A1: Our favorite is still the fax machine. We work with a number of Amish mills and a fax is the only quick way to communicate in writing with them, and vice versa. Just because something is “old” doesn’t make it useless. Another old standby is the tape measure. This may not be considered “equipment,” but it’s very important in the pallet industry where 1/8” can make a real impact on costs and pallet strength.
A2: For our sales staff, the cell phone for virtually instantaneous communication via voice and email almost anywhere, plus all the functions that apps can do (traffic, weather, GPS, mapping, etc) is critical. For our accounting staff, the accounting software enables us to be more efficient and accurate, then we have better information to manage our business. Both of these technologies make our customer service staff’s job better.
A3: GPS apps work not only for driving directions, traffic issues and re-routes, but for accurate ETAs to your destination.
A4: I’m not convinced that we’ll see totally driverless vehicles soon (that don’t crash), but today’s technologies can make driving safer. There is currently brake assist, lane keeping assist and backup cameras, and I’m sure they’ll improve and become available on more vehicles. A lot of mills still use older equipment that work fine, so newer manufacturing technology doesn’t always produce the efficiencies needed to justify the capital expenditure.
I hope to see 3-D printing capabilities for pallet designs that can be shared with customers and prospects. While not full scale, a picture is better than words and a 3-D print is better than pictures.
ACH payments have gained acceptance in the last 2-3 years and, hopefully, will soon replace all paper checks. Some companies need to get better at providing the remittance details behind these payments.
We also look forward to pallet software assisting with load planning (some do today). We expect to use these resources to help improve overall efficiencies at our mills while also maximizing the pallet loads.
Someday, RFIDs will be a cost effective and reliable way to track pallets. This technology would have a significant impact on the pallet industry. If a customer knew they would have the opportunity to reuse their pallet, it would make economic sense to improve their durability, increase their useful life. It could also create a possible business case for utilizing an alternative material (wood composites, plastic, etc.) which costs more to build a pallet.
We’ll also see an impact on utilizing imaging technology for improved quality screening of raw material and finished product that currently rely on the human eye and judgement.