Efficiency, quality and minimising costs are key focuses for packing sheds within the horticulture-focused areas of the agriculture industry. Having effective processes and the most suitable consumables can help to reduce waste, save time and most importantly save money.
With some of the common challenges including a casual staff turnover, lack of in-depth training, strict quality and safety legislation it is important to get it right at the start of the packing season. This will ensure you can maintain the quality of produce in the optimum amount of time, having it despatched as soon as possible. Read on for a quick-tip guide to get you on your way.
1. Get your safety sorted
Having a safe, comfortable, healthy and clearly signed packing shed can save money both directly and indirectly. Where the setup of the shed is concerned, ensure that warning and instructional signage is posted and clearly visible to indicate dangers, communicate health and safety messages, housekeeping processes and the location of first aid kits or emergency exits.
Occupational health should be considered with the use of anti-fatigue safety mats, which help to reduce strain and fatigue, and are non-slip to reduce accidents.
Depending on the situation it may be important to provide personal protective equipment such as ear plugs and respiratory equipment.
2. Handle the produce hygienically
Part of safe food handling is ensuring your hands are clean at all times, and using the correct gloves. To avoid any health or contamination problems ensure there is an adequate sanitising hand cleaner available. It is also important to ensure that the soap is antibacterial and safe to use in food handling areas.
For many packing sheds, vinyl food preparation gloves are recommended. Vinyl is preferred in many food industries as latex can be known to contaminate or 'turn' certain foods. Vinyl is also gentler on the wearer's skin which is beneficial to those who are sensitive to latex.
3. Package the goods in the right materials
Using the wrong bag or carton liner can be costly, especially if it is made of the wrong material or incorrect dimensions. Polyethylene is commonly used in poly bags and liners as it is a foodsafe material. Use a supplier that offers a wide range of different sized poly bags and liners which are also available in different thicknesses. This will save money and create efficiencies as you will be using the correct bag for each job.
Another way to save money is ensuring you have the right carton for the right produce. Whether this be trays or cartons, boxes with handles, or custom printed with your company's branding.
4. Use the right labels for the goods
Labels are a crucial part of the packing process as they display important information about the carton or tray's contents, any shipping requirements/information and any relevant dates. It is recommended to use both freight labels and date/batch labels.
Freight labels are designed to work with the computer printing system used by your chosen transport company and can ensure that you are meeting your carrier's barcoding and shipping requirements.
Date or batch labels are beneficial for a few reasons: they indicate a relevant best before or use-by date, can record a batch number or can indicate the date the goods were packed.
5. Wrap/strap the cartons securely
After carefully collecting and packaging the goods, the last thing you need is for them to be damaged in transit. There are a few products that consistently hold the cartons or pallet together securely while also allowing for air flow. This is especially important for fruit and vegetable packing sheds to ensure the produce stays in good quality and achieves the appropriate air circulation – particularly where the goods have been chemically treated.
One of these products is air flow pallet wrap which is designed with ventilation holes to allow quicker cooling or drying of wrapped goods. The film is also reinforced to provide greater tensile strength which helps minimise spillage and prevent damage during transportation.
Another option available is strapping tape which is allows you to bundle or palletise cartons without the need for pallet wrap. It is a premium polypropylene high impact strength solution.
There are other important products and processes to consider to further optimise your packing shed. For more tips on how to reduce waste, save time and money contact a trusted agricultural supplier.