Grimmway Farms, of Bakersfield, CA, is one of the largest processors of carrots in North America. Every year, Grimmway ships hundreds of thousands of tons of carrots to wholesale and retail grocers from its four plants here, some in the form nature created, and some in innovative packaging, including miniatures packed with dipping sauce. And they're working on new ideas for the popular, healthful food that they're not yet ready to reveal.
Grimmway's main plant is actually a connected series of facilities that run from crop acceptance and cleaning, through sorting and further processing and on into packaging-acres of conveyors, cutters, compressors and hydraulics that hum day and night virtually all year long.
The opportunity to be part of this action, and to bring Grimmway into Chevron's growing family of food processing customers, reached Kelvin Gregory, lubrications manager for Greg's Petroleum Service Inc., from one of his sales reps attending a trade conference some three years ago.
The rep was having a casual conversation with Mark Bunch, maintenance manager for the main Grimmway plant in Bakersfield, when Mark mentioned a problem he was having with one of his refrigeration compressors. It was experiencing excessive foaming and lacquering from the oil they were currently using. Mark knew that meant diminished efficiency for the compressor and possible concerns about maintaining proper temperatures in the refrigerated plant.
When the convention was over, Kelvin contacted Mark back at the plant and proposed Chevron's Ammonia Refrigeration Oil ARO 68. Kelvin ran the viscosity and performance specs by Mark, and Mark was interested enough to propose a test of the new oil. "Mark's approach is very sound," said Kelvin. "He knows you don't just make a wholesale change without making sure it's the right thing to do. At Grimmway, their philosophy is to empower all their managers with decision-making authority, and Mark takes this very seriously."
In fact, the test of ARO 68 ran for the better part of a year. "I had to know if Chevron's product would perform in all the conditions we face during the year," said Mark. "In addition to fluctuations in volume, we have an external temperature range here in the California desert that goes from about 70°F to 110°F, and that can put a tough burden on refrigeration compressors."
Under Mark's scrutiny, the ARO 68 did as expected, eliminating the foaming and lacquering problem and enhancing the compressor's performance. Only then did Mark approve the change to ARO 68 for the rest of the refrigeration compressors in the plant. "I'm responsible for my plant's performance, so I'm going to be as sure as I can that any change I make will improve that performance," Mark observed. "Plus, I can't afford to have anything go wrong with any part of my processing equipment. One unit goes down, and it can shut down a huge part of my operation."
Throughout the testing process, Kelvin maintained contact with Mark, making the drive from Greg's headquarters in nearby Delano, CA, to visit the plant and supporting Mark's efforts to be thorough. "Patience is part of my approach," said Kelvin. "We like to develop relationships with our customers that meet their terms. Our goal is service and solutions; we don't want to just be order takers. That doesn't build long-term customers."
Kelvin's patience paid off when Grimmway management determined that Mark and the other plant maintenance managers should review their existing multiple supplier relationships to see if there were opportunities to improve efficiency and lower overall operating costs. Before joining the bidding process, though, Greg's Petroleum enlisted the support of Chevron.
"Clearly," noted Kelvin, "it helps to be able to bring in a partner like Chevron, because they are the largest supplier of lubricants to the food processing industry. But, they are much more than product. They're people who are experts in food manufacturing and who know how to work with our customers. Market Segment Specialist Mike Rooney was with me all the way, analyzing Grimmway's operations and helping to develop our overall proposal."
The Greg's Petroleum/Chevron team took advantage of Grimmway's invitation to go through their facilities, ask a lot of questions and probe for areas where they could provide additional value.
"Beyond the fact that we believe we have superior products," reported Mike Rooney, "we want to offer people like Mark a complete solution to their lubrication needs. We can only do that if we have a strong partnership with our Lubrication Marketers, like Kelvin and Greg's. They're the people who are on the front lines working with the customers and providing all the on-site service."
Mike and Kelvin put their research together and made the proposal to Mark. Included in it were recommendations for replacing existing lubricants for all compressors, gears and bearings with Chevron products, significant improvements to storage and maintenance of lubricant supplies to eliminate contamination from mixing and from water and corrosion, delivery scheduling and improved inventory control, regular LubeWatch oil analysis, technical assistance and on-site training.
"What probably sold me more than anything on going with the Greg's/Chevron bid," said Mark, "was their commitment to service. To me, that's the critical difference. Kelvin promised his team would be available 24/7, whenever I need them. And, I've got access to a tremendous resource of expertise in the food processing business at Chevron, if I need that. And I like straight talk, and that's what I got from Mike and Kelvin. By going with Greg's, we went from about a half-dozen suppliers down to one; and I got everything I needed for our operation."
Kelvin added, "That's my objective with every account. I want them to look at the Greg's/Chevron partnership as the complete solution to every aspect of their lubrication needs. My view is that this is a three-way team, with Grimmway, Greg's Petroleum and Chevron, and if we don't all work actively to support what we're doing, I can't deliver the value my customer needs."
Greg's Petroleum was awarded the contract for all four Grimmway plants, including the main facility Mark supervises, and the process of phasing in Chevron products began.
One day during the 6-8 month changeover to Chevron, as Kelvin and his staff were running a status check, one of Mark's managers reported a problem. Kelvin remembered the encounter: "Since we got the contract with Grimmway, I make it my business to get up there at least once a week. There's no substitute for being on the premises and talking with the people who use your products day in and day out. This manager came up to me one day and said he was noticing some of his pumps were losing pressure and not performing properly. I told him I'd take a look."
One pump was taken out of service for a tribology assessment - part of the package of value-added services available through Chevron - and the analysis determined that the pump would operate at peak performance with a thicker hydraulic oil than the manager was currently using.
"You know," said Kelvin, "the tribology finding on that pump made us recommend the change to the heavier film thickness that Chevron FM 68 oil provides for all of Mark's pumps throughout the plant, and we averted what might have been a problem down the line."
"Here's the bottom line for me," Mark said. "I don't have to think about the lubrication part of my operation at all anymore. My management is looking to me for productivity and profitability. I need to keep my volume up and my costs down. It's that simple. With the hands-on service I get from Greg's Petroleum and the Chevron products and technical resources, I know I've got maximum uptime, maximum performance and maximum value. I can concentrate on all the other things I have to do to keep this plant going."