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December 2017
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Garage innovation develops into forklift opportunity

The first reaction most people have when they see the Product Protector is ‘why didn’t I think of that.’ Geoff Sharp did think of it, when he was going out on sales calls for a major forklift company and saw pallet and product damage in nearly every warehouse. “The analogy is he is a car salesman and sees the opportunity for a bumper,” said Jeff Calavan, vice president of sales and marketing for Product Protector. “He thought ‘If I could put something on the forklift to eliminate product and pallet damage and increase operator safety, it would increase sales and add value.’” If drivers have to leave forklifts to restack an unstable load, it puts them in danger of other forklift traffic and injury. If they can stay on the forklift, it saves time, money and their backs. The forklift attachment took four years to develop, and first went on the market this year, at Modex. “Modex was off the charts,” Calavan said. “They said we were the busiest booth. People are looking for ways to save money, increase profit and safety. It hit all the bells. It’s affordable and it saves money.” 

The market is huge, he said. “If you have a forklift and pick things up with it, you really need a Product Protector. There’s no reason to have to deal with product damage and pallet damage. But number one, it keeps people safe.  The money wasted on pallet repair and product damage is ridiculous. Up until now, there’s been no option. But now there is a fix. Operators love it because it allows them to do their job better and safer. Management loves it because they’re able to keep guys on the forklift.” An independent study that was conducted by Dr. Marshall White of White and Company of Virgina Tec, showed that a pallet could be hit 20 percent harder without damage with the Product Protector, and that it can reduce product damage by 75-80 percent and double the life of the pallet, he said. The design means the forklift doesn’t come into contact with the product. The design continues to evolve, he said. “We listen to ourselves, and we listen to our customers. We are constantly changing the product to make it better,” Calavan said.

Product Protector fits all forklifts. It has a break-away feature so it doesn’t get caught in docks or racking systems, and has a tabbed feature to protect products that overhang the pallet. Sharp was hired as safety director and mentioned that he’d been working on the idea in his garage.  Now he is a part of the company and in charge of engineering and operations. Calavan described the company culture as “relaxed. I grew up in a corporate culture. Now we get to bring the knowledge learned in corporations to a small family owned company.” The company is based in Oregon and manufacturing is done in California. Product Protector is made of high grade industrial plow steel.

Mary Glindinning is a freelance writer who has worked at daily and weekly newspapers for more than 20 years. She lives in rural Shullsburg, Wis. E-mail to contact Mary.