A Word from the General Manager - December 2014

December 1, 2014

Buyer Beware! 

Brian Isard

With the escalating material prices this year, everyone has been looking for ways to reduce material costs of the pallets and crates we manufacture.

Our customers, whether they be procurement managers or packaging designers, are often focused on bringing in lower packaging costs. This often means material reduction because as we all know… less material means a lower unit cost .

But as wood packaging manufacturers, we are often concerned that this drive to lower prices will come at the expense of overall pallet quality.

So when a new supplier comes around offering fasteners that are priced at a hefty discount compared to what your current nail supplier is offering it is hard not to consider switching suppliers. 

Recently, a number of our manufacturing members were offered a large discount on some commonly used imported bulk nails. Their experience is a good illustration of the benefits of undertaking your own due diligence with a simple measurement tool to validate fastener specifications and help determine whether prices being offered are in fact true discounts.

The label on the box of bulk nails read 3” x 0.120” and was priced 10% lower than that of the regular supplier. However, on closer examination using a micrometer it was determined that the wire diameter measurement was taken at the spiral or helix of the nail (Figure A). Whereas the proper place to measure the wire diameter of a nail is on the shaft just below the nail head (Figure B).

Figure A
Figure B

In Figure B the nail showed an actual diameter used is 0.113” when measured at the proper location on the shaft of the nail.

Does proper specficiation matter if the price is right?

By manufacturing nails with a 0.113” shaft instead of a 0.120’ shaft and mislabelling the box, the supplier was able to create one extra nail for every ten nails manufactured. This provides for an additional 12% more nails in the box of bulk nails which easily allows the new supplier to offer a pricing discount.

So of course it matters. If I am buying nails I want to be supplied with the proper specifications and not be misled on what I am getting.

I have always had a strong interest in nail quality as it relates to wood packaging for several reasons:

  • The strength of a pallet depends largely on the type of nail used. If you are building or repairing pallets based on a specification for one of the pallet pools or the brewery pallet, using the approved nail is a critical manufacturing specification due to the impact the nail has on durability, overall pallet life, and ability of the pallet to remain square over time. 
  • Furthermore, if you are building pallets and using the PDS (Pallet Design System) software to design the pallet, nail specifications are key input requirement to pallet design specifications, especially on load bearing performance. Wood packaging manufacturers should be very cautious about changing fastener specifications unless the product is first re-evaluated using PDS.
  • With most of our timber is stored outside in the winter months, paying attention to nail quality provides real benefits when you are nailing into hardwood or frozen wood.
  • Good quality threaded nails are better able to resist the effects of wear and tear that occurs on the pallets through normal material handling.
  • Popped nail heads really upset customers. If you are manufacturing with a green wood, good quality nails perform much better when the wood dries out in terms of remaining below the surface of the deck.
  • I have learned through experience that bulk nails have to be what is referred to as machine quality. The nails have to be clean, without rust or grease contamination with consistent thickness in diameter and with well centered head in order to run efficiently and consistently in automated manufacturing equipment. 

To be clear, I don’t have anything against imported nails. After all, most of the bulk and collated nails on the Canadian market are imported. My point is that you need to make sure that you are getting what you are paying for and the micrometer is a good tool to have as part of your quality management program.

PO Box 280 ,Carleton Place, ON, K7C 3P4
T. 613.521.6468 or 1.877.224.3555 F. 866.375.1835
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