Kuna Foodservice Gets A Lift

Lift trucks from Jungheinrich help boost productivity in company's new warehouse.


Kuna Foodservice, a distributor based in St. Louis,  has been providing quality service to clients, such as restaurants and country clubs, in the Midwest area for over 90 years. Kuna prides itself on providing the right shipment of quality products on-time, the first time. To promote this mission, the company offers a speed-based bonus program as incentive to encourage its employees to work quickly and efficiently.

In 2009, this dedication and hard work paid off as the company was voted TGI Friday’s distributor of the year.

Kuna’s mounting success recently led to a growth in product volume and the need for more space, causing the company to expand to a 98,000-square-foot distribution center that includes a refrigerated receiving dock, freezer and storage area for paper and canned goods.

In order to continue to grow and deliver quality products in the new larger facility, the company decided to replace its existing material handling equipment fleet. Whether moving product in a narrow aisle freezer or getting product ready to ship out of the distribution center, Kuna needed lift trucks designed to meet the productivity and throughput needs of a high-velocity warehouse.

Seeking A Partner

As a company founded on superior customer service, Kuna sought a material handling partner with a similar focus. A sales representative from a local lift truck dealership first introduced them to Jungheinric, a leading brand for material handling equipment, specializing in warehousing and narrow aisle lift trucks. Jungheinrich provides technological solutions, optimized to satisfy diverse environments such as Kuna’s.

Kuna’s management and warehouse staff were initially hesitant to try the German brand. Jungheinrich products were new to the company, and the product lineup offered a sit-down reach truck as opposed to the stand-up style of reach truck the operators had been using for the last 15 years.

Despite the company’s initial skepticism, Kuna agreed to a three-week trial of the ETV 214, part of Jungheinrich’s moving mast reach truck series. Unlike most pantograph reach trucks offered in North America, the Jungheinrich moving mast reach trucks insert and remove loads by moving their masts rather than extending or retracting their forks via a pantograph mechanism.

The absence of the pantograph allows operators to more easily see through the mast and fork carriage, and the truck’s sit-down style provides greater operator comfort, especially in applications where the operator is required to stay on the truck for longer periods of time.

After only three weeks, Kuna and its operators noticed an almost immediate difference in productivity, efficiency and operator comfort. Equipped with 3-phase AC technology, the ETV 214 had significantly faster traveling speeds than Kuna’s previous material handling equipment and the moving mast allowed operators to quickly and efficiently move product through their facility.

Rooted in a bonus-based culture, employees learned the Jungheinrich lift truck would help them qualify for bonuses more quickly, and they soon began competing for privileges to operate the new truck.

During the trial phase, Kuna also had the opportunity to experience firsthand the customer support provided by the local Jungheinrich dealer.

“Though the workers loved the speed and comfort of the Jungheinrich product, they had difficulty adjusting to how the truck naturally turned the opposite direction of the other trucks we owned.

“Within a matter of minutes, the service representative from the local Jungheinrich dealer was able to program the lift truck to turn the other direction,” says John Schuler, senior vice president and general manager of Kuna Foodservice. “It was at that moment that I was sold on the customer service and our workers were sold on the product.”

Thrilled with the performance during the initial trial phase, Kuna purchased three ETM 214 moving mast reach trucks and seven electric ECR 327 walkie end rider pallet trucks to replace its existing fleet. A 24-hour operation, Kuna relies on the moving mast reach trucks during the day to stock warehouse materials and the walkies at night to fill and load product orders into trucks.

Customizing For Success

The features on the built-to-order Jungheinrich products are essential to operator comfort and productivity. “If the workers love them, they’ll work harder and faster,” says Schuler.

With its operators and productivity in mind, Kuna custom-ordered its Jungheinrich products equipped with a freezer package, headlights and the regenerative lowering package to aid in the work environment and help achieve the company’s mission of speedy and quality service.

Working in temperatures of 65 to -6 degrees Fahrenheit, Kuna chose to equip its entire fleet of ETM 214 lift trucks with a freezer package to combat the company’s extreme work conditions. The heated seats included in the package help keep Kuna’s operators warmer and allow them to stay in the frigid conditions longer, helping to increase overall operator productivity.

Kuna also discovered the headlights on the reach trucks were particularly helpful for combatting shadows in the freezers. This option enables workers to shine light on the racks and read bin signs, eliminating the need to exit the operator compartment. The Jungheinrich lift trucks gave operators the confidence to maneuver in the aisle and freezer and also the reaching capability to pull the proper order the first time.

The electric Jungheinrich ETM 214s at Kuna were also outfitted with the regenerative mast lowering package. This option, available on Jungheinrich’s 2 and 3 series moving mast reach trucks, generates electricity in the lift system when a load is lowered back to the ground. The conserved electricity is then fed back into the battery.

With energy conserved during pallet moves, the battery charge on Kuna’s Jungheinrich products lasts up to 12 hours, approximately four hours longer than the products previously used in the Kuna fleet. The extended battery life minimizes the lift trucks’ down time and allows two crews to work off of one charge.

Raising The Standards

Aside from custom packages, the Jungheinrich fleet also offers other useful standard features that Kuna has come to depend on, such as high-performance rolling masts and speed controlled travel.

The recently updated ETM 214 moving mast reach truck features a 3,000 lb capacity with lift heights up to 37 feet. It also offers a rolling mast, which keep loads stable during lifting of a product, allowing operators to move materials swiftly and safely. The moving mast reach trucks feature a space-saving design and advanced Jungheinrich Curve Control for stability during cornering. 

“The Jungheinrich reach trucks move quicker up and down, and front and back than any truck I’ve worked with in my 11 years here,” says Rich Garavaglia, a warehouse employee at Kuna Foodservice. “When you’re moving loads of fragile and sensitive food products like eggs and produce, having smooth and reliable equipment is important.”

Control was the key influence behind Kuna’s decision to purchase the ECR 327 end rider pallet trucks. The Hot Pick feature on Jungheinrich pallet trucks allows the equipment to move alongside the worker while filling orders and stops automatically at a designated distance determined by the operator’s touch. Hot Pick has eliminated the need to hop on and off the truck to move it, significantly reducing the company’s injuries and worker compensation claims.

Built for rough environments such as Kuna’s, the forks for the Jungheinrich end rider pallet trucks are made of solid steel bar stock rather than the more commonly used rolled steel plate, making the trucks more durable. A special XAR® steel is also used in critical locations on the undercarriage to provide further protection against rollback and provide increased stability when operators are working on dock boards and ramps.

Though Kuna uses the online diagnostic system to troubleshoot and order parts when needed, the company also secured a planned maintenance schedule for its Jungheinrich fleet.

“I found that our previous vendors were wasting our time and money trying to train their maintenance guys while diagnosing the problem,” says Schuler. “Jungheinrich’s online diagnostic system offers us the freedom to order the parts we need without requiring a maintenance representative to come out each time. This allows us to get back to work faster, which in a time-focused and quality-based organization like ours, is extremely important.”

Without needing to schedule an appointment for service, a maintenance representative automatically visits Kuna on a regular basis to service and maintain the equipment. Doing so ensures that potential issues can be resolved quickly and without interfering with Kuna’s productivity.

“Jungheinrich has fulfilled all of our service needs quickly and efficiently,” says Garavaglia.

“One time we even needed a part from Germany,” says Schuler. “It was ordered, arrived in only a few days’ time, as opposed to the average two weeks, and was installed immediately. Moments like these define why Jungheinrich has provided the best customer service we’ve experienced from a material handling company.”

Showcasing Satisfaction

In addition to superior service, the Jungheinrich product’s sturdy and quick movements, coupled with custom and standard features, have enabled Kuna’s bonus-driven workers to finish their tasks in record speeds. In fact, they have been so helpful that Kuna has had to increase its goal standards on the bonus system twice in the two years they have owned Jungheinrich products.

Overall, Kuna Foodservice has been so pleased with the efficiency, reliability and customer service associated with their Jungheinrich products that an image of the ETM 214 reach truck has been included on the company’s website. Geared towards customer assurance, Kuna remarked it proudly showcases the state-of-the-art technologies that empower it to provide the best quality of service in the industry.

“As a company based on speed and service, we have come to rely on the heightened work pace our Jungheinrich products encourage,” says Schuler. “We look forward to continuing to work with them as a partner for years to come.”


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