More Informed Sales Decisions. Enhanced Inventory Management. Fewer Repacks. Reduced Pack Line Downtime. Increased Productivity. Time & Cost Savings.
Their Brewster packhouse is surrounded by some of the most pristine apple-growing country in the world. Although the trend of consolidation has reduced the number of smaller players in the area, Honeybear Growers remains a key player, committed to working with family farmers who maintain the highest-quality fruit production standards.
The company's flagship apple variety, Honeycrisp, has become a favorite among consumers, accounting for approximately 65% of their total production. Honeybear Growers also packs a wide range of other popular apple varieties, as well as their own proprietary variety, Pazazz. To meet the growing demand for their high-quality fruit, Honeybear Growers recently invested $17 million in a state-of-the-art packing line, increasing their capacity to 500 bins per shift.
The sales department used to get quite irritated because of inaccurately sized fruit, which impacted their ability to sell the fruit effectively. We would often hear, “If you guys could have found that for us, we would be in a lot better shape.” Since they were not familiar with the practical side of apple production, they struggled to understand why we couldn't deliver the sizes they needed.
Then, three years ago, we started hearing about a system similar to Hectre that promised to provide the data needed to quickly find the fruit that sales required. It seemed like the perfect solution for us, so we purchased it. However, by the end of the year, we were disappointed with the results and didn't want to use it again.
Around that time, Hectre approached us, and we shared our experience with them. They responded, "Well, we're quite different from that - and somewhat more expensive too." Believing in the potential value of the technology, we decided to give Hectre's early fruit sizing app, Spectre, a try in our Brewster packhouse. It was a significant investment for a packhouse of our size, so management cautioned, "Steve, if you're going to do it, it better work!"
After using Spectre, now for two harvests, it has proven to be a godsend. So much so that we're always telling people about it. When they come to see our new packing line, we often ask, “Do you guys have Hectre?” My comment to them is that while the other company was less expensive, we simply wouldn't want to be without Hectre's Spectre app. It may cost more, but you get what you pay for.
Prior to having Spectre, the lack of accurate and reliable size and color estimates created challenges when the sales team provided specific packing instructions for certain fruit types. I would ask Marquiel to pull fruit from specific growers based on receiving records. Unfortunately, we ended up packing fruit that we shouldn't have been packing about 30-40% of the time. Spectre eliminates that guesswork when selecting fruit to pack.
Spectre also provides much more accurate samples. Every morning, I review the packout data and compare it to the Spectre report to see if it matches our expectations. Spectre is significantly more accurate than our previous manual evaluations.
The process starts with Marquiel and his team collecting size and color data with the Spectre app when the fruit arrives at the warehouse. This information is then passed on to Patty, who incorporates it into a spreadsheet that also includes in-house collected data, such as fruit pressure, sugar content, and starch level.
I use that spreadsheet almost daily to plan and optimize our packing processes and create the packing schedule. This approach has been highly successful and efficient for our operations. Although I can't pinpoint the exact dollar value that Spectre brings, I know that it significantly reduces repacking and missed sales opportunities due to not having the right fruit available.
Packing the wrong fruit can have significant consequences, such as losing a day of packing. This not only impacts our bottom line but also affects our employees, who lose a day's worth of work. In a time when finding dependable employees can be challenging, it's crucial to keep them satisfied to retain them.
We also strive to pack our fruit according to sales orders, ensuring a fresh pack that can be moved quickly without repacking and benefiting from a fast turnover. With limited storage space, packing the fruit that the sales team can sell is essential to avoid filling up our warehouse and disrupting operations.
Spectre has greatly reduced repacking as well. If packed fruit doesn’t sell within 21 days, we have to deal with apple shrink due to loss, decay, or other factors. This leads to repacking fruit that we shouldn't have packed in the first place, compounding the problem.
Before Spectre, our annual repacking rate was around 10%. Now, with Spectre, we can run an order, pack, and ship-today system, and our repacking rate has dropped to about 3%. Spectre has played a significant role in this repack rate reduction.
Prior to using Spectre, we experienced inconsistencies in the size and color of the fruit we packed, resulting in numerous line changes and a less efficient process. These inconsistencies led to delays and increased downtime for our 50-60 person packing line.
With Spectre, we can accurately select fruit that meets the specific requirements of the sales team, ensuring consistency in size and color. This leads to a smoother and more efficient operation. Our packing supervisors can now view the packing schedule and anticipate upcoming changes in size. This enables the team to prepare for the change while still packing the current fruit, virtually eliminating downtime.
Also, because the sales team is better informed about incoming fruit sizes, they can coordinate packaging requirements more effectively, further boosting packing line efficiencies.
Our sales and management teams believe in Spectre because of the results. We wouldn’t be without it and only wish we had implemented Spectre sooner, as it has made that much of a difference to our operation. With better inventory management and accurate selection of fruit based on sales requirements leading to increased efficiency, higher productivity, and cost savings, Spectre more than pays for itself.
For anyone considering Spectre, I suggest they come and see us! The implementation was smooth, with everyone picking it up quickly. Even new, inexperienced employees learned to use it after working with experienced staff for a couple of days. The support from Hectre has also been excellent, even at odd hours or on weekends, as our facility receives shipments seven days a week.
The advice we received when first considering Spectre, and what we would tell anyone considering it, is not to hesitate and to just get it. Spectre has become an invaluable tool for our business, and we couldn't be happier with the results.