Major McDonald’s Fruit Supplier Automates to Expand
Peterson Farms is the largest privately-owned fruit processor in Michigan. The facility focuses on the production of fresh-cut apples, producing 45 million pounds annually. Peterson processes fruits from more than 500 U.S. and Canadian farms and has been processing tart cherries off their own farms since 1984.
They have experienced significant growth over the past years, particularly with the fresh operation. Peterson also markets over 150 million pounds of frozen fruits each year along with 7 million gallons of single strength apple juice/cider and juice concentrates. Peterson was named McDonald’s 2013 USA Supplier of the Year, supplying McDonald’s restaurants nationwide with fruits including apples, blueberries, and cherries.
Peterson was largely manual when they first started looking into materials control automation. Manual record keeping on the shop floor and re-keying data into office systems had been manageable in the past; however, as the operation grew, manual processes became too slow, inefficient and error prone to support the expanding business. Peterson staff tracked inventory totals in Excel and produced handwritten bills of lading and manifests. They manually printed labels and physically verified labels from EasyLabel (label generation program).
In addition, all factory events such as receiving, production, and shipping data were recorded on handwritten sheets and later typed in to an existing ERP. Location tracking for sealed, zero air rooms was especially important to Peterson in order to know with surety what inventory was on hand.
Managing traces, production schedules, and yields was difficult and labor costs were rising in order to meet customer expectations and keep production running smoothly. Peterson’s operations team recognized that manual record-keeping was holding them back as they continued to increase the speed and volume of materials moving through their mile-long facility. It was time to automate.
ParityFactory was initially implemented to automate inventory control from finished goods through shipping. After a quick and successful roll out, Peterson extended the project to encompass the receiving of raw materials through production.
Peterson’s solution was implemented as a combination of ParityFactory software and ruggedized plant floor hardware. Mobile scanners and stations took the place of clipboards at key data collection points in the process and assisted staff in executing their daily work. Simple user screens, configured to align with Peterson’s existing business processes, made training a cinch and provided instant data validations to ensure the operation was running without errors.
In addition to ParityFactory’s standard system, Peterson requested a specialized app for bulk weighing and receiving. This app allowed Peterson to extend their tracing and inventory automation to trucks being received from the fields.
Peterson is currently making plans to expand ParityFactory’s solution in other areas of their operation.
The Results and Benefits
Peterson’s operations manager estimates ParityFactory paid for itself, as well as all associated hardware purchases, within the first 18 months. Labor savings alone were estimated at over 12 hours of staff time PER DAY.
Owners and executives praised ParityFactory’s implementation team, as well as the system’s simple intuitive design saying it was one of the smoothest projects they had experienced.