Callen Cochran is on a mission to extend the life of wood pallets. And he has the research to back it up.
RPA editor: You have a product that’s different than any of our members. Tell us about it.
Cochran: The pointGUARD Pallet Protector is an innovative plastic shield that protects the wood pallet entry points from forklift damage. Imagine the role of a bumper on a car; we’re similar in purpose to the bumper. It’s a way to reinforce wooden pallets in a cost-effective manner so that companies get much more use out of them and a stronger return on their investment.
RPA editor: Explain the research behind the product.
Cochran: We’ve had the product tested extensively at the Center for Packaging and Unit Load Design at Virginia Tech. During one of our FasTrack tests, pallets that had our product attached to them lasted 44 cycles versus 2 to 3 cycles for those without it. People get a much longer life and greater return on their pallet for a small investment.
RPA editor: How did the company come up with the idea for the product?
Cochran: pointGUARD is part of United Pallet Services which does a lot of
pallet repair. We noticed that most damage to pallets happened in two places: at the very end where the forklift hits and at the top lead board. Also, the product sitting on the pallet in those places gets damaged. A large cannery customer was losing about $1 million a year in product loss from damaged pallets. Falling wood chips are another issue. My father-in-law, who is one of the owners of United Pallet Services, and two engineers came up with the idea for pointGUARD and patented the concept.
RPA editor: How is the pointGUARD protector attached to pallets?
Cochran: It easily attaches with wood screws. Most of our sales are on orders for new pallets and we attach the pointGUARD during the manufacture process. Also, we can attach them to certain used pallets.
RPA editor: What are some of the tactics you’ve used successfully to promote your product?
Cochran: People often think cheaper is better. We have to educate them that an additional investment upfront will give them cost savings in the long run. I exhibit at 2 to 3 trade shows a year and spend a fair amount of time defending the wood pallet in marketing materials, including my blog.
RPA editor: What are you hearing from customers in the supply chain these days?Cochran: More and more, I hear customers say that safety and sustainability are their top directives. Reusables support sustainability of course, and our product extends the life cycle and addresses safety concerns.
RPA editor: What value did you get from exhibiting in the Reusable Packaging Pavilion at PACK EXPO in 2014?
Cochran: Grouping all the suppliers of reusables into the pavilion is an incredible value for members and for attendees. We wouldn’t get as much traffic if we were in a booth off by ourselves. And for a new reusable solution like ours, being among well-established suppliers increases our stature.
RPA editor: You also sponsored a presentation at the Reusables Learning Center (RLC). How was that experience?
Cochran: Participating in the RLC was a great opportunity for us to educate people about our product in a setting that was comfortable for them. I really like the whole concept of the RLC. Sometimes companies are embarrassed about their lack of knowledge about reusables. The RLC gives them a comfortable and discreet way to get up to date. Creating educational opportunities like this for the market is the strongest benefit that the RPA can provide.
RPA editor: what do you do when you are not promoting pointGUARD?
Cochran: When I’m not in the office, most of my time is spent chasing our two young children, so that keeps me busy. My wife and I are passionate about traveling. We hope to tour Europe someday when the kids are older.