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X-Mold builds a better mouse trap, but is anyone buying

December 15, 2010

“Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

You probably don’t think of pallets and innovation in the same breath, but Matt Foley, director of sales for X-Mold, a chemical manufacturer of products that address mold, mildew, sap stains and other related issues, thinks his company has built a better mousetrap.

In this case, it’s a specially-formulated mold and mildew resistant wood coating approved by NSF International for use on pallets that transport packaged goods. NSF International is a not-for-profit, non-governmental agency that focuses on public health and safety. A product certified or listed means that NSF reviewed the product; determined at the time of the review that the product complies with the relevant NSF consensus standard and/or protocol; and conducted or will conduct periodic audits to review whether the product continues to comply with the standard.

While there are other chemical fungicides to prevent mold on the market, one of the things that makes X-Mold different, according to my friends in the pallet industry that ought to know, is that they have not only developed a pretty good chemical formulation for preventing mold, they have also paired it with an innovative electrostatic spraying technology, available through equipment manufacturing partner Baker Products, that creates a thorough and even coating of the chemical that bonds to the wood. The system can be used to treat finished pallets or cut stock, the raw boards and stringers that are used to manufacture a pallet. You can watch a video of the system here. It’s effective, efficient and relatively cost effective.

Given that pallets and mold have been thrust into the limelight following product recalls by Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer blamed on moldy pallets manufactured in the Caribbean, you would think that these are banner times for Foley and X-Mold. So far, that hasn’t been the case. “The pallet industry is getting mixed messages from pallet users,” says Foley. “On the one hand, they say they don’t want mold on their pallets. On the other hand, they don’t want pallets with chemicals.”

The reason is that there’s been a lot of misinformation in the marketplace. A number of leading pallet users have issued mandates that they want heat treated pallets that are chemical free thinking that will solve the problem. The problem, as experts at Virginia Tech and the National Wooden Pallet & Container Association, point out, is that heat treating is great at killing insects but it may actually encourage the growth of mold.

Other pallet users, especially those in the food, beverage, pharmaceutical and healthcare industries, are waiting for the FDA to put its seal of approval on a solution, since the pallets at issue were used to transport healthcare products. The problem, as Foley points out, is that the FDA is not in the business of approving packaging materials: the agency’s job is to insure the safety of food products, dietary supplements and drugs. “The marketplace would like the FDA or some other agency to wave a magic wand and absolve a company of liability and risk, but that’s not the reality of the world we live in,” says Foley.

What’s an innovator to do? “Mold season has come and gone. There’s not a lot of moisture that can cause mold when it’s cold,” says Foley. “So, we’re working to educate manufacturers and end users of pallets that we have a state of the art formulation that will put a mold and mildew resistant layer of protection on a piece of wood. We’re banging the drum that mold free and chemical free are mutually exclusive.”

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Article Topics

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About the Author

Bob Trebilcock, editorial director, has covered materials handling, technology, logistics and supply chain topics for nearly 30 years. In addition to Supply Chain Management Review, he is also Executive Editor of Modern Materials Handling. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.

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