Tom LaGrasso says he doesn’t want his company to just tag along as the produce industry rolls out full compliance with the multi-stage Produce Traceability Initiative.
Rather, he wants Detroit-based wholesale distributor LaGrasso Bros. Inc. to be a leader in the effort.
“LaGrasso Bros. Inc. wants to be regarded as a leader in food safety for produce distribution in the Michigan market,” he said.
A starting point
In that vein, the company is engaged in a food safety program that is looking to reach all seven PTI milestones by next year, LaGrasso said.
“We want to set the benchmark, because food safety is critical in today’s business landscape and will continue to be so moving forward,” he said.
Full PTI compliance isn’t the end of the effort, though, he said.
It’s just a starting point. The company has been compliant with Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points since 1995.
“We have been ... excelling during our annual third-party food safety audits,” he said.
The next step after PTI compliance is meeting all Safe Quality Food certification requirements, LaGrasso said.
Having third-party safety audits on hand from growers and shippers is important because the company wants to know that all its suppliers meet all food-safety guidelines and maintain good growing practices, LaGrasso said.
He said his company has been aggressively pursuing food safety since software company ProducePro distributed a white paper article on PTI to its clients.
“We met with ProducePro’s team of consultants to assess how we would go from our current operation to PTIcompliant,” LaGrasso said.
Overhauling pallet builds
The first step was changing the layout of the company’s warehouse.
“We had the same items slotted in multiple locations and a majority of the picking was done by dolly,” he said.
LaGrasso Bros. altered the flow of the warehouse to use a program called “pallet build” in ProducePro.
“The software system takes all the orders for a route and organizes them into equal-sized pallets,” LaGrasso said. “Each pallet is then printed as a separate pick ticket, which directs the picker and their pallet in the most efficient way through the warehouse.
That allowed each pallet to be built according to weight and product size.
“We now have completed the renovations to the warehouse and have the new layout in place,” LaGrasso said.
The company conducted its first tests on the “pallet build” program late in the summer, and the tests quickly showed it had improved accuracy of picks and efficiency of order fills, LaGrasso said.