Supply Scan

News and Trends From Across the Food Supply Chain

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has teamed up with Thermo King Corp. to create a multi-temp reefer unit as well as an idle reduction system to help the retailing giant move towards its environmental sustainability goals, including improving the efficiency of its fleet.

Minneapolis-based Thermo King developed a three-zone multi-temp unit for trailers with a 30-foot frozen compartment in the middle, dubbed the Spectrum SB with SmartReefer2. Today, every one of Wal-Mart's fleet of approximately 6,000 trailers is equipped with the unit.

Spectrum provides Wal-Mart with environmentally-friendly features. The unit is available with electric standby, which allows it to use electricity during loading and stationary operation, reducing fuel consumption, diesel emissions, maintenance and noise.

The hybrid model 50 units offer electric-to-diesel-switching as a standard feature and all models feature bio-diesel compatible engines. Another environmental edge provided by the Spectrum SB is the TK486V engine, which meets EPA Tier 4 emission requirements, exceeds current Tier 2 requirements and meets all EPA requirements through 2012.

"The Spectrum helps Wal-Mart reduce costs in a number of ways. It's good for the environment and good for our business," says Tim Yatsko, senior vice president, transportation, Wal-Mart, Bentonville, AK.

The TriPac system also came about as a way for Wal-Mart to address a specific need: the company loved the efficiency of the Espar cab heaters it was using, but wanted air conditioning as well. Wal-Mart played a key role in the testing of the TriPac system.

The hybrid TriPac system provides heating, cooling and power to the truck cab while charging the battery, all without needing to run the engine. The fuel savings and reduction in emissions with the TriPac system was so significant that Wal-Mart retrofitted its entire fleet of 7,000 tractors with APUs.

"We believe the TriPac system is the most efficient and reliable APU on the market," says Yatsko. "We estimate that this installation could help us save $25 million in fuel costs."

United Grocers Buys Some Assets Of AG

Wholesale grocery distributor United Grocers Inc., has just signed an agreement to purchase some assets of Associated Grocers Inc., a Seattle-based wholesaler that provides food, as well as general merchandise and retail services to stores in Hawai'i, Alaska, Guam, Washington, Oregon and the Pacific Rim.

As part of the deal, United will also assume certain liabilities.

"This transaction will strengthen the competitiveness of independent retail grocers throughout the Western United States," says John Runyan, president and chief executive officer of Associated Grocers.

"The combined sales volume of our two companies creates an organization with significant purchasing power and marketplace clout, as well as a wholesale supply channel that will continue to become more effective and efficient."

"This agreement represents a major milestone in our efforts to combine the forces of cooperative wholesalers in the Western United States and we eagerly anticipate the closing of this transaction," says Alfred A. Plamann, president and CEO of Los Angeles-based Unified Grocers.

The execution of the asset purchase agreement marks a milestone in the process that was initiated on May 7, when a Letter of Understanding between the two companies was announced. The transaction requires approval from AG's shareholders before it can close.

SYSCO Testing Sleep Apnea Driver Program

SYSCO Corp. is rolling out a sleep apnea detection and treatment program for its truck drivers. The foodservice distributor is working with Precision Pulmonary Diagnostics, the Houston-based creator of the program, which is said to enhance driver safety and lower the cost of health care for motor carriers.

According to government studies, 28 percent of truck drivers are at risk of developing sleep apnea.

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