Executives at Aurora Foods, Inc., a leading producer and marketer of premium branded food products, are telling a sweet success story at the company's St. Louis, MO, headquarters these days. A cost-effectiveness program at the company, which posted net sales of $1.036 million in '01, continues to be a major driver of Aurora's profitability.
A key component in this program is Aurora's plant in St. Elmo, IL, which it purchased in August, '01. The plant produces the company's three syrup brands–Log Cabin®, Mrs. Butterworth's®, and Country Kitchen®, which were previously bottled by a contract manufacturer. The St. Elmo facility, expected to save Aurora at least $5 million in '02 and $8 million on an annualized basis, is doing this with an interesting twist in the filling portion of its operations. The combination of dual timing screws that improved production, with customer service that eliminated a serious clog in the works in a matter of hours, not days, helped keep operations flowing smoothly.
When Aurora initially brought its syrup production in-house, the filling system at St. Elmo proved unable to orient the bottles efficiently for Mrs. Butterworth's best-selling 24-oz bottle. The timing screw was too short for the orientation lug on the bottom of the bottles. This was a sticky situation when you consider that all the bottles, not just the 24-oz Mrs. Butterworth's size, had to be oriented before being filled.
Unlike the filler, the labeler at St. Elmo had no problems orienting the bottle and imparting the necessary degree of rotation for achieving high-speed production efficiency. Nick Grapsas, vice president of engineering for Aurora, noted that the changeparts on the labeler were from Morrison Timing Screw Co. So, he decided to call on Morrison to provide new timing screws for the filler that could automatically orient the syrup bottles. "And Morrison simply offered us the best delivery and best price," says Grapsas.
|Square-shaped Log Cabin syrup bottles required dual timing screws.|
When the next sets of syrup bottles for Log Cabin, and then for Country Kitchen, went into production at St. Elmo, their square shape posed a new problem for the filler and labeler. "Nick Wilson, president of Morrison, told us that we needed dual screws, not just a single one, to meet production efficiencies for this bottle" says Grapsas.
"So that rainy Friday afternoon, Chris Wilson of Morrison Timing Screw and Steve Smit, Morrison's field service technician, flew down in the company plane to evaluate the problem and determine a short-term solution until the new dual screw system could be manufactured," Grapsas tells PD. "Smit and Wilson then returned to Chicago, where they engineered a 'quick-fix' at their Glenwood, Illinois, headquarters. That same evening, they flew the temporary screw back to St. Elmo and installed it. The quick-fix enabled us to keep production moving until the new dual screw system was ready. We were back in business in a matter of hours, not days. And, one week later, Mark Burk of Morrison delivered and installed the dual screws. The new system works great! This is service beyond the call. Morrison goes the extra mile, and they stand behind their products."
"Other suppliers might have sent a new timing screw on a commercial aircraft and told us to go to the airport to pick it up and install it ourselves. Good service is becoming tough to find today, and here's a company that really means service," Grapsas continues. "Morrison will continue to get our business. Other companies, as a cost-saving measure, have cut their service, but they are also cutting their repeat business at the same time."
Aurora continues to expand production at the St. Elmo facility. "Recently, we had a startup that required timing screws quickly. Morrison had them here and installed in two weeks. Every time I call Morrison, they respond immediately. Usually someone is here within twenty-four hours. Nick Wilson acts quickly and personally provides solutions to keep our operations flowing smoothly. We feel confident in their quality products and container-handling knowledge, as well as in their unsurpassed customer service. We will always call Morrison first when we need container-handling solutions," Grapsas concludes.
More information is available:
Timing Screws: Morrison Timing Screw Co.,708/756-6660. Circle No. 267.