The Problem: Crider Foods may not be a household name, but its canned chicken and other meat products are on the shelves of many of the best-known grocers in the United States and are a staple in the foodservice industry. Over the past decade, the company has experienced tremendous growth, says Mark Howell, Crider's executive vice president of sales and marketing—growth that strained the capabilities of the warehouse adjacent to its plant in Stillmore, Ga.
The warehouse became a bottleneck in the flow of goods from the plant to customers. Empty pallets ate up valuable warehouse floor space. Floor-stacked pallets required constant shuffling of products by forklift operators to maintain the first-in/first-out (FIFO) inventory flow essential to food manufacturers. And all the shuffling sometimes made it difficult for forklift operators to find product, creating loading delays at the dock, which in turn led to detention charges from customers' carriers. The stacking and extra handling also resulted in product damage and inefficient loading on outbound trucks. Using off-site third-party warehouses for the overflow added to storage and transportation costs.
Customer: Crider Foods
Primary business: Producing canned chicken, beef, turkey, and pork products (as well as fully cooked frozen chicken products) for national brand name companies, private-label and club store customers, and the foodservice industry
Headquarters: Stillmore, Ga.
Suppliers: Steel King and Craft Equipment Co.
Solution: Pallet flow rack and over-dock pallet storage rack
The Solution: Managers knew the company needed a new warehouse, and the company did build a new 110,000-square-foot facility, which opened in 2011. In the meantime, managers had to find a way to handle the inventory in the existing facility. The solution came from Craft Equipment Co., a Tampa, Fla.-based material handling distributor, and Steel King, a Stevens Point, Wis.-based maker of pallet racks, drive-through rack, flow rack, pick modules, mezzanines, and other material handling products.
To clear empty pallets from the floor and open up about 2,000 square feet of space, Craft installed Steel King pallet storage rack over the warehouse loading docks. Those racks held empty pallets, skids, and returnable shipping containers.
For loaded pallets, the company installed Steel King's SK3400 pallet flow rack. The flow rack is especially suited for managing palletloads of perishable goods and other products that are managed on a FIFO basis. Forklift operators deposit pallets of products on one side of the rack. Gravity does the work of feeding the pallets down the rollers on the rack, and forklift drivers pick pallets from the front end, ensuring the oldest product goes out first. The initial installation had 864 pallet positions, which were later expanded to 1,440 positions.
When Crider built the new warehouse, it brought the flow rack along and expanded it further. The new facility has 10,240 pallet positions in the flow rack, which measures four pallets high and 12 deep. Howell says the design allows for an additional layer if needed, which would add 500 pallet positions.
The results have been a major improvement in inventory handling and warehouse efficiency. Load time has dropped to between 45 minutes and an hour from what had been an average of two to three hours, Howell says. Turning trucks faster has reduced detention charges. And the reduction in handling has cut down on damage. Where the previous operation could ship about 16 truckloads a day, the current system can ship 25, and with less labor. Crider has also been able to eliminate the use of third-party storage and the related transportation charges. "We brought it all back home," says Howell.