Scott Pallets, Inc.
The idea of making wooden pallets began with our older sister sawmill, Amelia Lumber Co., Inc. During the 1950’s and 1960’s as with most mills in our area, they cut both pine and hardwood. Our low end products then known as by products and now we address them as value added were a problem. Amelia Lumber needed better markets, to add value, for their low-grade hardwood lumber. Some if not most of this would have been sold to pallet mills that would then resaw and assemble into pallets and skids. Scott Pallets was incorporated on March 21, 1966 and for the first year or two we operated off the green chain at Amelia Lumber Co.
My parents built a permanent facility on adjacent property during 1967 or 1968. I have distinct memories of my parents proudly showing off the new plant. Even in those days, we had Doig machines to nail the pallets, while even today many pallets are still hand assembled and nailed with hand held air guns. Our philosophy was to build and provide a quality consistent product and dependable service. Hand built construction lacked the controls to provide consistency. During the next few years we bought cants, resawed them and assembled. Most of our production was custom work and sold thru brokers or wholesalers. We sold pallets in a geographic range of 500-600 miles. Diesel was cheap in those days and our market area was regional.
In the early 1970’s we purchased a very aggressive new designed machine, the 3rd one ever made, state of the art, designed for high volume runs. This machine would assemble and nail 4 pallets per minute and neatly stack them. The purchase of this machine was a pivotal point for us. In retrospect it was one of the best decisions we ever made. During this time frame we were converting for custom runs to more standard warehouse pallets known as GMA’s. We went from cutting a wide variety of lengths and sizes to 2 basic lengths. Supervision and oversight is greatly reduced when one goes to 2 basic lengths versus changing after every load. The Grocery Pallet Council came into being in the late 1960’s early 1970’s and we were very active with this market. According to the certifying agency, we produced more GPC pallets than anyone in the country.
I had been working as a registered dietitian, getting some experience in the outside world and came back to work in our business in June of 1977. It was always my parents wish and hope that all their children would remain close emotionally and geographically and also work in our business. To this day, three of their living children have spent their adult lives working in our businesses.
In the late 1970’s we worked on two important projects. At that time lumber costs represented about 70% of the cost of a pallet and this still remains the major cost of production. We researched and installed machines to produce lumber from small logs producing our cut stock in house rather than buying from others. This helped us control cost and improved the quality of the lumber we used to build pallets. While the machines we use have changed with technology advances and improvements we have continued to produce most of our lumber in-house from small logs. (Please see a general description that details the science behind this methodology.) The other major project was to obtain the right to haul for hire. This was prior to deregulation of the trucking industry and one had to literally “buy” your authority or rights to legally hire for others. This process was expensive and time consuming. We used specialized attorneys and this process went on for a few years. This allowed us to keep our equipment loaded in both directions, better utilize our equipment, better use of our fuel resources, increase revenues and compete more efficiently. (During the 1980’s the trucking industry was deregulated and one could apply and receive their authority with much less expense time and effort.) In 1989 we formed Scott Transport, Inc. to reduce our liability exposure and operate this as a sister company. (When we complete this process, we are going to start the paperwork to certify Scott Transport.)
In the mid 1980’s our next major investment was to install a 40’ drum debarker and a bark collection system. Prior to this time the bark went in to our chips, which lowered their value, the bark caused more saw/blade wear and maintenance costs. We now debark our logs before further processing and we have an excellent market for our double shredded hardwood and pine bark mulch. At the time the investment approached $750,000. and I thought we would never pay for this. These large drums are usually operated by large pulp and paper mills and we are somewhat unique in using one. This also proved a very wise investment.
When we started in the pallet business the wooden pallet industry was basically a new business. One might say we were in our infancy or early childhood. We are now a more mature industry with different problems, opportunities and hopefully solutions. The pallet recycling industry has had a major impact on most of us. The recycling industry has had its most success with the food and grocery manufactures and because that was our bread and butter for about 25 years, we too had to change.
We under went a major installation of new equipment in the early 1990’s. Our chipping canters gave us excellent production but the lumber was rough and anticipating the necessity of a better finish and better yield from existing logs we started the process of converting from the canters to Scragg mills. For us this was major investment approximately one million dollars. We installed all new Scraggs, splitter, trim saws, resaws, notchers, etc. The manufacturer had excellent designs but in the actual production cut many corners and while we finally paid for all, this was not our wisest investment. It was too large a project; we changed too much, too quickly. This was an important lesson for me and since then my goals have been to replace machines one at a time. This new system gave us a finer finish on our lumber, better yield but less production.
With the rapid expanse of the the recycling industry we now produce more custom made to order pallets per a customer’s specific needs. Our nailing machines are computerized now and we send the pallet “pattern” from our office computers to our nailing machines. This customized work requires far more supervision and oversight. I have always been hands on but now spend even more time in production.
We built and installed containers for heat treatment of pallets for export and were certified for this early in 2003. We were one of the early mills to get ready for this and while certified in 2003 and we did not have orders for this until early in 2004.
During the years since 2000 with rapidly escalating fuel and energy costs, we have literally had to reinvent ourselves. When diesel was .85-$1.09 per gallon with all the taxes we could market and deliver our products to a much larger geographic area and obviously with a much larger potential audience and customer base. We now market to a local area and try to keep our shipping radius to about 150 miles. This has created what could be termed a challenging opportunity.
We installed a line to cut up pine, so we could make pine pallets we also bought and installed an additional nailing, which increased our production and gave us more flexibility.
Leander O. Scott & Eva F. Scott