With a robust labor market and U.S. unemployment filings close to a five-decade low, companies continue to explore fresh opportunities to help ease their staffing burden. One of those untapped windows of labor improvement for the grocery sector is through the use of RPCs. Here are four ways they can make a difference.
Because RPC sizes are standardized, they make stacking easy while reducing the complexity of training. And for building mixed loads, they eliminate typical order picking inefficiencies such as rehandling boxes, taking too many steps and hesitation about where to place containers. They remove the headache of working with varying box sizes, while their sturdy construction takes away concerns about stacking heavy product over more delicate product that would be crushable in single-use packaging.
Because of better unit load integrity and no overhang, palletized RPCs can be handled more confidently and quickly during loading, unloading and warehouse operations–improving handling efficiency as a result. Better load integrity also means fewer leaning or toppled pallets to contend with, and less time spent at the dock by trucks. Research has found RPCs to improve handling, storage and equipment costs by up to 25%.
The labor saving opportunity for RPCs starts with its ergonomic design, including the convenient handholds and the standardized size. “One touch” stocking allows clerks to simply pick up RPCs and set them into position, eliminating the tedious process of cutting open cartons, emptying them, and building displays. Stock rotation is also much more efficiently accomplished with RPCs. And when RPCs are empty, they are simple to collapse, stack and bring to the back of the store to be palletized. The use of RPCs also eliminates the activity of placing one way packaging in the baler and waxed cardboard in the garbage compactor. Additionally, the use of RPCs reduces product damage, resulting in less culling required by clerks, and more time for them to help customers.
A 2017 report from the McKinsey Global Institute estimated that automation could raise productivity growth globally by 0.8 to 1.4 percent annually through increased accuracy, quality and speed. RPCs are instrumental in helping support labor-saving automation for perishables. Case in point, SOK, Finland’s largest retailer, opened a fully automated warehouse in mid-2017. The capacity of the automated warehouse now exceeds 1.2 million units per day and some 21,000 different articles shuttle through the system. Each month, more than a million IFCO RPCs carry 70 percent of all fresh produce and bread products through the warehouse. By mid-2019, Inex Oy, SOK’s logistics subsidiary, plans to ship most of the fruit and vegetables with RPCs, reaching a volume of 15 to 16 million IFCO RPCs per year.
Inside an automated warehouse, a complex system of conveyors, elevators, and mechanical layer pickers requires standardized, absolutely stable and stackable crates. The range of IFCO RPCs guarantee the same footprint and rugged construction to provide the secure stacking of various produce types – even under harsh and humid conditions that could compromise corrugated cartons.
Solving industry’s labor shortage is complex, and will require a comprehensive approach. But as outlined above, RPCs can play an important part in helping ensure a successful resolution to current staffing challenges.