ConAgra driving improvements in transportation efficiency

by Eric Schroeder
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OMAHA — ConAgra Foods, Inc. is working aggressively with its transportation business partners, distributors and customers to improve transportation efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Behind a three-pronged sustainable transportation strategy, the Omaha-based company is focused on improving efficiency through capacity utilization, exploration of alternative fuels and utilization of the most efficient transportation modes.

Describing its strategy in the company’s 2013 Citizenship Report issued Oct. 3, ConAgra said, “First, we are continuously improving pallet efficiency by optimizing package size and orientation to fit the most products on each shipment.”

Through a “perfect pallet initiative” launched four years ago, ConAgra said it has found ways to improve efficiency by reconfiguring existing product pallets and by changing the shape and size of packages to optimize pallet configuration. Since 2009, the company said it has implemented more than 50 perfect pallet projects, which have reduced diesel fuel use by more than 400,000 gallons. An example of a successful project includes Chef Boyardee stock-keeping units, where ConAgra said it has added another layer of cases per pallet. The multi-year project conducted between fiscal 2011 and 2013 allowed ConAgra to conserve more than 13,000 gallons of diesel fuel and cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 130 tonnes.

A second prong in the strategy revolves around ConAgra’s evaluation of available modes of transportation and determination of the most efficient uses.

“For example — though still a small part of our transportation footprint — we’ve increased the amount of product moved using intermodal transportation by more than 30% compared to FY08,” ConAgra said.

Breaking down its fiscal 2013 transportation footprint, ConAgra said 87.6% of volume was moved via trucks, 6.2% by rail, 4.4% by intermodal and 1.8% by ocean transportation. The company also has trimmed its transportation carbon footprint to 541,033 tonnes in fiscal 2013, down from 571,859 tonnes in fiscal 2008.

The third prong of the sustainable transportation strategy centers on exploration of alternative fuels. ConAgra mentioned in the report several initiatives that are under way, including piloting flour delivery using a truck powered by liquefied natural gas. ConAgra Mills pilot project with Eagle Transportation runs a daily route between the company’s flour mill in Colton, Calif., and regional customer locations. The truck runs 346 loads annually, running 5 days a week, hauling more than 14 million lbs of flour more than 45,000 miles each year.

“Natural gas burns cleaner than conventional gasoline or diesel due to its lower carbon content, resulting in less greenhouse gas emissions per mile,” ConAgra said.

Fiscal 2013 also marked the first year that J.M. Swank, ConAgra’s national ingredients distributor, operated with an upgraded fleet. Each of J.M. Swank’s 55 new trucks is equipped with environmentally friendly features, including tires with advanced air inflation systems that reduce rolling resistance in order to increase fuel efficiency and tire life. ConAgra said the new vehicles also use battery-powered auxiliary systems and catalytic reduction engine systems to reduce nitrous oxide emissions and improve fuel economy.

“Overall, it’s estimated that this project will save 140,354 gallons of diesel fuel every fiscal year, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 1,400 metric tons annually,” ConAgra said.

For more details in the company’s 2013 Citizenship Report visit www.conagrafoods.com.
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