Service Centers: A Crucial Link in the Fresh Supply Chain

Service Centers: A Crucial Link in the Fresh Supply Chain

When it comes to understanding the fresh produce supply chain, most people know that the journey begins at harvest and ends with consumers. But in between those two points, there’s a whole process that’s pivotal to the quality of the fresh fruits and vegetables—as well as other perishables and temperature-sensitive commodities—that end up in stores, in restaurant kitchens, and on consumers’ plates. That key link: service centers.

Service centers at a glance
To efficiently and effectively keep the flow of goods moving from field to shelf—while avoiding any hiccups in the supply chain that could impact the quality of the product or cause delays in the supply chain—service centers must have well-defined processes in place.

Depending on the product, service centers function in different ways. For produce and other temperature-sensitive goods—which add complexity, urgency, and responsibility to the supply chain—there are some key features that are essential for the fresh supply chain.

Strategic location. Service centers that are located near key ports of entry, major interstates, forward distribution hubs, and growing regions are optimal; these strategic locations are easy to access and contribute to supply chain efficiency.

Space and amenities. To be able to flex up to meet the capacity demands during seasonal surges while still meeting the critical timing that temperature-sensitive produce requires, service centers need enough space and the right amenities. This could include multiple dock doors—including refrigerated docks to help ensure that produce maintains the proper temperature as it arrives and departs—and dedicated coolers for specific produce temperature storage requirements, a temperature-controlled production room for sorting and repacking, facility backup generators, and more.

Stringent guidelines and certifications. Look for a service center that adheres to food safety and quality assurance requirements. These can include Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) certification, Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) compliance, Product Traceability Initiative (PTI) compliance, and organic certification.

Flexible suite of customized solutions. To help bring fresh products to market more efficiently, find a service center that provides solutions that meet your business’s needs and are supported by a team of distribution and supply chain experts. Versatile solutions to consider include:

  • Transportation: inbound and outbound freight modes for national and regional programs, direct store delivery
  • Distribution: crossdock, LTL consolidation, forward distribution, inventory storage, just in time services
  • Packing: sorting, repacking, bulk/bin custom packing, tray packing, overwrapping, flow wrapping, value-added packing, private label capabilities
  • Quality control and assurance: load reconciliation, inspections (temperature pulping, weighing, visually inspecting, sizing, pressure testing, brix testing, and more)
  • International: import/export handling

Robinson Fresh has a new service center in Los Angeles, CA. The 105,000 sq. foot facility includes 45,000 sq. ft. of temperature-controlled operations, 50,000 sq. ft. of ambient operations, 15 dock doors, a production room, and food safety lab—all in close proximity to the major shipping ports of L.A. and Long Beach.

To learn more, connect with one of our service center experts.  

Craig Mack

Craig Mack - Director of Global Sourcing, Service Centers, Robinson Fresh

Craig Mack joined C.H. Robinson’s Eden Prairie corporate office in 2011. Bringing 23 years of experience in various industries, he focuses on improving efficiencies, productivity, and performance through operational best practices while expanding geographic capacity and service offerings to deliver a consistent customer experience across its network of Service Centers. He is a current member of the United Fresh Wholesaler-Distributor Board.

Red, White, and Blueberries: 9 Fresh Ideas for Marketing Blueberries this Summer


3 Ways New Fresh Produce Varieties Can Make an Impact in Stores