Bueno Foods turns to software to more efficiently pack pouches and cups into corrugated shipping cases, then stack those cases onto a pallet. The result: Lower labor costs, reduced case inventories, and more space in the warehouse.
Before September '94 new product launches by Albuquerque NM-based Bueno Foods meant a lot of labor-intensive experimenting. That's how it determined the best quantity and packing pattern for products going into a corrugated shipping case and for stacking those cases onto a pallet. In the past a separate case was used for each different product size and variety. Inventorying all these case blanks required considerable warehouse space. Saying no mas the Mexican food producer turned to Advanced Logistics Systems' (Roche Harbor WA) Advanced Pack And Stack(TM) software to upgrade its cartoning and palletizing operations. Bueno Foods has introduced some 30 new products since first using the software. And the early returns show a $3 labor savings and a 15% drop in the number of corrugated shippers plus an equivalent amount of space freed up in the 78-sq-ft facility. "In the past we did everything by hand" says Jason Gauna Bueno's warehouse manager. "We packed pouches or cups into a box and measured out how many we wanted in the box. Then we'd give those dimensions to the box maker. If it didn't work we had to have new boxes made. And once we had the proper case size we'd stack cases onto a pallet and restack them until we got the best configuration. It used to take us about 15 man-hours to do all of this. With the software we do it all in an hour or less." Guana says the software also has allowed Bueno Foods to reduce the number of individual corrugated cases required by 15%. "It's difficult to put a dollar figure on these savings because we have so many stockkeeping units. But we've been able to reduce the number of cases by often configuring them so that different products of like sizes and similar quantities can use the same case. Using fewer cases not only cuts our costs but the reduced inventory also saves us space in our warehouse." A work in progress Bueno Foods makes hundreds of frozen and dry Mexican food products for both foodservice and retail accounts throughout the Southwest. Sales territory includes New Mexico Texas Colorado Arizona Utah Nevada and California. Products are packaged on nine lines. Four lines are for frozen offerings; three for green and red chile peppers; one for entrees. Separate lines are used to pack flour tortillas corn tortillas taco shells corn chips and dry spices. While there are exceptions most chile peppers for retail supermarkets are packed into 13- and 14-oz high-density polyethylene cups from Polytainers (Toronto Ontario Canada). For foodservice accounts including restaurants hospitals and industrial customers peppers are sold in 5- 10- and 12 1/2-lb pouches of low-density polyethylene supplied by various vendors. Tortillas taco shells corn chips and spices are packed in bags with spices sold in quantities as small as 3 oz. Entrees rely on multiple packaging materials. "As we continue to get better at using the software we are looking at some of our existing case and pallet configurations to try to improve them" says Guana. Originally the software was targeted for new product introductions which he estimates number about 30 per year. He also points out that the software is easy to use. The software was installed onto a single PC in the Bueno Foods warehouse. "When our research and development team comes in with a new product they usually give us a size for the individual unit pack that best fits its particular marketplace" Guana explains. "Then we use the software system to select the appropriate case size maximizing the space in the case then doing the same with case stacking on the pallet." Pack And Stack version 3.0 comes with a small operator's manual floppy disc hardlock printer port attachment and a license agreement. It's simple to install with succinct setup and usage instructions. Trouble shooting solutions and technical support information is also included. "When we began looking around for software to address our manual packing and stacking we tried some different programs" notes Guana. "The Advanced Logistics Systems' software was a lot easier to use and it was one of the less expensive programs we found. They have local representation and it's real easy to get hold of them for support. We've been very pleased with the software system and we expect to upgrade to a new version of the software this fall."