A recent transplant from West Pak’s field department, David Choi has landed in operations and has quickly sprouted roots as the new production manager. His primary responsibility is to ensure that his team is packing efficiently and is delivering the best possible product to West Pak’s avo-hungry customers.
A Big Responsibility
Every morning, David arrives at the Murrieta, California distribution center where he checks the CDP or customer demand program for any new products or SKUs to bag and then looks over inventory levels. If short on units or a specific SKU, he coordinates with the production or bagging team to ensure that the department has enough fruit on hand for the sales department to sell.
Throughout the day, David works to ensure that his team is fulfilling orders efficiently. And if not, it’s his responsibility to figure out what is going on and fix it. If a specific piece of equipment is offline, or there is a lull in the process, he’s on the spot to get things back up and running again at full capacity.
David also liaisons between the sales team and West Pak’s supply chain to be sure that everyone is on the same page. There are a lot of meetings with both departments to coordinate between the volume of avocados the field team brings in for the week and what the sales team projects two weeks out. And then there’s all of the required documentation and keeping everything in line, ensuring that all products meet West Pak’s strict standard of quality. This level of detail is critical in meeting the customer’s expectations and precise specifications on time.
“It’s a big position,” remarks David. “We also manage the budget, do training within the warehouse, and handle all of the SOP (standard operating procedures) documentation. We are going through a growth phase, so we have to be ready for any new candidates working in the warehouse to be sure they understand the responsibilities and safety requirements. Also, to ensure that they are properly trained so that we don’t have any errors when it comes to sending our products out to our clients.”
David also works hard on the grower side, where he pushes his team to get to the growers’ pack-outs promptly. To avoid shrinkage, which is when avocados lose water weight if kept at room temperature, it’s essential that fruit is quickly refrigerated and it takes coordination to do that. The production team also documents the sorting process and shares videos and photos of the fruit should a grower question the grading of their haul.
“GAP (good agricultural practices) was my first position with the company when I hired in five years ago, but I moved into a field buyer position, which was a great experience. As a buyer, I understood about avocados and the growing practices and came to terms with the fact that not all of the fruit I was bringing into the packing house was going to be perfect. I also learned that throughout the season for California, the amount of dry matter was going to increase depending on the month. Now as an operations manager it’s not that much of a stretch to understand, for example, that the fruit that our team receives in January is going to a longer time to ripen than the fruit we get in July. It all comes down to experience,” David explains.
Now that David is firmly planted in the production department, he finds his experience with GAP coming in handy. On the production side, it’s called good manufacturing practices or GMP, but it all comes down to food safety and proper handling of the fruit at every turn.
David adds, “When I joined the company, GAP was not a big issue, but now it’s kind of taken over. In production with GMP, the practices ensure that we are following the same type of policies that we had with GAP in the field. It’s to assure our clients that the food they received from our operations facility offers minimal to no risk.”
A Blossoming Career
His love and respect for this funny green fruit were first planted when David reached out to family friends to help fulfill a requirement for his degree in international business from California State University San Marcos. In his last semester, he completed an internship abroad thanks to his family friends, the Newhouses, who hooked him up with a grower partner in South America. David spent several months in Peru absorbing knowledge of the avocado industry before graduating and landing a position in his new favorite produce vertical: avocados.
Known for his hard work ethic and team player attitude, David is proving worthy of his new position. In spite of the stress that comes with such a huge undertaking, he has found the company to be a great place to work.
“West Pak is truly a family company that cares about its employees. We’re not just employees working alongside each other; we actually spend time outside of work getting together on the weekends getting to know each other and creating a family bond that this company is known for. That’s part of the reason why we have so many people here working at West Pak for so many years. They love the atmosphere and the culture,” David declares.
When asked if he misses the field department, David points out that he does miss his growers in the field but also the opportunity to hike around the ranches. You see, he’s an avid hiker and loves the outdoors. These days, depending on the season, you can find him snowboarding in the winter or scuba diving in the summer, even taking an occasional hike in his favorite avocado lined trails. Guess that avo-seedling really took hold after all!