When Les and Cheri Casey took over the family wholesale meat distributing business in 2000, they knew it would come with challenges. Originally founded as E&E Meats in 1979 and operated through a small warehouse, the Caseys dreamed of expanding the small family-owned business into a larger player in the food distribution industry.
Today, the re-named business, Mid Valley Foods, Oakdale, Calif., provides custom-tailored food distribution solutions to clients and retailers across Central California. Throughout its growth, Les and Cheri wanted their business to remain focused on a core mission—to deliver exceptional customer service and quality products to their clients.
New facility, new equipment
As the Mid Valley Foods’ customer base grew, so did the demands for its operation, including a need for a new, larger facility and a reliable fleet of forklifts.
In 2011, a new facility brought Les’ and Cheri’s dream of a more robust distribution company to life, tripling the operational capacity of the business and dramatically increasing sales potential. Located in Oakdale, Calif., the new warehouse features more than 25,000 square feet of state-of-the-art warehouse and freezer space.
However, the current mixed fleet of aging forklifts was a limitation to their larger operation. To date, Mid Valley Foods operated three brands of pallet trucks—all from varying manufacturers—and had concerns with the stability and reliability of the equipment. The Caseys knew that purchasing new equipment was essential before moving into their new facility.
In the older warehouse, Cheri and Les found that some of the pallet trucks they were using tended to tip on quick turns, gouging the warehouse floors and damaging product.
“Stability was going to be a huge factor for a lot of things,” says Cheri. “I had a desperate desire to see that our floors did not get nicked by anything.”
Cheri’s quest soon ended with the Jungheinrich EJE 120 pallet truck from Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift America Inc., Houston, Texas.
The EJE walkie trucks feature excellent side stability with an optional ProTracLink caster system, which allows heavy loads to be moved quickly without tipping or wobbling. The system replaces independent stability bars and evenly distributes loads during straight-line driving and tight-corner turns.
“I knew that we needed to look for something a little different there, and that’s where the casters came in. It was a huge part of our decision,” Cheri says. “A facility is expensive. These floors are beautiful, and the goal is to keep them that way.”
With the proven stability, Mid Valley Foods added nine Jungheinrich EJE 120 walkie pallet trucks to replace the aging equipment in the warehouse.
Committed to customers, focused on efficiency
Mid Valley Foods’ drivers deliver goods to a variety of large and small supermarkets and restaurants, and the flexibility of providing on-demand, rapid delivery to customers is essential to differentiate Mid Valley Foods from the competition.
“Productivity and customer satisfaction are everything for us. We are still a fairly small business with a small profit margin, so efficiency, productivity and meeting customer needs are key,” says Cheri.
Mid Valley Foods began using the trucks inside delivery trailers.
“The reliability, stability and maneuverability to move our products around in small spaces, like our warehouse aisles, were the features that really sold us,” says Cheri. “But, when we realized the trucks could be used during deliveries and inside delivery trailers, it was a game-changer.”
The maneuverability of the Jungheinrich EJE 120 walkie pallet truck is attributed to its compact chassis design, which features a short battery compartment and a condensed drive unit, allowing the forklift to maneuver in extremely confined spaces.
Features such as performance programming, easy turns while carrying heavy loads and speed were important to the reliable product delivery onsite with customers. The EJE 120 provides stepless speed control by the drive switch and features roll-back protection on ramps. The forklift's crawl speed can also be activated with a separate handle switch, a benefit for maneuvering in confined spaces.
Last year, Mid Valley Foods added an additional nine Jungheinrich EJE pallet trucks to its fleet, equipping all nine of their food drivers with a new unit. The new pallet trucks allowed drivers to quickly and efficiently move product on and off lift gates without any safety or reliability issues.
“We want to know our staff is safe and that our customers are served in the best way possible, and these pieces of equipment are critical for that,” says Cheri.
Reliable and ready to work
As a wholesale meat and food distributor, Mid-Valley Foods operates its fleet of lift trucks in a variety of climates and elements. Inside the warehouse, trucks are used in freezer climates ranging from -10°F to 34°F and in diverse outdoor temperatures during customer delivery. Meat cases weigh between 40-70 pounds each, which means that the pickers and drivers need to be able to transport up to 4,000 pounds of product in a facility or unload heavy product from the dock into a trailer.
When out on delivery, drivers also encounter a wide range of obstacles.
“Drivers are out there in the rain and on different terrain and they’re on lift gates too. Safety is a priority, and I want to know that the truck is not going to jump forward or move too quickly while the driver is trying to manage a heavy load,” says Cheri.
Uptime is also critical for Mid Valley Foods’ success. In the two years since adding the Jungheinrich pallet trucks to its fleet, Mid Valley Foods experienced zero downtime with drivers out in the field, and the pallet trucks have needed only minor, preventative maintenance.
The trucks run with a very high uptime and a low cost of maintenance, which reduces overall cost of ownership.
“I see all the bills come across my desk, and other than the preventative maintenance, I haven’t spent much money on these units at all,” says Chris Reed, chief operating officer.
Battery life is also key. Each day in the warehouse, nine of the pallet trucks consistently run on one battery charge per shift.
“Our drivers are out for 12 hours,” says Reed. “I very rarely see jacks come back that are even half [drained]; they might have one or two bars down. And, we just have no issues with these units at all.”
The trucks are charged between shifts, and the efficient battery life keeps the trucks operating without any downtime. The trucks also include an integrated battery charger, which gives drivers ease-of-use and flexibility out in the field.
“If we were to have an issue where maybe a battery didn’t charge on the night shift and a driver’s out in the field and he starts to see his battery going low, he can plug it in at a customer’s location with the 110 outlet. That really helps us out in the field,” Reed adds.
Inside the warehouse, space utilization is optimized with the integrated battery charger, which can be plugged into the wall, eliminating the need for a bulky external charger.
“We don’t have a very big facility, so we don’t have a bunch of space to put battery chargers. The integrated charger makes it really easy to just plug it in and walk away,” says Reed.
The right solution
Since purchasing the Jungheinrich EJE walkies, Mid Valley Foods has benefited from the boost in productivity to the tune of a 20% increase in efficiency in picking cases per hour. This increases the amount of cases delivered to customers and minimizes the amount of personnel required.
As customers increasingly drive trends with their unique requirements, Mid Valley Foods is an example of a company that has successfully transitioned to a standardized fleet of high-quality walkie pallet trucks for both dock loading and distributing purposes. For Mid Valley Foods, choosing Jungheinrich walkie pallet trucks reduced operating costs, increased productivity and helped to streamline the company’s business operations.
“Forklifts are the workhorses that really make our business move the way it needs to move, and we found that Jungheinrich EJE walkies give us exactly what we need,” says Cheri.