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Canadian pallet company tames paper and tracking tiger by switching to Pallet Connect cloud-based software. ERP solves management problems, reduces burden on office staff and improves customer communications.

MISSISSAUGA, Ontario – Sometimes success can cause its own set of problems. Nik Bojovic started and successfully grew City Pallets, a pallet supplier in a suburb of Toronto. But he found himself overwhelmed by his legacy information system, and the paper nightmare it created.

 “It just got to the point where we were growing and getting pretty big,” said Bojovic.  “It took so much time for me personally and the accounting department to go through every piece of paper…It was so tedious. I found myself tied to a computer…It just didn’t seem very efficient. It was a terrible way of doing things.”

Bojovic found a solution with Pallet Connect, which offers the first cloud-based Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) management system developed specifically for the pallet industry.

The difference for Bojovic and his office staff has been like night and day. “Looking back at it now,” said Bojovic, “I don’t even know how we stayed in business, but we obviously made it work.”

Scattered Approach to Tracking and Inventory Management

The company’s previous method of tracking incoming pallets and other pertinent information about operations relied on slips of paper and a mixture of Excel spreadsheets. Information captured on paper had to be entered into the Excel software. “A lot of the planning was done on white (erasable) boards,” added Bojovic.

Eventually, the rudimentary system of gathering and tracking information became unwieldy and increasingly inefficient. “I found it all kind of crazy,” admitted Bojovic. “Bits of paper that were worth a few thousand dollars” could be lost. He used a couple of cell phone apps for scheduling purposes. However, they were not easily coordinated and didn’t ‘talk’ to each other.

                City Pallets has a number of independent vendors who collect surplus pallets from businesses and sell the cores to City Pallets. They deliver them in quantities as small as a pickup truck load to larger trucks.

                In fact, with the volume of pallets and the number of various transactions the company processed, “It was impossible to do it manually,” said Maryam Mehrani, the company’s finance director.

                Sometimes the system was hampered simply by the legibility of an employee’s handwriting — being able to read what they wrote.

                The big challenge for City Pallets was this system of inputting and capturing data on incoming pallets from vendors, particularly small vendors delivering a pickup truck-load or small truck-load of used pallets, noted Craig Bezuidenhout, senior systems analyst for Pallet Connect. A worker in the warehouse would fill out a slip indicating how many pallets were delivered and the number in various categories. Those slips were carried into the office and put in a tray, and an office worker would retrieve them, read them, and enter the information into the QuickBooks accounting system so the vendor could be paid.

The time to process the slips and enter the information became unwieldy as City Pallets grew. It was generating and processing 30-50 slips per day. The company was faced with hiring more employees to do the work or transitioning to a more efficient system.

Bojovic was aware of other businesses using more automated systems to capture and use information in their operations, and he began to look for a solution for City Pallets. One reason he was attracted to Pallet Connect was that the data is stored on the ‘cloud’ — computer servers accessible via the Internet. Nik Bojovic is not always in the office, and with his smartphone and the Pallet Connect app he can access the system anywhere, any time.

 “When we found out about this, it was just a no-brainer,” said Bojovic.

The Pallet Connect Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) management system enables pallet companies to digitally capture, manipulate and use information related to customers, vendors, production, sales, and deliveries in real-time while simplifying workflow. The data integrates with accounting software, and the cloud-based program can be viewed and used anywhere on any device.

The Pallet Connect ERP system is designed to work across all levels and sizes of pallet companies, from the smallest to large businesses with lumber and pallet operations. pallet facilities. Pricing is based on the number of users per location.

The system is available free for a 30-day trial, and can be downloaded from Amazon appstore, Apple App Store, and Google Play.

Key Features and Advantages of the Pallet Connect ERP

The Pallet Connect ERP system has reduced a lot of work and a lot of headaches, noted Mehrani. It’s eliminated reliance on a paper trail and data entry by employees in the office as well as numerous emails the company sent out to vendors and customers.

 “Pallet Connect has made a big impact on how we do accounting and made us more efficient,” explained Mehrani. “If we didn’t have Pallet Connect, we would have to have a lot more people in our accounting department to process everything.”

In addition to tracking incoming pallets, Pallet Connect ERP is used for receiving other materials and supplies, customer ordering, scheduling and planning of lumber and pallet production, delivery scheduling and shipping.

“Every step of the way is digital,” noted Bojovic. “The paperwork is gone. It’s just made it so much easier to run everything.”

Warehouse workers download the Pallet Connect app on their cell phone. City Pallets also purchased a few tablets and put the Pallet Connect ERP system on them. This enabled the workers on the plant floor to capture and enter the data on incoming pallets.

 “They don’t use slips any more,” commented Craig Bezuidenhout of Pallet Connect. “They don’t use white boards. They’ve gotten rid of all their manual processes. They moved over to automatic digital processes.” When the data is captured and entered on the devices, it becomes available to personnel in the office.

The Pallet Connect ERP system makes key information readily accessible and manageable. For example, if a customer calls to report a missing order, Bojovic can easily access the account information and assess the status of the order — whether the pallets are in the process of being built, prepared for shipment, or even in route to the customer. “I just have the information there in seconds,” said Bojovic. “It blows my mind.”

In the past he would have had to ask Maryam to accumulate and tabulate the information. Now he has a ‘live’ picture of where the business is in terms of incoming pallets, costs, sales, and other pertinent information.

The system also helps the company gather and analyze more information. For example, it reveals variations in incoming cores from pallet vendors, which vendors supply more or less pallets, which ones have slowed down, which ones may have stopped.

Transition Completed in Phases to Ensure Success

City Pallets began using the Pallet Connect ERP near the end of 2018. The transition was accomplished in phases. First, the company began using the ERP to track incoming pallets and do away with paper slips. “The first portion was very quick,” added Bezuidenhout. “Almost an overnight flip of a switch. It wasn’t without some hiccups, but it went reasonably smoothly. It was up and running in about two weeks.

After two or three months, with experience using the system, City Pallets began using another module of the Pallet Connect ERP system to enable customers to order pallets electronically and to capture and track those orders, then began implementing other modules. Within six months, the company was using all the various modules of the system.

The impact that Pallet Connect ERP has made for City Pallets is hard to overstate. “From an operations perspective, it’s so intertwined in every part of the business now it would be hard to imagine not using it,” said Bojovic.

For rank-and-file employees, the system did not require any in-depth training, partly because most employees only work worth a limited portion of the system. “There’s not much training involved,” said Bezuidenhout. “The system is fairly intuitive.” Training for Nik Bojovic and office personnel was accomplished with a few conference calls.

 “If we ever had any issues, I was able to be on the phone with someone (from Pallet Connect) within two hours,” said Bojovic. “It felt like you had a personal tech team at your beck and call at any time.”

City Pallets Operations and History

Nik Bojovic, 37, launched City Pallets 12 years ago. His entry into the pallet business began as a vendor, collecting surplus pallets from businesses and selling the cores to pallet recyclers.

City Pallets has a 40,000-square-foot plant and averages about 35 employees. Recycling pallets is the core business, and the company processes or produces 6-7,000 pallets per day. About 70% of pallet production is recycled. New pallets account for about 15%, and combination or ‘combo’ pallets made of both new and recycled lumber make up the other 15%.

Reclaimed and recycled lumber is used for about 70% of the company’s pallet components. The rest generally is Canadian softwood cut stock purchased through a broker. The company occasionally buys 1×4, 1×6 or 2×4 in 12-14-foot lengths and cuts it to length on Universal Machinery Trim-Trac end trim saws or an assortment of manually-operated chop saws.

City Pallets has two Wood-Mizer Pallet Hawg bandsaw machines for dismantling pallets as well as an old home-built machine. The company’s pallet repair operations are not automated, although Bojovic said he is “looking into it.”

All pallets are assembled by hand using Hitachi pneumatic nailing tools and Crispo coil nails.

Growing Together

City Pallets began with four users for Pallet Connect and now is up to almost two dozen. “I can’t imagine how other pallet companies do it…It’s really very, very great,” said Bojovic.

 “It has made the work very easy for us and dealing with vendors and customers easier,” said Maryam. “I can’t see an accounting department not having this kind of software to do their job.”

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