Repeat Business Depends on your Graders

Repeat Business Depends on your Graders

Feb 5, 2020 | Jeff Honey


I recently spent some time with a grower/packer/shipper doing some in-house training. The room had representation from food safety, quality control, production supervisors and even logistics, just so that they would know what everyone else does “in the back.” But the biggest part of the organization was not at the table. The people who get the loads to stick at the retailers’ back doors, the people who ensure repeat sales, the people who make the name on the packaging dependable: the graders!

Everybody has an important job to do. Logistics and just-in-time-delivery; quality control before the product leaves the building, production supervisors who monitor orders, container sizes and packaging inventories; food safety staff who make sure that in-house accreditations for food safety protocols are always in place. But it is the graders who ultimately decide what is going into that package. They are making split-second decisions as hundreds of pieces of produce are going by in front of them. One of my favourite signs is above a packing line here in Ontario.  “When in doubt, throw it out!!” Don’t stare at it. Don’t debate it. Don’t turn it over three times.  “Throw it out!!”

So, how do you get those important people on the packing line to make those decisions quickly?  Get them some visual aids that they can glance at and make that crucial decision. The Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers have posters that show the main defects for cucumbers and tomatoes. I have seen them in various packinghouses in plain sight for their graders. Are you packing potatoes with scab or rhizoctonia? Blow up these CFIA visual aids for surface areas and put them up. How about eggplant with scars on them? Print a few copies of these for your staff. How about shape on strawberries? (That really is a thing!)

Everybody’s job is important, or you wouldn’t have hired them in the first place. Until carrots and onions can grade themselves, make those people “in the back” feel like they are also a valuable part of your team. Share some information with them and tell them why their jobs are important. Your sales staff and your customers will thank you for it!