Supply Scan

RPCs: No More Of A Fire Risk Than Corrugated Containers

Reusable plastic containers (RPCs) filled with commodities require no additional fire safety measures than when the same products are stored in corrugated containers, according to an independent study conducted for the Reusable Pallet & Container Coalition (RPCC), Washington.

"This study proves that plastic containers filled with produce and meat commodities do not pose any additional fire safety concerns than products stored in corrugated containers, removing yet another perceived barrier to the use of reusables," says Jeanie Johnson, executive director, RPCC.

"Every customer needs to understand the risks associated with everything that moves through their DCs and stores. This study proves that filled RPCs in cold temperature environments—as well as other storage temperatures—are a low fire-risk hazard."

Most standard warehouses use wet pipe sprinkler systems. However, many perishable items are warehoused in cold rooms maintained at 34 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Whereas storage areas generally use wet pipe sprinkler systems, cold storage warehouses use dry pipe sprinklers to reduce the chance of water freezing in the sprinkler pipes.

The testing results verified that commodities stored in RPCs ranked in Commodity Class I and Commodity Class II, concluding that customers do not have to make special sprinkler provisions.

The tests were carried out by CE Tech, LLC, at the Department of Fire Technology at San Antonio's Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) over a one week span. The RPCC worked with a retailer, insurance companies, fire risk consultants and fire testing experts to establish a battery of tests. Ranking and final commodity classifications were determined by calculating four industry standard fire performance parameters for the commodity/RPC systems tested and comparing them to ranking tables.

"The results were quite striking," says Charles J. Lancelot, Ph.D., principal consultant, CE Tech. "They confirmed that when the commodities tested and their equivalents, are stored in standard reusable plastic containers in the typical arrays used in warehouses, stores and DCs equipped with fire suppression systems rated for Class II commodities, the RPC-stored commodities will be well within the capabilities of the installed sprinkler system. There will be no measurable risk entailed as compared with the same products stored in corrugated containers."

The RPCC tested produce and meat to better understand the fire risks associated with shipping and storing perishables in plastic containers. The RPCC chose lemons and tomatoes in plastic clam shells in RPCs as worst case produce commodities and meat grinds in case-ready packaging as a worst case meat commodity.

The highly combustible fat content of the meat grinds, the high known citrus oil content in the lemons, and the plastic clamshell-packed, high-water-content tomatoes were chosen to span the most representative range of combustibility risk.

Following the testing, the case-ready meat in nestable meat trays was assigned a Class I rating, while lemons in RPCs were assigned a Class II rating. The clamshell-packed tomatoes in RPC's did not even trigger the water suppression system and fell below the ranking tables.

This keeps the plastic container offerings in the same classifications range as the sprinkler systems currently used with their corrugated counterparts. Class I is the lowest rating for fire risk; Group A is the highest.

Supervalu To Divide Ohio Distribution Center

Supervalu Inc. announced plans last month to move jobs from an Ohio distribution center to Minnesota and Virginia.

The Eden Prairie, MN-based company says an indeterminate number of jobs at its 200-employee distribution complex in Xenia, OH, will be consolidated at other shipping centers in Minnesota and Virginia this summer.

The Ohio Valley Distribution Center employed about 280 workers as of mid-2007. The distribution operations won't be affected by the moves, the company said.

The changes are part of a realignment of some of Supervalu's regional operations.

Refrigerated Fleets Adding GPS Tracking System

StarTrak Systems, a provider of wireless GPS tracking, monitoring and two-way control systems for the refrigerated transport industry, added 16 refrigerated trailer fleet customers in December and January.

Collectively these fleets operate 1,500 refrigerated trailers. StarTrak's new trailer fleet customers include:

  • Roehl Transport Inc., Marshfield, WI;
  • Florida Beauty Flora Inc., Miami;
  • Purdy Bros. Trucking Co., Loudon, TN;
  • MC Van Kampen Trucking Inc., Wyoming, MI;
  • Paul L. Floody Inc., Homestead, FL;
  • Heartland Transport Inc., Esterville, IA;
  • International Transportation Services Inc., Miami;
  • Kamble Cos. Transportation Services Inc.; Phoenix;
  • Lara's Trucking, Modesto, CA;
  • Meddler Trucking, Hudsonville, MI;
  • Pegasus Transportation, Louisville, KY;
  • Boaty's Produce Inc., Jackson, GA;
  • Dee King, Amarillo, TX;
  • Solutions 1 Transport Inc., Orlando.

Target To Self-DistributePerishables In Southeast

Target Corp. has announced that it expects to handle perishables distribution completely on its own "within a timeframe earlier than four or five years," notes Gregg Steinhafel, president of the Minneapolis-based retailer.

For the short term, Steinhafel says "we will have a hybrid network for the foreseeable future where we are dependent on our own facilities as well as on Supervalu and other wholesalers."

Target is in the midst of converting a Supervalu facility in Lake City, FL, to a Target-owned semi-automated dedicated perishables center. The retailer is also on track to be shipping out fresh produce as well as frozen and refrigerated foods by August.

The plant will be operated with Eden Prairie, MN-based Supervalu and will supply SuperTargets in the Southeast.

In addition, Target will convert a Supervalu facility in Fort Worth, TX, to its own procedures and Supervalu will continue to manage the plant.

By late summer of 2009, Target will open another facility in Cedar Falls, IA.

Video Sparks Largest Beef Recall In History

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued the largest beef recall in history last month after the Humane Society of the United States released undercover video showing workers at a Chino, CA, slaughterhouse shoving sick or crippled cows with forklifts to get them to stand.

Westland Meat, a partner of Hallmark Meat Packing, recalled 143 million pounds of beef. The beef dates back to cattle slaughtered two year ago. Citing the reasons for the recall, Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafe noted that "Hallmark did not consistently bring in federal veterinarians to examine cattle headed for slaughter that were too sick or weak to stand on their own."

Thirty-seven million pounds of the meat went to school lunch programs. "Almost all of this product is likely to have been consumed," notes USDA administrator Ron Vogel. Despite this, the USDA says the chances of anyone getting sick are "remote."

Dozens of retailers, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Costco Wholesale Corp., had to pull product from their shelves from suppliers that got their beef from Hallmark/Westland Meat. Several fast food chains also had to destroy patties that came from the meat packer as well.

The Humane Society filed a lawsuit against the government last month alleging that a legal loophole allows so-called "downer'' cows to get into the food supply.

The lawsuit claims the USDA created the loophole with a rule change in July. The society says the USDA lets cows that fell down after an initial veterinarian inspection be slaughtered if they appeared otherwise healthy.

The largest previous meat recall orders both covered 35 million pounds and came a month apart in 1998 and 1999. Both involved ready-to-eat products contaminated with listeria. Nearly two dozen people died and about 100 fell ill after eating the meat.

Coca-Cola To Buy 120 Hybrid-Electric Trucks, Expects Substantial Fuel Savings

Coca-Cola Enterprises plans to purchase 120 hybrid-electric drivetrain-equipped trucks from Eaton Corp.

The Coca-Cola order represents the largest North American commercial order to date for Eaton's hybrid systems and follows the beverage company's purchase of 20 trucks with Eaton hybrid power systems in 2007.

Testing and evaluations conducted by Coca-Cola Enterprises found that Eaton's hybrid-electric drivetrain equipped trucks decreased emissions by roughly 32 percent and fuel consumption by up to 37 percent as compared to conventionally-powered trucks in Coca-Cola's current fleet. Coca-Cola also reported lower maintenance costs on the hybrid-powered trucks.

"We have been working with Coca-Cola Enterprises since 2003 to assess our systems," said Dimitri Kazarinoff, general manager for emerging technologies at Eaton's Truck Group, Kalamazoo, MI. "Coca-Cola is demonstrating its commitment to reducing pollution and greenhouse gases and Eaton is pleased to be a part of this effort. We are looking forward to working with them to deploy the systems into their transportation network."

"In addition to the environmentally friendly advantages that hybrid vehicles deliver, we also report that driver acceptance has been highly favorable, especially in high start-and-stop applications," says Dave Leasure, corporate director of fleet procurement, Coca-Cola Enterprises, Atlanta.

"The hybrid drive units have been performing very well in communicating with the electronic engines, always giving us the necessary torque and horsepower when it is needed."

Eaton employs parallel-type, diesel-electric hybrid architecture with Eaton's Fuller UltraShift automated transmission. It incorporates an electric motor/generator between the output of an automated clutch and input of the transmission.

The system recovers energy normally lost during braking and stores the energy in batteries. When electric torque is blended with engine torque, the stored energy is used to improve fuel economy and vehicle performance for a given speed or used to operate the vehicle with electric power only.

The system can also be designed to provide energy for use during engine-off worksite operations, further reducing noise, emissions and fuel costs.