Hardy-Graham Containers Offer Customized Packaging Solutions
By Rick LeBlanc
AMBLER, Penn. At a North Carolina plant that makes bell housings for trucks, Drew Graham was shocked to see the bell housings stored awkwardly on hundreds of pallets, single-stacked across much of the warehouse.
"They had them sitting in 20,000 feet of warehouse space all over the floor," recalled Drew, president of Hardy-Graham, Inc., the producer of Hardy-Built fastening systems. Meanwhile, the factory had about 20 feet of clear ceiling space that was not being used.
The customer was unable to figure out a more efficient way of storing the finished parts since they could not be double-stacked on pallets. Drew offered to design a four-sided frame that would clamp onto the pallet, secured at the vertical corners with the Hardy-Graham system.
"Now you can stack these things," Drew said. "When you want to ship them, you can take the frame off and ship them the same way you did before. Meanwhile, youve reduced floor storage by 75% to 90% through stacking of the pallet frames."
The above example illustrates the custom, solution-oriented approach that Hardy-Graham takes to helping customers find the best answer for their reusable, knock-down wood packaging needs. Hardy-Graham takes a highly customized, solution-oriented approach to each customer application.
"We get queries all the time," said Drew. "We get telephone calls from container companies, pallet people or OEM (original equipment manufacture) companies looking for a solution to a problem. We do the engineering and the design of the containers for them."
The Hardy-Built Fastening System is an engineered, patented fastening system used to quickly lock together panels of wood and other materials to form knock-down, returnable containers. Containers can be of any size, shape, and design. The system fits virtually any thickness of material, although APA-certified plywood often is recommended for demanding applications.
Drew grew up in the steel business and has an academic background in metallurgy and business. He was running his own metal stamping business when he invented his system during the 1970s. He first began selling it to military suppliers in 1976. In 1988, after enjoying considerable success in the military sector, he launched his sales program for commercial users.
"The Hardy-Built Fastening System is the most flexible closure system on the market for returnable reusable containers," said Drew. Hardy-Graham provides an array of solutions ranging from enclosed containers and open crates to stackable pallet frames and pallet collars.
Hardy-Graham is unique from other businesses in the wooden container marketplace. The company supplies complete container or packaging systems. However, it also supplies hardware and technical support to pallet manufacturers and container manufacturers looking to provide reusable, knock-down wood packaging to their customers.
The hardware also can be used for easily assembled and disassembled lids or side panels on rigid containers as well as on stackable pallet collars. All hardware components are zinc plated to prevent corrosion, and the only tool required for disassembly is a screwdriver. Spring clips can be permanently attached to one of the plates to prevent loss when disassembled.
Another point Drew stressed is the importance of metal-to-metal contact for spring clips rather than metal-to-wood. Metal-to-metal provides reliable, durable fastening while eliminating the wear-and-tear damage associated with systems in which spring clips engage wood. Another feature the company offers is a device that indicated if someone has attempted to open a container.
The company can supply much more besides an enclosed box or a box with a removable side wall. "Weve designed a lot of units where weve used 1x4s, 2x4s, or 4x4s where customers have wanted to use an open crate concept to transport something from A to B, " said Drew.
"One company from the South Pacific asked us to find a solution to a problem they were having shipping 1,250 kilograms of granular material in knock-down, returnable plywood bins," Drew recalled. The customer faced an 85% reject rate on its existing closure systems due to breakage. Hardy-Graham solved the problem by retrofitting the Hardy-Built Fastening System to the customers 50,000 existing containers. Since the program was started in 1989, another 105,000 new containers have been added. There have been no closure system breakage problems since the conversion to the Hardy-Built fasteners.
Over the years, however, some of the containers have begun to show wear due to the rough export handling environment and the requirement for a solvent washing after each trip. The customer has begun a program to replace 50,000 containers with new ones. The Hardy-Built hardware components are still in good shape. They are being removed from the old containers and installed onto the new units coming into the system, saving the customer considerable money.
Hardy-Graham also has had success in other applications, such as designing knock-down reusable containers to fit on existing pallets. One program for international produce shipment called for an economical four-sided container to sit on a Euro pallet, but there was a hitch. The pallet would be absorbed into the European pallet pool and therefore could not be modified. Using Hardy-Built, the final design provided a stable container in which to ship the produce. When emptied, the four sides are removed from the pallet for shipment back to New Zealand while the pallet enters the European pool.
The simplicity of the system aids in dealing with customers in locations around the world, but the company provides a personal touch. Drew is planning to visit a new customer in Mexico in order to demonstrate assembly techniques. "We are going to give them instructions and a template," Drew said. "Thats part of the service."
Hardy-Graham also sells CONTAINER TRACKER®, a software program to track containers and reusable packaging. "Tracking is important," Drew noted. "If you are paying $150 or $200 for a container, including hardware, you only have to lose about seven or eight to justify the purchase of tracking software."
Drew is optimistic about the potential for the Hardy-Built Fastener System. The biggest challenge to his companys growth is exposure in the many niches where it can provide great value to customers.
"We are dealing in large as well as small volumes of containers," Drew explained. "We are solution-oriented. We are giving people something that is economical, that is ergonomic, that is just right for their particular type of operation.
For more information on Hardy-Graham, call the company at (800) 445-4271 or visit their Web site at www.hardy-builtfastener.com.
Hardy-Built® Fastening Systems
The Hardy-Built® Fastening System is an engineered, patented fastening system used to lock together panels of wood and other materials to form knock-down, returnable, reusable containers of any size, shape and design. The system fits virtually any thickness of metal. Also used for selected individual panels on containers and on stackable, modular pallet collars.
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©Copyright 1999 Pallet Enterprise Reprinted by Permission of Industrial Reporting, Inc.