In January 2005, Campbell Soup Co. received word from a Food Lion distribution center that there was a problem with the corrugated cases that contained bottles of V8 juice. The glue, it seems, wasn't holding together, causing the cases to break apart during order picking.
One month earlier, Campbell had begun shipping 32- and 46- ounce plastic bottles of V8 and tomato juice in enclosed corrugated cases. As with other Campbell-made beverages in bottles of 32 ounces or more, the new case design featured a cut-out display "window" through which the product could be seen. The new packaging for V8, produced by Campbell in Napoleon, Ohio and shipped to three DCs in the eastern U.S., began reaching retailers in January.
Problems arose almost immediately. On Jan. 10, a Food Lion buyer alerted Campbell by e-mail of the glue defect. Right away, Campbell agreed to accept returns on any beverage product that was experiencing a packaging glitch. Then it went to work on the cause.
Campbell's logistics manager informed the Napoleon beverage plant of the glue issue. Meanwhile, Food Lion sent a second e-mail with pallet and product codes for the faulty packaging. That was followed by digital pictures to document the problem.
The culprit, according to Food Lion, was defective or insufficient glue on the bottom flaps. In addition, DC personnel were using the display window on the corrugated boxes as a handle, to lift during picking. That left the bottoms unsupported-an unforeseen side-effect of the new design.
Campbell's suppliers of corrugate, glue and shrink-wrap were brought into the picture, meeting with manufacturing and packaging research to solve the problem. They quickly initiated test runs for a new packaging design, which would include finger holds on the sides for more efficient lifting and picking. At the same time, the glue maker, National Starch and Chemical Co., arranged to visit the Napoleon plant to check on glue temperature, pressure, amount and placement.
Within a few days, Campbell had decided to switch over to a package that was fully enclosed, without the front display cutout. For a quick fix, Campbell informed Food Lion that all future shipments of V8 and tomato juice in the 32- and 46-ounce bottles would be shrink-wrapped for extra case strength.
Campbell then turned its attention to product that had been packaged but was yet to be shipped. At its three DCs serving the eastern U.S., it strengthened the cases of all existing inventory of 32- and 46-ounce plastic bottles, either through shrink-wrap or tape. Approximately 100,000 cases were reworked, the company says.
The long-term fix was implemented on Jan. 25. It consisted of the newly designed cases with finger holds, increased amounts of glue and a new glue pattern for more holding power on the flaps. Campbell placed some test cases in cold storage overnight, simulating conditions in cold weather months to see if the glue would crystallize and weaken.
In response to Food Lion's complaint, Campbell did more than simply apply more glue or strengthen the boxes. It accepted costly returns, then came up with an entirely new case design. And the whole process, from initial notification through design, testing and implementation, took just 15 days.
"I appreciate all that's been done to help us on our damages," says Randy McGuire, warehouse manager with Food Lion. "I don't think I've ever seen a problem like this tackled so fast and with so much dedication to the customer."
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