J&B Pallet is Confident in its Growth Goals
A smart corporate management team, quality product, and a strong workforce allow J&B Pallet to expand its manufacturing across the country.
J&B Pallet has been manufacturing pallets for more than 25 years, and last year it added three facilities, as well as acquiring a facility in Arkansas earlier this year. “We’ve earned the reputation of establishing a passionate workforce that seeks continuous improvement, responds to change, builds quality pallets delivered on time, delivers quality manufacturing, and has the ability to sustain our growth,” President Jay Van Loon says.
J&B got its start in 1990 with one plant in Lake City, Minn. In 2013, Founder Rick Ziebell took back full control of the company. He focused on guiding the company through some tough times. Rick had a vision to grow the company beyond its then growth trajectory. Since then, the company has focused on building a strong company, innovation and a core corporate team capable of improving operations while sustaining its rapid growth.
Ziebell had a goal to create a corporate office and recruit a team to execute on these plans. In 2016, the corporate office was established, and the company moved the Eagan, Minn., facility from a 15,000-square-feet facility into a 35,000-square-feet facility to accommodate future growth. J&B’s core leadership team may have come from outside the industry, but they have applied the knowledge they had to grow the company. The company continues to add staff at the corporate office to support its growth.
Ziebell is a veteran of the U.S. Navy and was injured during his active duty. Despite his injury, he was able to take the lessons he learned while in the military and apply them to revolutionizing the business culture at J&B Pallet. This also allowed J&B to be certified as a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business, which opened the company to opportunities for contracts through the Veterans Administration across the country. The corporate office and original plant is based in Lake City, Minn., but it also has facilities in Eagan and New Hope, Minn.; Johnston, Iowa; Rock Island, Ill.; and Maumelle, Ark. Ziebell notes J&B continues to plan for continuous growth.
This requires a skilled team, which J&B has in spades. J&B Pallet’s core corporate team consists of: Rick Ziebell, owner and CEO; Jay Van Loon, President; Jon Swanson, VP of Operations; Mark Broyles, VP of Transportation; Keith LaCanne, Corporate Controller; and Darcie Prestegard, Administrative Operations Manager.
“We know all the ins and outs of acquiring a new facility and all the things to plan for,” Van Loon says. “Now we plan and forecast for the future and meet as a team at our weekly meeting that includes all site managers, which ensures we remain on the same page.”
Culture of Care
Going forward, J&B wants to be proactive, rather than reactive, Prestegard says. After starting with five trucks and 100 trailers, J&B has established Lakeland Transfer with more than 20 trucks and 400 trailers.
Its growth also involves continuing to add automation, refining processes and consistent employee communication. The company has installed a Viking Turbo 505 automated pallet machine, which averages 1,500 pallets during an eight-hour shift. Other automation includes a pallet washer to better utilize its inventory. J&B has added a dismantling robot at its Eagan facility that averages 900 pallets during an eight-hour shift.
“This production requires a lot of manual labor that not a lot of people can handle, and the automation helps to open up the pool of labor staff,” Prestegard says. “Training our people is a lot of work, but they are brilliant. They have great suggestions and they answer the call when we need them to. We are truly a family here – we appreciate every single person here and if there is an issue someone is having outside of work, we all help.
“Rick has given us the opportunity to have a strong company and a strong workforce,” she adds. “There are daily challenges at all of our plants, but we have truly great crews. They are willing to do the work to meet production needs and work together to fill every hole. We sent out six loads of pallets a day in 2013, and we are at 40 loads a day now in Minnesota. All of us are doing everything to continue to streamline and make everything better.”