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Nut Processor Takes a Systems Approach

Thu, 04/19/2007 - 6:06am
Master Control Panel helps control costs all the way to the dock door
The John B. Sanfelippo company renovated a former electronics facility to create more warehouse/processing space for their rapidly growing nut business.
This warehouse area is part of the renovated 1.65 million sq. ft. facility for storage of Sanfelippo’s high volume, multi-product line.
Serco Vertical Dock Levelers re at each of the 76 dock positions at the John B. Sanfelippo facility. The upright storage position of the levelers protects the dock doors from the damage that may occur from forklift collisions.
The Serco Master Control Panel coordinates the functions of all of the dock equipment at each dock, enabling a safety sequence, which ensures each piece of equipment is deployed in its proper order, including the dock doors. The Panel consolidates all of the wiring and control boxes that would be required if all of the dock equipment had to be wired separately, reducing installation time and potential maintenance.
Once a truck is backed up to the dock, inside the building the dock crew pushes a button to engage the Serco Pit Bull truck restraint. The hook on the restraint maintains a firm grip on the truck’s ICC bar until the truck is ready to hit the road. A push of the button on the Control Panel releases the Pit Bull and the truck can pull away from the dock.
The Control Panel does not allow the Serco Vertical Dock Leveler to lower into position until outside the Pit Bull has a grasp on the truck bar and the door is fully raised. How does the system know that...?
...a photo sensor in the side rail detects the presence of the dock door, telling the Master Control Panel if the door is raised.

“We want everything to be orchestrated from the point of accepting the raw peanuts and nuts all the way to the back door with the finished product going out to the customer.”


        So stated was the mission of Tom Meyer, Facilities Manager for John B. Sanfilippo & Son, Inc., when setting up their new, much larger facility, in Elgin, IL. John B. Sanfilippo & Son is the country’s fastest growing nut processor and packager.


        Though the company has a long tradition dating back to 1922 when an Italian immigrant, Gaspare Sanfilippo, and his son John opened a Chicago pecan shelling business, the new facility was to reflect the latest in roasting, handling and packaging techniques and be set up to work in a coordinated approach.


        Even the dock does its job of making this new 1.65 million sq. ft. facility operate as a system. Echoing the company’s drive for greater safety and efficiency, SERCO® Master Control Panels were chosen to coordinate the operation of each fully outfitted shipping and receiving dock.


        “With the other technology we were putting in the building we wanted that kind of thinking to go into the dock equipment as well – it’s all a system, it’s all state-of-the-art,” says Meyer. “We wanted to build our docks smart, yet intelligent, and we wanted to do it only once.”


        Under Meyer’s direction, the company is in the process of renovating a building that formerly housed a major electronics manufacturer. Parts of the facility were brought on-line as the renovation moved along, with product being shipped in from the roasters at the predecessor facility in Elk Grove Village, IL for distribution world-wide.


        Though electronics manufacturing requires a fair amount of separation, this is vitally important for a nut processor like Sanfilippo – and tougher in a much larger operation. Starting from the pecans that Sanfilippo offered from their Chicago store, they now bring to market a vast variety of nuts and peanuts. Peanuts are actually legumes, and this food is notorious as an allergen that can pose a special danger for many people – even the dust can be lethal to those with extreme reactions.


        “We have an extensive blower system,” points out Meyer,” and walls to separate peanuts from the tree nuts as they arrive and go into roasting. On top of that we are constantly doing research to monitor the process.”


        The Serco equipment line-up at the 76 dock locations includes:
• Vertical Levelers – by storing erect these levelers open up dock space for better traffic flow. In the stored position the steel platform provides a barrier to prevent door damage from material handling equipment.
• Safety-Loc® SLP Vehicle Restraints – installed in a pit under the leveler, and when retracted, the SLP restraint offers a clean dock face. This hydraulically-powered, non-impact restraint allows unobstructed access to smaller delivery vehicles, trailers with hydraulic lift gates and an open drive for unimpeded snow plowing or drive cleanup.
• Dock Seals – ruggedly built with compressible foam on steel frame these seals absorb truck force to protect the building, wraps the truck trailer to prevent moisture from entering the dock area that can lead to slippery conditions.


        “We were going for a systems approach rather than just buying a restraint or buying a door,” says Meyer.


        At the centralized Master Control Panel dock, employees can operate all the equipment for that dock position. Even the manually operated door is interlocked with the other dock equipment, thanks to a photo sensor speced by John Sanfilippo’s dock equipment dealer, the Paul Reilly Company.


        Once a truck is parked at the dock, the Master Control Panel allows the operator to actuate the restraint, but not the dock leveler, until the restraint is fully engaged. When the truck is ready to leave, the restraint cannot release the truck unless the leveler is in the stored position and the dock door is closed. In fact, if the sensor detects the door is closed, the leveler will not operate.


        With the Master Control Panel managing all of this equipment, Sanfilippo saves considerable installation time and labor costs by reducing the number of primary power runs and eliminating multiple power requirements and wire conduits at each of their 76 docks. Moreover, the design opens up wall space and improves dock aesthetics for the many retailers who tour the facility.


        Company growth has called for an in-house department specifically to handle facilities renovation, which, according to Meyer, “we do per need.” Beyond the Chicago area, Sanfilippo has facilities throughout the country. Among all of the other countless issues connected with a project this size, the department did an intensive investigation into outfitting their docks. Coupled what they’ve learned bringing up facilities all around the country and input from the Paul Reilly Company, the Sanfilippo engineers visited other companies across the country, leveraging their experience using dock levelers, doors and the SERCO Master Control Panel.


        Meyer recounts about the Master Control Panel, “we saw it in a couple of different sites. It looked like a good fit for us, equipment wise as well as cost-wise. It was something we had not done before in terms of the dock. We used to go with wheel chocks, which were very old fashioned.”


        Cost of course drove the decisions – yet safety – as Meyer put it, “is a huge, huge, huge factor, for our vendors and truck drives as well as our employees.”


        Their concern for safety is part of Sanfilippo’s philosophy of treating its employees like family. They have a high level of stability in their workforce versus similar operations. The seasonal nature of their business with a spike in their production leading up to the holidays means they have a good portion of their workforce who have to re-learn things when they return to work. Meyer appreciates that the Master Control Panel is easy to use and makes training fast and effective.


        Though Sanfilippo adds value to their product, they are dealing with essentially a low margin product, shipped in very large volume. Every part of the process has to do its bit to move their nut product through the system with minimal cost. Thanks to the array of equipment managed by the SERCO Master Control Panel, costs are controlled all the way to the dock door.

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