August 8, 2017 was a beautiful summer day. The dock doors were all open at Versatile Wood, located at 178 Corporate Drive in the Crossroads Industrial Park, to allow fresh air and sunshine into the manufacturing space. Our group met up with business owner, Albert Gentile, in his office for a brief overview of his business before we took our tour.
Versatile Wood has been in business for 19 years. They originally opened in 1999 and moved into the Crossroads Industrial Park in 2005. In November 2012, Mr. Gentile purchased the 178 Corporate Drive building.
Versatile Wood specializes in the production of new wooden pallets and shipping containers, along with other custom wood products. They work from direct orders, creating pallets of various dimensions; mostly non-standard in size. The pallets are made from aspen wood, which is a softer hardwood, imported from Canada, where aspen trees are prevalent. They produce approximately 200,000 pallets per year.
The challenge to marketing pallets, I learned, is proximity to your clients. In order to make a profit, they cannot be too far away. So Versatile Wood works with local manufacturers like Benjamin Moore and Taylor Made Products, although they have made heavy-duty specialized pallets for a Massachusetts paving company. Their production is enough to warrant the employment of around 13 full-time people.
During the tour, we saw pallets being produced by hand:
And we watched others produced by an automated machine, which was very cool:
We saw a special project in process. These panels were being created for a client that has a special backing product that is designed to go behind shower walls. They asked for the panels to be created out of their material, as well as regular sheet rock. They will be displayed side by side to demonstrate how moisture effects each panel. This special product is supposed to be better designed to handle moisture. Interesting!
Here we see stacks of finished pallets, waiting to be shipped out to customers. A forklift truck came through to add to one stack.
We went outside, behind the building, to look at raw materials, just waiting to be turned into pallets. Some of the items cannot get wet and are stored under a canopy. Others are outside. Some lumber arrives in long pieces, others are pre-cut for faster assembly. Quality is stressed here. If a pallet is found to have a defect, it is either repaired or scrapped. Employees are also conscientious of waste. If a board is mis-cut or if something needs to be replaced, the replaced wood is saved to be used on another project, if possible.
Touring Versatile Wood was a great experience. As you can expect, the atmosphere in the main assembly room was very loud with all of the nail guns sounding off, but it smelled great – like fresh cut wood. Everyone enjoyed their visit. Special thanks to owner, Albert Gentile and his sons, Albert, Jr. and Nicholas, for their time and assistance on our tour.
Written by Becky Hatcher, Executive Assistant