IFCO SmartCycle - A circular approach

IFCO’s business model is based on the concept of circular economy. Our Reusable Packaging Containers (RPCs) are meant to be shared and reused for a more sustainable supply chain. We have been doing this since 1992.

What is the IFCO SmartCycle ?

The IFCO SmartCycle is a well-established example of a circular economy model that is applied to create a more sustainable supply chain and to maximize its efficiency: products are kept at their highest utility and value at all times. Our Reusable Packaging Containers (RPCs) are shared amongst many parties to maximize use and IFCO manages their pooling process. We were the pioneers to develop an outsourced RPC pooling system for fresh fruits and vegetables back in 1992, and we have been constantly developing this business together with our partners ever since.

Why share RPCs?

Our pooling system ensures greater efficiency for you. Because you rent IFCO RPCs, not purchase, you save money, space and time. You have no capital investment or depreciation, plus simpler per-trip pricing plans for all services. Limited storage is required, thanks to just-in-time delivery based on seasonality, promotions and pipeline coverage. And we manage the entire process from delivery to collection, sortation, inspection and sanitization.

When retailers, for instance, have their own pool of reusable containers, they save natural resources and reduce waste compared to single-use packaging. However, this approach involves significant investment, as well as costs and effort spent maintaining and managing pooling assets.

Quality and supply chain efficiency at every step

The circular approach of our pooling system is reflected at every step of the IFCO SmartCycle– and it’s designed to ensure the highest possible levels of operational efficiency, food safety and retail-readiness. IFCO manages all steps of the pooling system: from delivering clean RPCs to growers to picking up from your distribution center when the RPCs are empty.

1. Growers and packers

Growers and packers order IFCO RPCs directly and schedule delivery. Just-in-time delivery available.

  • RPCs arrive folded, minimizing need for storage space
  • Multiple sizes available to accommodate different products
  • Fast, easy assembly
  • Ventilation promotes faster cooling
  • Ergonomic design for optimal handling

2. Retail distribution center

Shipments of fresh produce from growers and perishables (including meat, poultry, eggs or bread) from packers arrive at the distribution center, where it goes through sorting and order picking.

  • Standardized packaging system reduces handling storage and equipment costs by up to 25%
  • Secure stacking and rigid construction lowers packaging-related damage by up to 98%
  • Automation capable
  • Ventilation enables better temperature control
  • Order picking faster by up to 50%
  • Optimized transport height of mixed pallets due to securely stacked and fully compatible crates

3. Retail sales outlet (POS)

Orders arriving at retailers in IFCO RPCs are display-ready. They can be placed in the shelves immediately. When empty, IFCO RPCs are folded, stacked and returned.

  • Up to 51% point of sale cost reduction
  • "One-touch" merchandising reduces store labor
  • Rigid construction unaffected by moisture
  • Improves product quality and shelf life
  • Easy to fold and stack; no baling required
  • No packaging waste

4. Retail distribution center

Empty IFCO RPCs are returned to the distribution center for counting and pre-sorting.

  • Ergonomic handling increases labor efficiency and decreases risk of injury
  • Easy, space-efficient stacking for folded RPCs
  • RPCs eliminate need for time-intensive loading, compacting and baling
  • Less tertiary packaging
  • Easy recollection scanning with app

5. Recollection and inspection

IFCO manages pooling processes for our customers, including the logistics. We collect our RPCs and inspect each one individually, using stringent quality control standards.

  • Designed for the most efficient use of space
  • More stable, uniform inbound loads reduce damage and speed up handling
  • Damaged IFCO RPCs are repaired or are fully recycled to produce new ones

6. Cleaning and disinfection

At each of our service centers, RPCs are cleaned using highly automated systems, eco-friendly detergents and disinfectants. Our processes are continuously monitored electronically, with the data regularly validated.

  • RPCs are washed and sanitized to industry leading standards
  • Cutting-edge technology ensures clean, safe RPCs
  • Stacks are palletized and secured for food safety
  • Through the use of SmartGuardian™, we monitor cleaning processes and wash data
  • Only IFCO stores data on contaminants, giving you a pallet-level audit trail for food safety

7. Storage and dispatch

The IFCO pool is managed centrally, with continuous monitoring of shipments. Customer services are managed locally, to ensure you can always reach someone who understands the needs and challenges of your market.

  • Optimization of shipments to ensure the right containers are available
  • Branch offices in more than 30 countries. Large RPC volume in circulation for fast shipping
  • Our state-of-the-art IT systems make it easy to manage your RPC pool

Why IFCO RPC pooling is right for you

One-on-one approach

IFCO’s partners are very diverse, ranging from family-run farms to agricultural enterprises, from small-volume logistics operators to highly automated warehouses, and from single-owner grocery stands to major supermarket chains. Yet all of our partners have one thing in common: We work one-on-one with you. Above all, we listen to you.

Our people make the difference

According to our customers, what sets IFCO apart is our flexibility of solutions and the service we offer. Our people make the difference. You can reach our employees in many ways – phone, e-mail or in person – and we are always ready to support you in any way we can.

Adding value to your business

Our purpose is to first understand how you operate your business, identify any difficulties you face and then meet your needs. We look at your individual business and try to make your work easier. No matter the nature or size of your operations, one question remains our focus: How can we add value to your business, and help you to increase efficiency while lowering costs?

Trusted by the world’s top producers and retailers

IFCO offers the largest footprint and network of any RPC provider in the world, delivering fresh produce daily to customers on five continents. We offer global solutions with local support – and provide flexible solutions for each customer. Learn more about our global operations .

We don’t sell products. We work with you to find solutions. That is the IFCO Way.

The IFCO Way

With the IFCO pooling system, you share Reusable Packaging Containers (RPCs) in a continuous loop. And we make the entire process effortless for you.

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Contact us today to learn how we can help make your food supply chain processes more efficient.
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