Fieldale Farms Corporation is not just a major supplier of poultry to the nation’s leading foodservice and restaurant chains. It is the tenth-largest privately owned company in the world. This company sells hundreds of millions of dollars of its product every year across the United States and to more than 50 nations.
Its offerings include fresh, frozen, pre-cooked, and marinated whole chickens and chicken parts. The company has scores of different accounts with their own formulas for marinades, breadings, and cuts.
To handle this steady growth and high volume, Fieldale recently made a $50 million expansion to its plant in Gainesville GA. The plant now has a total production floor space of 400,000 square feet, housing seven processing lines with space to bring on more as business expands. This facility has the latest up-to-date equipment—touch screens, PLCs, and stainless steel handling lines—to enable it to keep up with demand, running 300,000 pounds of poultry a day and between 6 million and 6.5 million pounds a week.
The production flow starts with the raw meat as it comes into the plant and emerges processed and packaged through ten TKO CruiserWeight impactable dock doors—five doors at both ends of the process. The dock is kept below 55° F to maintain product quality, and trucks maintain 32° F. So minimizing the number of 8' x 10' openings is a smart strategy to minimize the risk of expensive chilled energy escaping.
But “with just 10 doors and the expectations for me to move all that product,” said plant manager Randy Williams, “the doors have to be reliable.”
This also means the doors must be available to handle the traffic and losing anyone of them to damage or downtime can cripple the process. “We have to get poultry out, and I get paid by the poundage,” said Williams. “Everything comes through these doors during our 16- to 18-hour days.”
Williams worked directly with the contractors on the renovation to ensure he got what he wanted on his dock. To demonstrate the seriousness of the problem, Williams showed them how banged up his old doors were.
“In our old operation,” recalls Williams, “we had what I called ‘beer can’ doors. They were fairly cheap, and you got what you paid for.”
He explains that the panels on those doors were flimsy and could be easily dented like a beer can by forklifts on the dock. Space was tight at the old location, collisions were common, and doors were replaced roughly every two years. Even before the doors’ demise, slight bumps could cause the doors to form gaps between their panels and the door frame, leading to energy loss.
Impactable doors ensure that these doorways are available for the steady stream of chicken and chicken products. The impactable design means that if the door is hit, productivity and energy is not lost.
Rather than the rollers that guide the panels along a flimsy sheet metal track on their old doors, the door panels are equipped with heavy-duty retractable plungers that glide along the Impact-A-Track V-Groove track. When a forklift hits one of the impactable doors, the door releases from the track, eliminating costly panel damage. These doors are equipped with TKO’s PowerHouse Panel, which consists of a heavy-duty polycarbonate facing to stand up to the worst abuse. For security and to prevent unauthorized entry, the guide track is designed so the door cannot be pushed into the building.
The full-height track guide provides total protection against the most abusive impacts from top to bottom. When the old-style sheet metal tracks are hit just slightly, panels can be knocked out of alignment, opening up energy-robbing gaps.
After impact, to reset the door the crew simply pulls the plunger cable or door handles to bring the panels back into the door track. No tools are required and no damage is sustained.
Williams’ other complaint with his old doors was that they were so thin the heat would come through the door. In northern Georgia, the summer days can push the thermometer to the top. The door’s 1¾"-thick foam core panel with damage-resistant polymer interior facing provides much higher R-value and consistent temperature control than conventional steel doors.
The door panel construction is corrosion-resistant as well, remedying another big problem of the old doors. As a requirement in poultry processing facilities like Fieldale, one of the three shifts is devoted to sanitation and wash-down of the dock area. In the process of eating up microbes, the chemicals can also eat away metal panel doors, a condition the doors’ polymer panels resist.
The door has a tight perimeter weatherseal incorporating a double-loop side seal to prevent energy loss and air infiltration. Side seals are attached to the door—not the track or door jamb like standard sectional doors. This allows the seal to be out of harm’s way when the door is open, providing a more consistent and reliable seal when the door is closed.
“The seals on the old doors were constantly leaking,” said Williams. “We have checked the seal around the doors and found it keeps nice, even temperature on the dock.”
With the combination of high-volume production and a customer list of major accounts, according to Williams, “we wanted some of the best dock doors they had out there.”
“Maintenance is my number one thing. With all of the other equipment we have here, I don’t want my crew working on the doors all the time.”
In addition to the docks, Williams has an impactable door on the dry storage receiving dock and one on a high-traffic interior doorway.
He is planning on bringing up an eighth processing line soon. At the site of the current building he has the capacity to triple his space, which he figures will have to be done in the next two years.
“If we had eight days a week, I’d still need one more to keep up,” said Williams. “But not having door damage to worry about and losing out to the clock makes a big difference.”
--This article was contributed by Josh Brown, TKO Doors national sales manager. Please send inquiries to Michael Brittingham, TKO, e-mail Sales@4frontes.com, or phone 1-877-408-6788.