Discover how Econo-Pak optimizes distribution with insights from our shipping experts, Rich Kleh and Milly Arrascue, on logistics, innovation, and community engagement.

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Co-Packing Shipping and Receiving

Sarah Richter: Welcome to the Econo-Pak Contract Food Packaging podcast. I’m Sarah. And this is Mike. And today we’re interviewing Rich and Milly from the shipping and receiving department. We’re talking about the distribution offerings we have, including shipping to retailers like Costco and more. Let’s get right into the show. Thank you so much for joining us today on the podcast. So to get started, can you tell us a little bit about yourself at Econo-Pak?

Rich Kleh: Sure. Thanks for having me. Been with the Econo-Pak for 13 years. Started out as the logistics manager in charge of everything in the warehouse. Shipping and receiving. Started with us when we were in New Jersey and then we moved over here to Pennsylvania. We started with six direct employees underneath me, and we have built up to now 50 direct employees underneath us. And inside the 13 years, I have recently been promoted to the customer service manager. And with taking on that responsibility, I still oversee everything in logistics. And obviously with a promotion like that, you have to have confidence in some of your employees to take over your responsibilities. And with that, that brought in Milly and she was able to take over all the daily operations of the department and allowed me to extend by moving into other opportunities into Econo-Pak, coming into the front office and helping out with the customer service department. And now she’s overseeing the shipping department.

Milly Arrascue: Yeah, I’ve been with the company for four years already and I just started from the bottom working on the line, and I made my way through where I am right now. So I was hired by Rich to work in the shipping department, and he really helped me a lot on different ways. So that’s where I am right now. Also, as of now, I’m the shipping supervisor. And basically my role is to oversee all the operations, which includes all the trackings, all the logistics, shipping, logistics, and we also oversee employees. Wow,

Mike Mead: That’s impressive.

Sarah Richter: Can you give us a behind the scenes look of shipping and receiving at Econo-Pak?

Milly Arrascue: Yeah, of course. So when we receive product, we make sure we inspect the product, of course, and we make sure everything is being received the correct way. We also put it away by FIFO orders, so it’s ready for production to be packed into finished goods. And then when it’s packed into finished goods, we put it on outbound links so it’s ready to ship and we can track the schedule with the customers with date and time to be picked up. So we ship what the customer needs and we do all the paperwork and we do all the processes for shipping.

The Importance of Scheduled Dock Times

Mike Mead: Starting at the beginning, at least it’s my understanding, we work with scheduled receiving when they’re sending the product in. It’s all based on appointments only, right?

Rich Kleh: So we have scheduled dock times with all of our carriers that come in and out of here. So Milly does a lot of scheduling in her day. So she schedules loads. She receives a lot of emails throughout the day, scheduling loads throughout the whole week. Our loads pretty much are about a week apart of scheduling. We do require 24 to 48 hours notice for a dock time. And everything is by appointment only. So if a carrier is not meeting his dock time or is late for any reason, unfortunately, he would probably have to wait a little while to get unloaded or we try to fit him into our schedule as best we can. But everything that we do here is a scheduled dock appointment. That’s how we receive based off of that. And then we ship based off of that too. That’s pretty much, it’s a packed day. We start from seven in the morning. We ship out until 10 30 at night. So we run, we ship and receive on two different shifts. Well, we do have people in the department 24 hours a day. So on third shift we do a lot of, it’s our cleanup, we call it our cleanup. We supply everything into the production room, but we do all of our waste goods, all of our waste trucking and everything on third shift with that crew.

Sarah Richter: Awesome. And I know when we are talking to prospective clients about our benefits of shipping and receiving, a lot of people are interested in our drop and hook program. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Drop and Hook Program

Milly Arrascue: Yeah, sure. So like we said before, we go by appointments only, but we also offer a drop program, which includes all the tracking companies that we have on site. So they reach out to me for the drop dates, and what they do is they bring us inbound load so that way we give ’em the option to take an empty trailer back or an outbound load back. So that’s the flow for each, not for all of them, but we have certain trucking companies that we offer that.

Mike Mead: Okay. Now I understand a little bit better.

Rich Kleh: So we have each carrier that we have, we have a trailer pool with them. So they keep a certain amount of trailers on hand for us. Some of the individual carriers ship to different locations for us. So one carrier in particular ships to four or five different locations for us. So that carrier, we have a trailer pool of 15 trailers on site for them. And then like Milly said, they’ll drop and hook. So they’ll bring us a trailer, whether it’s an empty to take an outbound load out or an inbound trailer with inbound product. And then they’ll take an outbound trailer back with them or an empty whatever they’ve been planned for their day. And other carriers will have smaller trailer pools because they only carry to one location as opposed to the other carrier shipping to five different locations. So that’s a lot of how the drop programs work. And a lot of trailers that we get come via the rail, everything comes via the rail. So it comes, gets dropped off in the rail yard and then gets taken off of the rail yard with the crane onto a chassis for a driver, puts onto his chassis and driven up to Econo-Pak for the day. And then he drops it here.

Sarah Richter: We currently have 150 spots for that, right?

Rich Kleh: Yeah, there’s about 150 spots for trailers back there. I think we have a hundred trailers on site,

Sarah Richter: So we’re expanding our facility and that’ll lead to more parking space. And how many are we going to have then? I think it’s like

Rich Kleh: A thousand.

Sarah Richter: A thousand? Wow.

Rich Kleh: Yeah, we can hold trailers for everybody if we wanted to. But yeah, we’re very excited about the expansion and everything that has to offer. So yeah, I can’t wait for that to start.

Distribution Locations for Co-Packing Clients

Sarah Richter: That’s awesome. And so can you talk through some of the locations that we bring product to?

Rich Kleh: Yeah. Most of, a lot of what we ship is for whatever our customer’s needs are. It’s really what we do. Some of our bigger clients, we ship to their distribution centers. Some of those distribution centers are all over every place in the United States, even Canada. But we also do for any of our other customers, we’ve direct shipped to Costco. We’ve direct ship to Walmarts. We do a lot of direct ships to Aldis and some Krogers, stuff like that. But yeah, that’s pretty much how that goes.

Investing in Shipping and Receiving Technology

Sarah Richter: So we’re constantly reinvesting into our company with new machinery in our production area. What’s an example of reinvesting into our shipping and receiving?

Milly Arrascue: So starting this year, we started with a new program. It’s called the scanning system, which applies that we can pull inventory and we can receive it directly with MISys. MISys is the system that we use at Econo-Pak. So when we apply the scanning system. It’s more efficient for us to unload and ship trucks. And with the scanning system, we tag everything faster for production and we can also pull inventory from the system from there.

Rich Kleh: We also invest in our trucking. So in order to move our, like we talked about before, having drop trailers on site, the only way you can move those drop trailers is by having a yard switcher or a yard jockey. So we have a yard jockey and yard switcher on first shift, and we also have one on second shift. The equipment is brand new. We have a brand new 2023 switcher on the day shift, and we also have a 2023 yards switch are on the second shift. So we invested there. And our docks, we invested into our warehouse into our facility. So putting in new docks was a big help for us. It enabled us to unload trucks a little bit faster, getting new docks in as well. And it also looks nicer on the outside of the building. We have a brand new dock doors and everything that we invested in. We like to keep everything clean and fresh and new. So that’s been a big, big help for us.

Mike Mead: And what about forklifts too? I know that we have electric forklifts. That was a big investment.

Rich Kleh: That was a great investment for us. So we used to have the propane lifts. And on first shift we have, there’s 17 forklifts going at all times. So if you think about the noise that a propane lift produces, it is quite loud. So when you have 17 of them running, it makes for a very loud workplace. We invested in all electric lifts, and I love it. I think it’s been a game changer for us. It changed the dynamic in the warehouse. If you ask me when everything was so loud, because it’s a production-based company, it’s a production-based shipping company, so it’s a busy place to work. So when you have the noise and everything, it created a little bit of, I wouldn’t say the words anxiety, but it creates a loud workplace. And when you take that away and went to all the electric lifts, it really took the atmosphere and the noise. And you could see, on a daily basis, you could see everybody just kind of calmed down a little bit. Everybody’s shoulders kind of released a little bit just by the noise. And I thought that was fantastic. I loved that addition that we did.

Sarah Richter: I totally agree. Whenever I go in there, it’s the quiet beeping of the forklifts and then the smell of the wood from the pallets. It’s so relaxing in there. And speaking of our pallets, can you talk a little bit about the pallets we offer to our clients?

Pallets and Slip Sheets

Milly Arrascue: Yeah. We offer grade A pallets, grade B, CHEP blue pallets, and red PECO pallets. So I’m going to talk to you about the grade As and grade Bs, which is a brown pallet. So some of the customers in the past have requested to use Grade A pallets for their finished goods, which we also offer the capability to order them online for them. And we also do the same thing for grade B pallets.

Rich Kleh: And then we have a lot of our customers use the blue CHEP pallet. We’re part of the CHEP pallet program. We keep track of our inventory inside the CHEP system. And we also have other clients that use the red PECO pallet. And again, that’s ordered through a PECO pallet program. And we maintained that inventory inside their system as well.

Mike Mead: And some of our product arrives to us on slip sheets. Can you explain that process?

Rich Kleh: Yeah. So you had a slip sheet is basically a way to get away from a pallet, a little bit cheaper for some people. It’s basically shipping on a big piece of cardboard is what it does. And the way you unload that is with a push pull or a slip sheeter, they call it. A push pull basically just pushes and pulls. So it has a little grabber on it, and it’ll grab the cardboard and pulls it onto the forklift. A slip sheeter, if you actually looked at it, the forks on a slip sheeter are about a foot wide, so it’s a lot wider than a regular forklift. So when it slides on there, it basically slides it onto the forks and then it gets pushed off onto a pallet and then placed away into the warehouse and into inventory. But a lot of our trucks come in on slip sheets right now, and now we do have the capabilities of unloading that and also loading back that way.

It’s actually a cool program. The slip sheeter, if you actually watch the guy using it, it’s an interesting technique and not everybody can do it, to be honest with you. So we have some very good slip sheet drivers that we’re proud of. So I can say I don’t think a lot of food facilities have some of the slip sheet drivers that we have, so we’re very proud of them.

National Truck Driver Appreciation Week

Sarah Richter: So this year was the first time that we participated in National Truck Driver Appreciation Week. It was in November. And Milly was a part of that. She took pictures for me. So can you talk a little bit about what we did that week?

Milly Arrascue: Yeah, actually we gave a little bag of goodies to show our appreciation for all the truck drivers, and they were very grateful for that. We took pictures of them, and actually they also posted good reviews online for us.

Sarah Richter: Yeah, it was a lot of fun.

Milly Arrascue: Yeah, it was fun.

Rich Kleh: Yeah, we got a lot of good feedback on that from a lot of the drivers that came in. A lot of the drivers that come in here, like I said, since we get a lot of the trailers from the rail, a lot of those guys are in here on a daily basis. So over the years, you build a relationship with those drivers, all great people, they really are. So you work with them if they’re late for their appointment. Obviously if we’re having a busy day, it could be a little bit of a struggle for them, but for the most part, you build a relationship, they become almost friends of yours. And we really like to, we want to take care of them. We want to get them in here. We don’t want them sitting here all day. We know they have a job to do.

We know that they want to make money. The last thing, they’re not going to make money sitting here. So we want to get them in and out as fast as we can. And I think that was very noticed on Trucker Appreciation week. And I think if you talk to a lot of truck drivers, they’ll tell you about our facility that we do try to get everybody in and out of here in a timely manner. We have great staff that works with us. Milly and the girls in the office are fantastic. Their relationship with the drivers are built. They increase every day. And me from doing it for 30 years, I’ve built a relationship with them and their dispatchers. So that’s even enabled us to be able to use them to help us in other ways too. A lot of trucking companies that come in here are some of the same trucking companies that I’ll use for bids and for other projects that if we want to send a trucking company out to pick something up for us.

And it’s built on relationships. I think a lot of business is built on relationships and being in the industry for 30 years, have a lot of different carriers, a lot of different friends. I can call somebody in Illinois and be like, Jeff, can you get this for me? No problem. Because I know the working relationship. I know it’s going to get picked up on time. I know I’m not going to have any problems. I know he’s going to communicate with us. And that’s pretty much what we do. We love to take care of all the guys that come in here and we want to get them in, and we want to get them out of here. And we try to do the best we can.

Why Communication Matters with Fluctuating Client Order Volumes

Sarah Richter: So how do we manage big swings in order volume from our clients?

Milly Arrascue: So we really have a good communication with our customers and our customer service department, they usually let us know how many pallets we are expecting ahead of time. And that gets us time to get ready for the pallets that we are receiving and as they have their own space.

Rich Kleh: And then we have a forklift driver that we put in charge of making space for us. So we will tell him how many pallets that we need to hold for our client. And we get that information, like Milly said, right from the customer that gets relayed to the customer service department. Customer service department communicates with the warehouse team on how many pallets they’re looking to hold. And then like Milly said, we create space. We will hold a certain section of the warehouse, we’ll move things around, and if the customer tells us they’re bringing in 300 or 400 pallets, well then we know that we’re going to create a space in the warehouse that’s going to hold 300 or 400 pallets, and that spot will be dedicated for that customer’s needs.

Mike Mead: And a lot of that comes from now with you and customer service, your experience in the logistics side and the warehousing side. And now on the customer service side, it is really important to build forecasts and then having production attainments and things like that with our clients. So those two things work hand in hand. So I could see why it would be very important for customer service to make sure that they’re providing that information.

Rich Kleh: Yeah, definitely. All the communication is big. And it starts with the people who are originally talking to our clients, and that’s all of our upper management. When their communication starts with the client, that communication trickles down to our project manager who in turn starts the project, who all the communication then goes to the customer service department. That customer service department has to feed that information and communication to the production floor. And the same communication has to get relayed to the warehousing team. So a lot of communication in a lot of different departments in our company all make that come together. There’s no doubt about that.

More About Rich and Milly

Sarah Richter: Cool. Well, thank you guys so much for joining us today. I have one more question for you. I would love to know what you guys like to do outside of work.

Milly Arrascue: I like working out, going to the gym. I like exercising. And I also love cooking. I like making something different for dinner every day. So yeah, that’s what I do.

Sarah Richter: What’d you have for dinner last night?

Milly Arrascue: Last night? Pork chops.

Sarah Richter: Pork chops? Nice!

Rich Kleh: Very cool. Yeah. Thanks for having us. This is great. I have a couple of teenage boys. A lot of my time is with them. We’re outdoorsy people, so we’re hunters, we’re fishermen, we’re hikers. I play a lot of golf in the summer. Should be hitting the course here fairly soon. It’s getting nice out. And I also have a camper. We do a lot of camping, so I have a camper that’s at a campground about an hour from here. Try to hit that every weekend in the summertime if we can. But for the most part, you’re going to see me and my kids outside doing something, whether it’s hunting, fishing, some kind of sports activity, throwing a football, throwing a baseball. Pretty much that’s what we do. Dirt bikes. My oldest kid’s a dirt bike kid to four wheeling. So we’re outdoorsy family for sure.

Sarah Richter: Very cool. Well, thank you again for joining us. We really appreciate it.

Rich Kleh: Yeah, thanks so much for having us.

Today’s discussion with Rich and Millie showcased the depth of expertise and dedication within our shipping and receiving department. Their insights demonstrate how integral their roles are to not only meeting the logistical demands of our clients but also driving continuous improvement and innovation at Econo-Pak.

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