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Technology: Industry's Favorite Toys & Gadgets
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Embracing new technology is not easy. Is the wood packaging industry ready? The following comments from our industry thought leaders share on several areas of old and new technology, along with a little nostalgia.


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Top tags: app  technology  drone  software  automation  pds  rfid  robotics  3D printing  bar code  cloud  communications  crm  data  design  digital  edi  electronic  gps  imaging  labeling  labor  logistics  mapping  pallet  scanners  skype  smart phone  system  transportation 

Q&A: John Romelfanger, CEO, H&S Forest Products, Inc.

Posted By John Romelfanger, Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, January 3, 2017

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.

Email John Romelfanger, H & S Forest Products, Inc.

Tags:  3D printing  app  drone  imaging  mapping  pds  rfid  technology 

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Q&A: Steve Yelland, President, JFR Holdings, Inc.

Posted By Steven Yelland, Tuesday, February 21, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A1: The fax machine, but only because we're forced to, for receiving orders from some of our customers. I don’t like faxing documents because it always seems to fail.

A2: I typically read two to three newspapers a day. For the last three years I've always read the e-newspaper version on my iPad. While I could live without it for a day, I'd be really cranky until I got a new one.

A3: We constantly use "Fuze" which is a virtual meeting platform for our weekly status calls. In my opinion, it's much more efficient than conference calls. The camera option is great!

A4: Everything is moving at such a fast pace; I'd have to say robotics in the near future. They can do the work much more efficiently than a human.

Email Steve Yelland, JFR Holdings, Inc.

Tags:  app  robotics  technology 

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Q&A: Randy Panko, Blade Sales Manager, Wood-Mizer, LLC

Posted By Randy Panko, Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A1: We still use the fax machine to ensure that documents are received reliably. I also keep a notebook with me of current addresses, phone numbers, and my most immediate “things to do list” rather having all this info on an electronic device.

A2: Spending as much time as I do visiting sawmills, pallet mills and attending tradeshows, it is essential that I have my laptop, smartphone and GPS. Emails, reports and following daily sales are difficult without these convenient “toys.” Even though I use my cell phone as a GPS, I prefer my Garmin which is more visible in the vehicle, and user friendly.

A3: With global operations, we communicate via Skype. This allows us to keep in touch with our counterparts in Europe, Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America. For travel, I use What’s App, Tango and Messenger to communicate with my family. For travel arrangements Delta, IHG Hotels and Lyft get a lot of my attention.

A4: This year Wood-Mizer invested in a new state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Batesville, Indiana. We used a drone to monitor and document the construction process which was later used as an educational/ informational video for our worldwide employees and the public. We also developed product videos and photo shoots using a drone. Our marketing and IT department utilizes “Slack” which is an internal communication tool where information, files and videos can be quickly shared without using up email or server space. It is a great communication and instant chat tool for staying up to date on the latest projects.

Email Randy Panko, Wood-Mizer, LLC

Tags:  app  communications  drone  gps  skype  technology  video 

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Q&A: Bradley Van Swol, AAI, CPIA, Vice President, Hays Companies

Posted By Bradley Van Swol, Hays Companies, Tuesday, February 7, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A1: Paper copy of a daily planner. If I lose it I’m toast, but it’s what works for me.

A2: Without a doubt, my iPhone map app!

A3: Working with clients throughout the country, I rely on my iPhone map app. It might take me on the longer route, and I’ll have no idea where I am, but it gets me where I need to be!

A4: Our organization runs 36 offices nationally. We’ll continue to utilize every new form of communication technology that becomes available to improve overall efficiencies. Email and text messaging has its place, but Live Chat, Live Conferencing, Linked-In Navigator allow us to work better with our clients. We also incorporate advances in computing power such as programs through SalesForce where large volumes of data are stored in the cloud at minimal cost. The algorithms are easy to access and help us to improve sales while ensuring that we are selling the right products to the right customers. In-office face time is invaluable, people are busy and efficiency is critical. With these advances in technology, I can work with a client located 500 miles away on a daily basis more effectively than I can with quarterly in-office meetings. More importantly, customer relationship management (CRM) allows for sales on a global scale. Location becomes insignificant as long as I deliver as promised.

Technology in robotics is amazing, especially in healthcare where once difficult medical procedures are almost routine and recovery times are reduced dramatically. Drones? There will be more regulations, but drones will have a place when it comes to improving efficiency and reducing costs; i.e. a drone can probably more efficiently deliver a package than a vehicle when you factor in fuel, vehicle maintenance, etc. Drones have range limitations and will never be the end-all be-all when it comes to technology. Their usage will depend on what works for that particular business. Will drones impact the labor force? Possibly, but it may be more about transitioning roles of labor than it is a reduction in labor. The same for driverless vehicles which is part of the evolution of technology where you’ll see the transitioning of the role of a workforce, but not necessarily a down-size in the work force. Another example: paper currency. Don’t have $5 but have your smartphone? You can buy that!

Email Bradley R. Van Swol, Hays Companies Insurance

Tags:  app  drone  labor  technology  transportation  video conferencing 

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Q&A: Callen Cochran, Business Dev. Manager, United Pallet Services

Posted By Callen Cochran, Tuesday, January 31, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A1: We still rely heavily on the fax machine. Its days are numbered, but it’s just easy to enter the fax number, hit send, and walk away.

A2: Personally, I’m doing away with filing invoices and statements, there’s too much paper to manage. I love Evernote, which is an App that can easily “snap” a picture of invoices whenever I receive them. Once the digital image is there, I save it in the appropriate digital notebook and then shred the actual document. Evernote has proven to be a great external brain for me. It can document pretty much anything – photos, passwords, news articles, etc.

A3: We implemented a cloud-based CRM software almost two years ago. It also serves as our dispatch board. The idea of having to scrap it and go back to our previous methods makes my head hurt!

A4: New technologies and the pallet industry seem to go together like oil and water, however I can see us investing in robotics or automation in the somewhat short term if the labor situation continues down the current path.

Email Callen Cochran, United Pallet Services, Inc.

Tags:  app  crm  digital  software  technology 

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Q&A: Carolyn Beach, Vice President, Westside Pallet

Posted By Carolyn Beach-Skinner, Tuesday, January 24, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A1: We still use our fax machine although we are scanning and emailing more frequently. I use my paper rolodex quite often. We also have a 2" binder with a daily calendar to pencil in our delivery schedule. It's how we all communicate with what is going out every day.

A2: Definitely my smart phone. If I'm not at my computer, then I am working from my iPhone emailing or connecting to my computer to create and print sales orders. I couldn't live without GPS.

A3: Our computers are the most important technology we use. Quickbooks and Microsoft Office are necessities.

A4: I have an "if it's not broke don't fix it" mentality. So I don't expect to use new technology unless I am forced to. But I will say that I’m keeping the robotic pallet making machines in the back of my mind because it is getting harder to find good labor.

Email Carolyn Beach, Westside Pallet

Tags:  app  smart phone  technology 

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Q&A: Dean Roderick, Managing Director, RodPak

Posted By Dean Roderick, Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A1: The fax machine is a staff favorite, mainly because its key purpose is to receive the list of daily food specials from our local take-out store. Personally I love our electronic printing whiteboard (Panasonic) from the 1990’s. Unfortunately, both are about to become redundant as thermal printing paper is difficult to source.

A2: In a quick survey of our staff, the smartphone is the clear favorite.

A3: We have become very dependent upon a range of apps: banking and finance apps to track spending; weather apps for the operations staff to assist planning; airline and flight radar apps to assist in making travel more efficient for management and sales personnel.

A4: In the short term, there is no doubt that robotics and automation will be further developed in our operations. Improved use of portable electronic devices for operational and logistics purposes is imminent.

With a longer view, continuous implementation of automation to eliminate manual handling and to enhance quality control. It is probable that some form of driverless vehicle/s will be used to reduce the costs associated with stock movements. The Pallet Design System™ (PDS) will be at the heart of business operations in ten years’ time, having been developed into a fully integrated unit load design system. Technical sales personnel will work with clients to reduce total unit packaging costs through smart design. Finance staff will have seamless integration with accounts systems to improve cost control. Manufacturing will only produce to customer approved designs, typically uploaded directly from PDS to the pallet machines.

Email Dean Roderick, RodPak

Tags:  app  automation  design  logistics  pallet  robotics  software  system 

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Q&A: Joe Demarco, Director of Communications, LINC Systems

Posted By Joe DeMarco, Tuesday, January 10, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A1: A “favorite” for me would be none of the ‘old’ technologies. My goal is to move our company into the most modern technology for efficiency while meeting the needs of our customer base. Yet it seems that fax machines are still a part of their world. Although we still have people using the paper calendar, for the most part, we have “modernized” our business.

A2: All of the current technology - lap top computer, smartphone, paperless fax machine, electronic billing/invoicing, business software – are crucial to our business. As a supplier we ship to 22 states and have over 70 field sales / service people. All these tools are a crucial part of our communication.

A3: We use the Microsoft Surface with our field sales / service people. It allows touch screen parts and service call entry. Logging the tools they work on and the parts they service with, allow us to understand the true cost to serve.

A4: RFID: we own thousands of nailers that are placed at customers across 22 states. We repair and service them. RFID for tracking and recording is a technology that we can benefit from, and still in need of some advances. We currently track with scanners and log the parts placed in tools.


Tags:  app  rfid  scanners  software  technology 

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Q&A: Ralph Rupert, Manager, Unit Load Tech., Millwood, Inc.

Posted By Ralph Rupert, Wednesday, January 4, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A1: Fax machines are still frequently used at our manufacturing locations. In fact, many of our suppliers and customers prefer to fax orders and invoices rather than call or email them in. We also use walkie-talkies as a convenient way to communicate between team members on the manufacturing floor.

A2: At Millwood, we could not live without computer-based software, such as EDI (electronic data interchange), the Pallet Design System™ and other database systems along with smartphones and tablets.

A3: Microsoft Suite (specifically Word, Excel and PowerPoint) are absolutes. As our customer base increases so does our use of these technologies. Our marketing team also enjoys using applications in the Adobe Creative Cloud suite.

A4: In the short term, we expect to see more bar-code labeling in more of our manufacturing facilities to help track how many pallets our team members are repairing each shift. We expect to continue seeing advancements in automation. In our industry specifically, our manufacturing facilities will continue to invest in automatic nailers and ergonomic equipment.

Email Ralph Rupert, Millwood, Inc.

Tags:  app  automation  bar code  cloud  data  edi  electronic  labeling  pds 

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