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Matt Alexander, Volm Companies

OEE: Time Well Spent

In our Insiders article two months ago, we talked equipment maintenance: why it matters, how to stay on top of it, and what to prioritize. I mentioned OEE, or Overall Equipment Effectiveness, as an important metric every company should use to analyze their equipment assets’ performance. Because I’ve received quite a few questions about OEE since that article was posted online, let’s delve a little deeper into why OEE is time well…

Matt Alexander, Volm Companies

Communication and Planning = Major Time and Cost Savings During Capital Upgrades

Capital upgrades are a fact of potato packing life. Be it because existing equipment is aging, a critical piece breaks down, business outgrows packing capacity, or one’s product or packaging changes, every packing business eventually needs to overhaul equipment and/or build new packing lines. With great communication and proactive planning, an equipment upgrade can happen efficiently, cost effectively, and with little stress. Communicate inadequately or scrimp on planning, however, and expect problems,…

Matt Alexander, Volm Companies

Maintenance Matters

Second only to product quality, a packer’s primary priority should be maximizing their packing line’s up-time. Buying quality packaging equipment is just the first step in ensuring one’s packing line stays up and running. Since a packing line that fails costs time, money and resources, proactive packers stay on top of routine packing line maintenance. Servicing and maintaining one’s packing line often falls low in packers’ long to-do lists, which means most…

Matt Alexander, Volm Companies

Creating Brand Value Through Sustainable Packaging

Consumers are increasingly interested in sustainability, and are considering it more and more in their purchasing decisions. Realizing this, retailers are looking across their businesses for ways to improve their social and environmental responsibility. However, potatoes present a unique challenge. On the one hand, consumers and retailers are concerned about sustainability. Meeting this need by improving potato packaging’s environmental footprint offers the opportunity to help differentiate one’s brand. On the other hand,…

Matt Alexander, Volm Companies

Inefficient Washlines = Wasted Dollars

Enormous variation exists in the technology, efficiency and quality of potato washlines. In my travels through hundreds of farmers’ and processors’ packing lines, I’ve seen it all: washlines that are ultra-automated and modern, others that are jimmy-rigged and homemade; washlines that are effective and efficient, others that remove only a fraction of the dirt and rock. The return-on-investment of a quality washline is obvious and immediate. As the very first components of…

Matt Alexander, Volm Companies

A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned

Managing Your Packaging Supply Chain Two supply chains converge in potato packing facilities: a produce chain and a packaging chain. In general, packers are fantastic at managing their potato supply chains: since dollars follow the potatoes, packers invest time and effort perfecting movement metrics and operational techniques that optimize their potato handling. Unfortunately, the same can’t always be said about how packers manage their packaging supply chains. Most packers see packaging as a…

Matt Alexander, Volm Companies

Not Your Grandpa’s Potato Marketing Reality

A generation ago, seemingly every household in North America had a 20 pound bag of potatoes under the sink, and potatoes made their way into virtually every meal. Not so today. As consumer demand changes, the potato value chain needs to shift, adapt and constantly innovate to keep potatoes front and centre on consumers’ shopping lists. Because bulk potatoes no longer sell themselves as they did in generations past, packers must work…

Matt Alexander, Volm Companies

MSU Study Proves Light-Blocking Packaging Technology a Major Win for Potato Shelf-Life

It’s good to be left in the dark (if you’re a potato) As every potato expert knows, potatoes like darkness. Darkness slows greening, decreases potato weight loss, slows sprouting, and keeps tubers firm. Unfortunately, darkness does not align well with retail sales, since customers prefer bright lights and high-visibility packaging. Enter light-blocking film packaging: a lightweight, see-through packaging designed to showcase potatoes on the grocery store shelf and in consumers’ homes without…

Matt Alexander, Volm Companies

Labour Shortages Drive Automation in Potato Packaging and Processing

Stand amongst potato packers or processors and the conversation will invariably shift towards one topic: the constant, looming concern regarding labour. With domestic labour less willing to take on menial jobs and international labour increasingly limited, labour shortages are now costing packers and processors significant dollars. Sizing, grading, packaging and palletizing potatoes is laborious, repetitive, tedious work. A generation ago, the same could be said of countless jobs. Now, however, automated machines…

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