HARBORCREEK, PA. - A plastic pallet for under $10? Port Erie Plastics Inc. reached that milestone late last year. ``People are amazed at the price,'' said Jon Connole, marketing manager. The company, in the Erie suburb of Harborcreek, has begun to net trade-magazine interest through an advertising and promotional campaign. The pallet was featured on the cover of two publications in November, Material Handling Product News and Food and Drug Packaging.
Called the Skidmarx, the standard-size pallet weighs just 15.3 pounds. In November, it was selling for $9.95 in truckload quantities of 868.
Port Erie has a 1,500-ton Cincinnati Milacron press dedicated to making the product, molded of both post-consumer and post-industrial recycled HDPE. The mold features a hot-runner system from Kona Corp. of Gloucester, Mass.
Port Erie President William Witkowski said his late father, Henry, looked into plastic pallets 25 years ago. He ran into the age-old pallet dilemma.
``We didn't do a plastic pallet because wood was so inexpensive. So we gave up on it,'' he said.
Computer technology that could visualize the thinnest walls possible, and the most effective layout of ribs, made it happen. Port Erie worked with the Plastics Technology Deployment Center to use finite element analysis to design the mold.
PTDC is housed at Penn State Erie. Witkowski said Port Erie, which is part of a Computer-Aided Engineering Consortium, paid for the research.
Port Erie has been a major contributor to the college, donating about $500,000.
Witkowski is on the industry advisory board. A building at the plastics school is dedicated to the family. About 20 Port Erie employees have attended courses there.
PTDC is a partnership of Penn State Erie and the Cleveland Advanced Manufacturing Program.
There is immense interest in plastic pallets as lightweight, durable alternatives to wood. Witkowski pointed out other, health-related issues. The U.S. Department of Agriculture wants pallets free from bark, which could harbor insects.
Witkowski also thinks higher wood prices are inevitable. ``This pallet eventually will probably compete head-on with wood. Wood is going to keep going up,'' he said.