MONTREAL — It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas for major Montreal wholesale and import company Courchesne Larose Ltd., which is keen to move into its new 125,000-square-foot building.
Over at Canadawide Inc., meanwhile, president George Pitsikoulis is looking forward to working out of one building instead of two for the first time in 11 years.
The leading wholesaler and importer is replacing its original warehouse with a new building to add storage and capacity for its Frescadel line of packaged fruit and vegetables.
"It should be ready by early 2012 and have all the latest and greatest in terms of temperature and humidity control and energy efficiency," Pitsikoulis said.
"Once the building is completed, we’ll be able to package more than 100 items, with capacity to do more," he said.
The original date for the Courchesne move was Nov. 25, but Chicago-based Produce Pro wasn’t keen on interrupting Thanksgiving dinner to install a new warehouse manager system in Montreal, Courchesne vice president Guy Milette said.
A brief construction slowdown in October also threatened to push the move into the busiest time of the year. But nothing can dim Milette’s enthusiasm for the advantages and savings the "fully loaded" building will bring.
"It’s incredible how technology has changed in the past five to 10 years, particularly in refrigeration," Milette said.
A new computerized system designed for cold climates will analyze the indoor and outdoor temperature and open valves as needed to draw in outside air, which is then filtered and blended with refrigerated air.
"Though we’re doubling our capacity from 3,100 pallets to 7,000 pallets, we expect the cost of energy for refrigeration to drop by 30%," Milette said.
To protect fresh produce from the elements in midwinter, when a box of romaine can freeze in two to three minutes, Milette said the first 5 feet of the new docks would be built 10 inches lower, permitting the door to open inside the building.
"When you back up the truck, it will be sealed so you’ll open the door in a controlled temperature zone," he said. "No more frost damage."
Courchesne also hopes to save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year by eliminating shunters, which back up trucks to the door and pull them out.
Milette expects the new warehouse system, which complements the Produce Pro software Courchesne purchased several years ago, will eliminate human error when it comes to rotation and increase efficiency by up to 400% when it comes to assembling orders.
"Some of our more than 400 customers come in with a long list of items," Milette said, "and somebody needs to go through the coolers to fill them."
With the new system, he said, a list of 30-40 items can be assembled in the staging area in 30-40 minutes compared to hours in the old building.
To ensure the company won’t grow out of the new building any time soon, the roof is 55 feet high, allowing produce in the cooler to be stacked four pallets high instead of the current two levels.
"We’ve built in capacity for 30% to 40% growth so we have plenty of space," he said. "We’re not going to be limited from the beginning."