Peterson Farms is the largest privately owned fruit processor in Michigan. The facility focuses on the production of fresh-cut apples, producing 45 million pounds annually. Peterson processes fruits from more than 500 U.S. and Canadian farms and has been processing tart cherries off their own farms since 1984.
They have experienced significant growth over the past years, particularly with the fresh operation. Peterson also markets over 150 million pounds of frozen fruits each year along with 7 million gallons of single strength apple juice/cider and juice concentrates. Peterson was named McDonald’s 2013 USA Supplier of the Year, supplying McDonald’s restaurants nationwide with fruits including apples, blueberries, and cherries.
Peterson was largely manual when they first started looking into materials control automation. Manual record keeping on the shop floor and re-keying data into office systems had been manageable in the past; however, as the operation grew, manual processes became too slow, inefficient and error prone to support the expanding business. Peterson staff tracked inventory totals in Excel and produced handwritten bills of lading and manifests. They manually
printed labels and physically verified labels from EasyLabel (label generation program).
In addition, all factory events such as receiving, production, and shipping data were recorded on handwritten sheets and later typed in to an existing ERP. Location tracking for sealed, zero air rooms was especially important to Peterson in order to know with surety what inventory was on hand.
Managing traces, production schedules, and yields was difficult and labor costs were rising in order to meet customer expectations and keep production running smoothly. Peterson’s operations team recognized that manual record-keeping was holding them back as they continued to increase the speed and volume of materials moving through their mile long facility. It was time to automate.