Jeff and Karol Lamb have been around the OptiLedge for years.
Now it's their time to take the plastic alternative to traditional wooden pallets to the next level, the married couple said.
OptiLedge has had a colorful journey since its invention by Ikea as a way to cut down on shipping materials for the Swedish mega-retailer.
First the product — an L-shaped platform with feet that is commonly strapped to the bottom of products being shipped — was invented and marketed by the retail giant. Later, the pallet alternative was licensed to different companies around the world in an effort to help boost sales.
And now, OptiLedge LLC, a company founded by Jeff Lamb and based in Newnan, Ga., has purchased the worldwide rights from Ikea.
Use of the shipping platform has a bit of a unique history, and adding to the story is the fact that Ikea continues to use a version of the unit it produces itself called the Loading Ledge. But that's separate from OptiLedge's business plan serving other companies.
“It's really quite exciting from a personal perspective. It's satisfying. But also from a business, perspective, it will be more effective to have one face of the product to the market,” Jeff Lamb said.
OptiLedge LLC expects that a simplified business structure — instead of a series of licensees who paid royalties — will allow for a more unified and cohesive approach that will help boost sales.
“There wasn't a lot of margin for everyone to be happy,” Karol Lamb said, about the old approach.
Jeff Lamb, under the old licensing approach, worked in Asia to sell the OptiLedge and eventually obtained the North America license as well. It was earlier this year that he struck a deal to take over the entire business.
“We've been busy selling OptiLedges for several years. Now we can safely say we are the only ones,” said Karol Lamb. “We can finally mange it from both ends.”
OptiLedge LLC now manufactures the units from virgin polypropylene in Jacksonville, Texas; Shenzhen, China; and Tachov, Czech Republic.
While Ikea still owns the patent to the OptiLedge, the Lambs' company owns the brand, trademarks and tooling it uses
OptiLedges cost an average of about $2 each, a little less for the smaller 30-inch size and a little more for the longer 39-inch size, Karol Lamb said. OptiLedges also come in two different clearance heights to accommodate forklifts, pallet jacks and pallet trucks.
She believes that OptiLedges are more environmentally friendly than traditional wooden pallets. “We're Canadians. Always on the top of my mind is it's green. It's recyclable,” she said.
The company provides recycling services for its high-volume users, but they otherwise simply can be placed in recycling containers, she said.
“You don't have to have a great big wooden pallet you have to figure out how to dispose of. It's convenient. It takes up a lot less room,” she said, of the nesting units
While the private company does not release exact figures, Jeff Lamb said the company sells in the millions of units each year. He expects annual growth to be in the 30 percent range under the new ownership structure. “At least that's what our investors are hoping for,” he said.
“I think we have a much better potential to grow the product now that it's under the control of one entity,” he said.
“It's great because we can train people. We have more of a continuity on how it's marketed,” Karol Lamb said.
Gone also is the awkwardness of having more than one company involved in selling the product around the world.
“We're just very, very excited to take this product to where we think it rightfully belongs. It's a great product invented by an admired company and we think that we're now positioned to let it grow to where it needs to be,” Jeff Lamb said.
The new unified approach, in particular, helps the company unite users around the world, something that could get complicated under the old licensing approach.
“From a marketing perspective, connecting that shipper and that receiver under one entity is more effective,” Jeff Lamb said.
Karol Lamb said they are “over the moon” in being able to take control of a product that they have believed in for so long. “We've been very patient, I'll just say that. There's just a lot of interest out there. It's a great product,” she said. “Otherwise, we wouldn't have worked so hard to stick with it.”