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Inter-linked partnership for productivity theme of Monterey distribution session.

Inter-linked Partnership for Productivity Theme of Monterey Distribution Session

Unitization, modularization, EDI--the concepts are all in place for quality and productivity. What's really needed is the human element.

At least, that's how it seemed at a Western Frozen Food Convention seminar on warehousing and transportation productivity and quality, where Bill Filomena, manager of frozen food warehousing and distribution systems for General Foods, complained the turnout for American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI) committee meetings on the issue had been "less than adequate."

"Quality doesn't cost, it pays," Filomena reminded industry people meeting in Monterey, Calif. But the key word after that is partnership--partnership between processors, distributors and warehousemen, on down to the retail (or foodservice) level. It isn't enough any more, he said, just to lecture warehousemen about abuse of frozen products, while letting a box of Pudding Pops melt on the table to prove the point.

Speakers at the seminar had different sidelight on the many aspects of partnership. Take Ruth Walton, vice president of logistics at J.R. Simplot, which has a large foodservice clientele. Simplot has gone to unitized handling, slip sheets, 48 by 40-inch AFFI-standard pallets, and is trying to design cases that will make maximum use of pallets. "Many of our large foodservice customers are equipped to handle slip sheets," she noted. "But we wish they all were."

And there are other, more routine headaches. "One of our biggest problems in dock scheduling is customer trucks that miss appointments, or don't bother to make them at all." Simplot tries to accommodate them by arranging for weekend pickups if necessary, but some customers give the company a very short lead time. And even when there aren't loading problems at the docks, some shipments still get caught in transportation hassles down the line. Most sales are made on an FOB plant basis, "but almost all our customers ask us to arrange their transportation for them, and we see ourselves as the transportation managers for our customers."

Steve Hartlidge, frozen food warehouse superintendent for Dominick's, a Chicago area supermarket chain, said he is trying to make the warehouse a "100% unit load facility," discouraging trucks with floor or bed-loaded cargo that drivers or self-appointed "lumpers" have to unload. Dominick's doesn't like its docks tied up, and also doesn't like strangers wandering around. To get an idea of how much unit loads can speed up deliveries, Hartlidge said, Stouffer's switched to unit loads--and deliveries that used to run four to seven hours now take 20 minutes. ConAgra Inc., Campbell Soup Co. and All-American Gourmet are other major shippers that have gone to unit loads, he advised.

John Simak, director of warehousing for Safeway Stores, argued similarly against rail shipments in general. The trouble with them, he complained, is that you neve know when they're going to show up; this plays hob with scheduling and the smooth unloading of goods. But truck deliveries have to be handled efficiently, too, he added; "We can't afford to have our dock tied up for eight hours." Safeway uses 48 by 40-inch pallets, and will allow (not encourage) a one-inch overhang. As for storage, the chain was one of the first to go with an advanced pallet tracking system, already obsolete; now it is resetting warehouses to optimize cube utilization, including double-deep storage.

Radical Changes

Still, for all the problems, there have been revolutionary changes in the last 20 years, observed Frank Revord, chief executive officer of Continental Freezers of Illinois. Back in the late 1960's, most processors still had to maintain separate inventories in major cities to meet the needs of each buyer, with LTL truckers shuttling products back and forth in a never-ending balancing act and brokers in charge of inventory control. Over-age products were common in such a distribution system. Regional distribution centers were set up as an alternative; then, in the 1980's, came slip sheet palletization, modularization and other manifestations of partnership in distribution.

"Today, approximately 95% of General Food's products for greater Chicago receivers are purchased and picked up in modular configuration," Revord said, and 42% of all goods are now picked up by customers instead of middlemen -- palletized to meet the needs of those customers. Up to date EDI systems, product monitoring and tracing, and computer-generated documentation give those customers better control over the inventory. Increasing compatibility of data transfer through UCS and WNS codes reduces problems that used to arise from re-keying data.

Check it Out

And as a special guide to problem-solving, the Refrigeration Research Foundation has created a library on storage and handling of frozen food, with 30,000 carded cross-references: "If I were a manufacturer of frozen food products, belonging to this foundation would be a must," said Revord.

Ken Flickinger, senior vice president of Schaeffer Trucking, New Kingston, Pa., figures there's only one way (in his business, at least) to improve productivity: being on time. But that leaves him at the mercy of shippers and receivers; they have to do their part. Truckers like unitization--when it doesn't involve pallet exchange. No more than Dominick's does Schaeffer want drivers to have to do the loading or unloading--"We need to take the driver out of the back of the truck. Productivity for the driver means driving as many miles as he can, and keeping loading and unloading time down to a minimum."

Three years ago, Schaeffer cooperated with General Foods and Thermo King on another interesting productivity-enhancer: a thin-walled trailer designed to allow cold air to flow under as well as over and around loads.

PHOTO : Ruth Walton, J.R. Simplot vice president of logistics, wishes all her customers were

PHOTO : equipped to handle slip sheets.
COPYRIGHT 1989 E.W. Williams Publications, Inc.
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Title Annotation:Warehousing World
Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Date:Apr 1, 1989
Previous Article:Refrigeration, frozen food transport in short supply on Chinese mainland.
Next Article:Soviet and United States food interests establish international trade council.

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