26 May West Pak Avocado Expands, Refines, and Automates Facilities
To ensure that all operations remain up to date with current technology and to address any precautionary measures in light of COVID-19, West Pak Avocado has made recent strides to expand the capabilities of its various facilities.
“Continuous improvement through innovation and integrated systems are core to operating safely, efficiently, and within safe increases in anticipated volume here at West Pak,” explained West Pak Avocado Vice President of Operations Trevor Newhouse. “Between effectively processing year-round fruit and anticipating increased capacity at the height of the California season, last fiscal year, we identified critical opportunities to address our facilities to accommodate such needs.
“The original Cap-Ex (capital expenditure) plans were all pre-pandemic, but upon news of the international outbreak earlier this year, we stepped back to reevaluate our workflow, infrastructure, and additional safety measures. Understanding that our employees’ safety was at the forefront of every decision, we intensified all levels of sanitation programs, including handwashing and hygiene stations across all West Pak facilities. We also added protective dividers to separate employees along the packing line and installed newly designed HID based door systems, which require less human to human contact points. In addition, thermal detection camera systems and facial recognition software alert our internal staff of possible risk detection.
“Yet at the heart of our Operations department is always efficacy. We needed to ensure efficiencies were met, which could be costly to the company and, in turn, create potential slowdowns and possible food waste. Running additional shifts, adding automation, and updating equipment to further reduce unwarranted bottlenecks did the trick. Our continued expansion in new ripening rooms and cold storage capacities addressed safety, growth, and allowed Operations to continually meet key KPI indicators.”
As mentioned by Newhouse, many of the expansion and transformation efforts were centered around the company’s cold chain management systems. Installation of new cold docks, preconditioning rooms, and redundancy in infrastructure and systems were key. West Pak developed additional online services providing a data-driven platform to not only manage its new internal environmental needs but also highlight the company’s abilities to evaluate their performance in meeting both grower and customer requirements.
Keeping with its commitment for increased sustainability other West Pak operational upgrades included refrigerant conversions and migrating forklifts from lead-acid batteries to lithium-ion batteries. “As stated, continuous improvement entails environmental impact as well; this is also a core strategic area we focus on when enhancing anything we do,” mentioned Newhouse.
“West Pak is committed to our employee’s health and safety while continuing to grow our business,” added West Pak Avocado CEO Mario Pacheco. “With the completion of our recent expansion, we are well-positioned not only to support our customer’s growth in the years ahead but also to ensure the health and safety of our workers. We see it as part of our job to help keep Americans healthy. That’s why our commitment to supplying fresh avocados to our customers is as strong as ever.”