truckload per day. Barbara looked
everywhere for a solution. She even considered converting a tobacco
dryer into a pallet treatment chamber. Instead, she decided to integrate
a dry kiln into an insulated refrigerator trailer. This approach
provides her the capacity she needs at a manageable price point.
Lumber & Pallet Co., of Jacksonville, Texas plans to install
two large heat treatment chambers similar to a dry kiln. Each one
can hold up to two truckloads of pallets. According to Eddie Arrington,
owner of Arrington Lumber, forty percent of his business will have
to be treated once the phytosanitary standards are implemented.
Even though his customers do not want to start treating pallets
until required by foreign countries, he wants to get a jump on the
market. He estimates that his system will cost $650,000 for the
equipment and installation.
not everyone plans to install a treatment system right away. "I
will not build a treatment system until there is a demand for treated
pallets," said Asher Tourison of ACME Pallet in Holland, Mich.
"Our customers dont want to even talk about buying treated
pallets. They will want to wait to the last minute, and then they
will want us to solve the problem overnight." Having been burned
in the past by trends and fads, Asher asked what happens if the
bug issue blows over. Customers wanting treatment thrown in for
free as a "value-added service" has contributed to ACMEs
reluctance. Given the tough winters in Michigan, Asher believes
that ACME Pallet would likely have to buy a kiln-like chamber, which
will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $250,000-$500,000. Thus,
he wants to get 2,000 4,000 treated pallets per week before
spending a dime on installing a treatment system.
a new nailing system, steam-based heat chambers require a significant
amount of infrastructure including a boiler, pipes, valves, pumps,
etc. All of these are sunk costs that cannot be recovered even if
the chamber is sold.
of when you plan to buy a pallet treatment system, the following
checklist presents some key points to ponder when evaluating various
1.) What capacity will you need?
with this question first. The number of pallets that you want to
treat per day will help you determine the size of the chamber needed
to meet your demand. If you only want to treat a limited number
of pallets per week, one of the less expensive, smaller options
may work well. For larger volumes, a sizeable dry kiln-like system
may be the best fit.
Weather Frozen Lumber or Moldy Pallets?
Nature can actively work to sabotage your treatment system. Cold
weather environments lower the temperature of the lumber, which
increases the energy and time needed to treat the pallet. "Less
expensive heat treatment methods make me a little nervous when it
comes to the frozen wood issue," said Asher. He prefers a system
run on steam because it will help deal with the harsh Michigan winters.
In warmer environments, moisture can cause a mold problem if a pallet
is not dried.
Loading and Unloading Method
systems are designed to be loaded and unloaded by a lift truck driving
directly inside the chamber. Others require pallets to be pre-loaded
onto a dolly first. The dolly sits on a track and is pushed into
sources vary from wood chips to natural gas to liquid propane. Cheaper
fuel sources, such as wood chips, require more up-front cost due
to the need to install a boiler. In the long run, a company saves
money especially if more expensive fuel sources start to rise in
The Need for Speed
critical factor is how hot you can get a chamber and how long does
it take to get there," said Eddie. Arrington Lumber decided
to use a direct steam system because it will heat the chamber faster.
The downside is that it will produce wet pallets that could mold.
These pallets will likely spend an extra 30 minutes in the dryer
just to be safe. A number of factors such as the size and insulation
of the container as well as the weather can impact the heat transfer
on the capacity of your treatment chamber, the layout of your plant
and the volume of heat-treated pallets required by your customers,
timing could be critical. Barbara is concerned about scheduling
problems as customers make a run on treated pallets. Consider how
you will stage your pallets, where you will store them after treatment,
etc. The last thing you want is a logistics nightmare in your plant.
Dry or Just Heat?
buy a system that will only heat the pallet/lumber or will heat
and dry it at the same time. Chambers that do both cost more, but
they offer greater flexibility. Why would a customer want a dry
pallet? Dry pallets weigh less, easing ergonomic concerns. Plus,
moisture removal reduces the threat of mold or water damage to products
shipped on the pallet. The ability to regulate humidity in the air
also affects lumber quality.
areas of the country, local governments may require a detailed permit
process to install a boiler. Check with the local government to
find out how cumbersome the process can be. Clean air regulations
have made it difficult for even paper companies to burn their wood
waste in some states said Barbara.
how durable the chamber will be. How thick are the walls? Does the
system provide adequate air flow to ensure proper treatment levels
in all areas of the chamber?
usually boils down to price at one point or another. But remember
that total cost is not necessarily the same as the lowest sticker
price. Focus on the lowest treatment cost per pallet. The less expensive
option may or may not be more expensive than you think.
volume, dry kiln costs more than the small box systems according
to Asher. Kilns require concrete work, boilers, piping, pumps, and
other incidentals, which can add big bucks to the cost of a system.
of the commercially available options will dry and/or heat pallets
and lumber without causing any real lumber damage, even in hardwoods,
if managed properly. However, it is not as simple as throw in a
load of pallets and turn on the timer. "You can honeycomb your
wood if you dont do this right," said Asher. Associated
Pallet has been heat treating pallets for twelve years without experiencing
any real lumber degradation problem. Whatever you plan to buy, go
and visit a system working in the field. Discuss the system you
want to buy with your certification agency. A little more research
now can save you a major headache later.