Kroger’s adoption of the Polymer Logistics Cleanpal® pallet reduces distribution costs and environmental impact in the retailer’s fresh egg supply chain
The Reusable Packaging Association (RPA) recently announced the winner of the 2019 Excellence in Reusable Packaging award program: The Kroger Company with reusable packaging supplier Polymer Logistics. The Kroger Company won for its 2018 commercial pilot demonstrating the cost-savings and environmental impact reductions as a result of adopting the Polymer Logistics’ Cleanpal® pallet for the distribution of fresh eggs from a leading supplier to Kroger stores. The innovative pallet design, carrying the reusable plastic containers (RPCs) packed with egg cartons, builds a secure shipping platform that reduces Kroger’s distribution costs by up to 66% and removes 6,500 tons of CO2 emissions from the retailer’s egg supply chain.
Weighing up to 2.5 times less than traditional pallets, moving up to 3 times more pallets in truckload deliveries and returns, and enabling 1,000 incremental pounds of egg product per shipment from supplier to warehouse, the Cleanpal pallet is more efficient to handle, reduces transportation costs, and provides a safe and secure unit load. The Cleanpal pallet introduces a revolutionary interlocking design for nestable stacking in storage and transit, and the pallet interlocks with RPCs for superior stacking stability and ability to eliminate dunnage materials like shrink wrap and corner boards.
“Kroger is committed to Zero Hunger-Zero Waste in everything we touch,” said Joe O’Connor, Supply Chain Process Change Manager at Kroger. “And this goal has led our drive to expand packaging reuse solutions with pallets and RPCs. The Cleanpal pallet and the partnership with Polymer Logistics was a significant leap in our work up and down the supply chain for food to establish a balanced model to benefit our stores, DCs and customers.”
As an industry leader in innovative reusable transport packaging and retail merchandising systems, Polymer Logistics developed the strong, durable, nestable and lightweight Cleanpal pallet to achieve superior performance for perishable commodities like eggs in a rigorous retail supply chain where product protection, safety and freshness cannot be compromised. “The Cleanpal pallet is a breakthrough in supermarket distribution platforms,” said Paul Pederson, Senior Vice President, Food Safety, Meat & Dairy Supply Chain for Polymer Logistics. “Our focus is to help retailers delight their shoppers with high-impact product presentation and efficient supply chain packaging systems. The Cleanpal pallet combined with RPCs delivers on this goal. We thank Kroger for leading the Cleanpal pallet’s commercial introduction and congratulate them on winning the reusable packaging industry’s most prestigious award.”
“We’re thrilled with this year’s entries to the Excellence in Reusable Packaging Award program,” said Tim Debus, President & CEO of the Reusable Packaging Association. “The submissions received were packed with innovative product designs, reuse approaches and commercial execution. Our panel of judges determined that Kroger’s use of the Polymer Logistics Cleanpal pallet presented the most compelling case for both economic and environmental savings. We look forward to honoring their work as this year’s Excellence Award winner.”
Award presentation emphasizes collaborative approach
Kroger and Polymer Logistics presented their award-winning entry at the RPA Reusable Packaging Learning Center at Pack Expo Las Vegas in a well orchestrated combination of award presentaion, case study presentation and Q&A session. Pederson observed that nestable pallets have been around a long time and are nothing particularly new. “However, what the engineers and the R&D department at Polymer Logistics did was to create something new out of something old,” said. Polymer Logistics created a channel network on the pallet deck that helps hold RPCs in place.
“It not only locks the RPC is into the channeling network, but it also interlocks to make them safer in transit, so that it loads don’t shift, and makes it safer in movement,” he continued. “So you can use fewer corner boards and strapping and save a lot of money in that respect. And it’s safer in the DCs and retail stores because it’s not going to fall… So it works with all three types of four down, five down and six down RPCs in the industry.”
Cleanpal features rubber grommets underneath to grip the steel forks of a forklift or pallet jack, thus enhancing confident handling by order selectors.
Beyond the uniformity of the pallet itself, Kroger was attracted to the uniformity of the entire load, consisting of pallet and RPCs. “The pallet was no longer serving as just a platform,” O’Connor said. “It was the overall vehicle for all the product that was going on it and I think that was the standardization we were able to take advantage of by utilizing Cleanpal.”
The project involved analyzing material handling requirements as well as seasonal fluctuations. O’Conner had to consider seasonal flows such as right before Easter or baking season. At Midwest Poultry Services, the egg supplier, the bottom of the Cleanpal was modified to meet the needs of the conveyor system. At the Kroger distribution center, the installation of wire mesh was required to support the nestable Cleanpal pallets in the racking system. The speakers noted that the mesh also improves the overall safety of the facility.
Kroger already uses plastic nestable pallets for order picking. They do not nest with Cleanpal, helping to prevent the pallets from becoming commingled. O’Connor indicated that keeping the two pallet inventories separate was not a problem at the DC. “It’s not that big of a deal, because it’s a lightweight pallet, and they can kind of tuck it away,” he concluded.