JNI Pallets Systems was awarded top honours in the newly established Australian Steel Innovation Award while Ron Clarke & Sons received highly commended in a competitive category. Katherine Crichton reports.
LOCATED at Ingleburn, south west Sydney, JNI Pallet Systems, one of Australia’s largest manufacturers of steel pallets, cages and stillages, has developed a collapsible pallet safe converter designed to convert a standard timber pallet into a secure four-sided meshed storage container.
According to the company, many alternatives were not fully collapsible with fixed components, so parts had to be removed during stacking, creating a massive problem with lost components.
After a process of extensive investigation and development, the Collapsible Timber Pallet Converter range was created.
The range has been designed to be a lightweight and safe solution to materials handling, storage and transportation problems and black steel components are zinc plated prior to fabrication with all welded areas repaired with an anti-corrosive primer.
Key features of pallet converter include fully collapsible structure to 300mm height, rear and sides totally captive, and a removable front gate, either in single or half drop position, designed to secure the stock on the pallet in racking to better reduce the risk of injury and damage from falling goods.
The company’s product range is predominantly produced from pre galvanised tubular and merchant bar sections, mainly supplied by Onesteel Steel & Tube based at Wetherill Park.
It was for this creative way of using Australian made steel that saw JNI take out the newly established Australian Steel Innovation Award at this year’s Endeavour Awards held in Sydney.
Jeff Bassett from JNI Pallet Systems attended the Endeavour Award’s gala dinner in May and Manufacturers’ Monthly that it was the first time the company had entered an awards program such as the Endeavours.
“We felt that we had a unique product and wanted to showcase it to the wider manufacturing community,” Bassett explained.
“The steel market is very competitive at the moment and to get recognition of all our hard work just makes it all the more worthwhile for us, as owners of the businesses and also for our employees.”
The concept of the pallet safe converter may seem like a simple one, but the process took about a year of R&D and hard work to produce a market ready product, but Bassett says it has been worth it.
“The immediate success of the product has been opening up new markets for JNI and we now have a product to supplement the timber pallet market. The product truly shows that steel and timber do mix”.
“I’VE crossed a few dry gullies to get here,” Ron Clarke said when accepting his award.
And truer words have not been spoken. Not only has this former welder, truck driver and London art student built up a business from scratch but his youngest son Rob was recently a victim of a vicious assault in the family’s hometown of Griffith which has left him with brain damage.
But despite this, Ron remains positive and it is his “get on with it attitude” and his passion for steel that has enabled Ron to overcome any challenges in life and move on.
“My life has made me the sort of fellow I am,” Clarke told Manufacturers’ Monthly “but it felt great to get this award. It gives the business a bit of clout — people take more notice and it’s pretty good to get recognition for doing something you love.”
And it is hard not to take notice of what Ron Clarke makes, as ‘the man who can paint with fire’, using only an oxy torch, can create award-winning intricate designs which would take thousands of manoeuvres on a computer generated cutting device and are impossible to replicate.
“People often can’t believe some of the designs I make. I have had people who have been involved in the steel industry all their life telling me they have never seen a piece of steel cut like this,” Clarke explained.
“Unfortunately for metal producers I don’t go through heaps of steel, but I have caused a lot of guys to go through a lot of steel to try and replicate my designs.”
An oxy torch is as good as a paintbrush in Ron Clarke’s hands, and now he is passing this skill down to his two sons, Ron and Rob, who make up the family run and owned Ron Clarke & Sons.
The business produces art works, signage and murals to corporate companies in Australia and around the world, as well as for councils, tourist venues and other local businesses.
The company was the first to create a three dimensional product out of a flat piece of steel, while maintaining the metal’s strength and size.
Clarke has cut everything from Clydesdales to Paul Hogan, even giving ‘eternal life’ to Eric Jolliffe’s famous Australian cartoon character Saltbush Bill.