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Thanks for your help expediting this machine. Your staff were cordial and very responsive during the FAT yesterday.
Larsen Farms is a vertically integrated company involved in potato growing and dehydration, among other ventures. A group of potato farmers in Idaho, including Larsen Farms, formed the United Fresh Potato Growers. This group won contracts from USDA for a total of 26 million pounds of flakes to be packed in twelve, one-pound bags per case. For reference, it takes six pounds of fresh potatoes to make one pound of flakes. Although Larsen Farms owns the largest potato flake producing plant in the world with a capacity of over 8.5 million pounds of flake a month, the smallest package it was producing at the time was a forty pound bag. Most of Larsen’s product is shipped in bulk to snack food manufacturers.
Staring at severe USDA penalties for late shipments and needing to begin packaging operations in five weeks, Larsen Farms Vice President of Dehydration Operations, Jan Nel, knew that it would be impossible to acquire new packaging equipment at the prices and within the time frame he needed. So he began investigating possibilities for quickly acquiring entire packaging lines of pre-owned equipment. Larsen Farms owner and president, Blainer Larsen, however, cautioned Nel about used equipment, citing problems he had experienced early in the company’s 25 year history in getting used equipment to run properly. Even friendly competitors were warning him that the task was impossible.
You could say Jan was under intense pressure: pressure from his deadline, his budget, his boss, his industry and his own pride. He needed the equipment in his plant in Idaho in four weeks and it all had to work properly. The plan was that flaking operations would start while the packaging line was being assembled. The bulk dehydrated product would be transported five miles to the facility being specially prepared for packaging the government order. Cases of finished product had to start shipping in the sixth week.
Nel sent an email query to Bets via its website and quickly received a callback from Ric Wallace, a Frain consulting engineer and Jim Thornton, a Frain account manager. Shortly thereafter Jan flew to Chicago to visit Frain. Wallace, Thornton and other Frain personnel discussed Larsen’s needs and toured Jan through the Frain warehouse, showing him all the pieces of equipment he needed.
“It was amazing to be able to see every piece we needed in one warehouse” said Nel. “You can read about one million square feet of warehouse space or a six thousand machine inventory, but until you actually experience it you can’t really appreciate it. And seeing every piece in such good condition, skidded, ready to ship, was very impressive and very different than any other place we visited.”
The following week Nel returned to Frain with a company draftsman to place his initial order and check measurements and placement of the machines in the line. Most machines shipped to Idaho “as is” and were set-up by Larsen engineers in the plant being specially prepared for the new line. Two Triangle baggers, and two Ishida scales were assigned to Frain’s engineering services group for more extensive set -up work.
“Frain’s engineering services beat every deadline they gave me”, said Nel. “They sent me frequent updates on the progress of the work so I always knew where I was on the timeline.” The engineering services pieces shipped two weeks after the “as is” machines, and all were in the packaging plant on schedule.
Nel has since visited Frain twice more and placed additional orders for a case packer and a case sealer. The total purchase amounted to approximately half a million dollars.
“Five weeks and we’re up and running,” said Nel, the pride of his accomplishment clearly evident on his face. “The USDA inspector has already been in and given us the green light.”
If you hadn’t guessed, the logistics of the shipping operation itself are daunting. Nevertheless, thousands of cases of potato flakes are on their way to children and the needy, the beneficiaries of USDA’s nutrition program.
David Lewis, Little Crow Foods’ plant operations guru, relishes his small company’s battles with the Goliaths of the food industry. And he is proud that the owners of his company have confidence that he will find ways to produce Little Crow’s products more efficiently than the competition. One of the stones in his slingshot is the pre-owned equipment he buys from Bets.
“I come up with some very unusual ideas and I have always relied on Frain to work with me to make my schemes a reality,” said Lewis who has an aviation engineering background. “I go to Frain’s office and bounce ideas off them while I look at the machines in their million square foot warehouse. Mitch Budic, who heads up their engineering services division, is really helpful and often gives me the benefit of his experience.”
Little Crow Foods, a 102 year old, family-owned company headquartered in Warsaw Indiana, was one of Frain’s original customers 25 years ago. The company blends and packages multiple sku’s of cereal, corn starch, coffee, tea, pancake and coating mixes, and other similar products, which puts them nose to nose with the industry’s giants every day.
Small companies, like Little Crow Foods, and big ones listed among the Fortune 500 often take advantage of the knowledge that Frain has acquired in over 25 years of selling and renting pre-owned equipment. “We are a tremendous resource for our customers,” said Rich Frain, President. “We’ve seen and heard just about everything. And everything we do helps companies be more competitive in terms of keeping their costs low and managing deadlines like time- to-market.”
But Frain goes beyond the delivery of those two primary customer benefits. “I do a lot of homework before I buy anything,” explains Little Crow’s David. “On my last project I purchased an ADCO cartoner from Frain that could do the job. It wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, but it was the best machine available. On its own, Frain found another cartoner that was perfect for what I wanted, called me with an offer to swap and held my price as well. It was a mutually beneficial deal but, still, that’s unusual service by any other company.”
Bets, Inc. the world leader in pre-owned processing and packaging equipment, is headquartered in Franklin Park, IL where it has a million square feet of warehouse space and a 6,500 machine inventory. The company’s engineering services division occupies 45,000 square feet of the warehouse and includes a complete machine shop and a $5 million spare part inventory. Frain sells and rents pre-owned equipment to companies in industries such as food, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and chemicals.
Thank you for the professionalism of the Frain team and customer support.