UAFS students work on innovative pallet-forming machine

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 154 views 

Mike Kindellan is changing the world one cardboard pallet at a time. And he’s hiring University of Arkansas at Fort Smith students to help him do it.
Kindellan, the managing partner of the Missouri-based environmental company Amerigreen Worldwide, created a machine that manufactures cardboard pallets – a cheaper, environmental alternative to their wooden counterparts – after working three decades in the logistics field. 
“I have a 30-year background with Tyson Foods, and my biggest problem was pallets. They weighed too much, they hurt people, and they also damaged products,” Kindellan said. “Our cardboard pallet weighs five to 10 pounds versus a regular hardwood pallet that weighs roughly 80 pounds. And they won’t ever hurt you. The worst you can do is get a paper cut.”
The concept has the potential to transform the logistics industry, with cost-savings in the millions for companies that make the switch from wooden to cardboard. There was only one problem: the machine that created the pallets wasn’t functional, and it didn’t have drawings or documentation. That’s where UAFS came in. The university met with Amerigreen Worldwide and convinced them that UAFS had the resources to assist them with the project, including several faculty members with experience working in industry.
“They were a little leery at first. But we convinced them that we have the expertise and we have the background,” said Dr. Kerrie Taber, project manager for the venture and interim department head of the applied science and organizational leadership programs at UAFS. 
The result was four students – Shirley Carter of Fort Smith, Dalen Surls of Cedarville, Luede Yang of Booneville and Ntxuzone Yang of Fort Smith – working internships to create documentation and safety recommendations for the machine, which is housed in Fort Smith. The internships are unorthodox because of their format, which has the students working for the company but with UAFS faculty serving as the supervisors, an arrangement that is the best of both worlds for students. 
“Normally they work for the company and the supervisor overseeing their work is at the company,” Taber said. “With us as the supervisors, we know what they’ve learned and what they should know. So we’re able to tie in what they learned in the classroom to the work they’re doing.”
It also provides hands-on experience for students like Surls, who values the chance to work in a real-world environment.
“This is a very valuable learning experience. I will be doing a lot of things with the software that will help me in not only this experience but with future jobs too,” Surls said. “It’s not every day that you see something like this done. Machines like this are normally put on paper first then built, but this is the other way around. I’m doing something that not many people get to do and something that I enjoy at the same time.”
“I hope to find a job with a national company using the skills I’ve learned,” he added.
The 16-week project is the first in what Taber hopes is a series of jobs UAFS students will complete for both Amerigreen Worldwide and other companies.
“UAFS has a history of responding to the needs of industry, and creating partnerships for students to work with those companies is a new and exciting development for us,” Taber said.