“We can maximize efficiency in any direction we’re going.”
Particularly with the greater volumes of newer varieties coming online in Michigan, more emphasis is being placed on tray packs, Swindeman said.
Sparta-based Jack Brown Produce Inc. can’t wait to run this year’s expected big crop through its revamped packing line, said John Schaefer, the company’s president.
Production capacity should be up about 25% this season, Schaefer said.
The company’s new line will do a better job of detecting bruises and internal defects, will allow labels to be printed on demand rather than requiring the company to keep a large inventory of labels, and will allow it to focus more on its specialty — custom packing.
“We’re very excited about the quality product we’ll be putting out for customers,” he said.
“Flexibility is the key to our business.”
Belding-based BelleHarvest Sales Inc. has installed six controlled-atmosphere rooms and added a single-lane packing line to complement its six-lane line and another single-lane line, said Chris Sandwick, the company’s vice president of sales and marketing.
The new line is better equipped to pack 3-, 5-, 8-pound and other sizes of poly bags and half-peck tote bags, Sandwick said.
BelleHarvest also has added pallet pits, which will allow workers to raise and lower pallets so they’re always at the right height for loading, Sandwick said.
That’s good for workers’ backs and for the quality of the fruit they’re packing, he said.
Hillsdale-based Glei’s Inc. is upgrading the washer and dryer components on its grading system in time for this year’s harvest, said Damon Glei, partner.
“It will give us more time in the wash bed to scrub them, and allows us to do one of the best possible wax jobs we can.”
Signs of rebound
If you want to look at how the industry is bouncing back after 2012, just look at all the new facilities going up and at all the renovations to existing facilities, said Diane Smith, executive director of the Lansing-based Michigan Apple Committee.
“What says more than anything is the amazing amount of investments growers have made,” she said.
Investments made by Michigan grower-shippers weren’t all physical.
Don Armock, president of Sparta, Mich.-based Riveridge Produce Marketing Inc., said he and others toured other packinghouses to sharpen their own best practices.