packing area roller table assembly line

Packing area tips to save time and money

By Marcia Miquelon, Outreach Specialist
UW Madison Healthy Farmers, Healthy Profits Project

Press release | Tip sheet

Packing produce in an unsystematic manner wastes time and effort. Simple analysis and design from an efficiency perspective can result in a smoother, quicker flow of activities, helping to preserve produce quality and free up precious work time for other tasks. Indirect savings also come from creating a healthier and less hazardous work area.

"Most vegetable growers are so busy with the day to day tasks of keeping a farm going that they don't have time to analyze each task to see if it could be done more efficiently," says University of Wisconsin Assistant Scientist Astrid Newenhouse. "Winter is a good time to diagram your packing area layout, and plan changes."

Newenhouse is a member of UW's Healthy Farmers, Healthy Profits research team. By videotaping and analyzing the packing process, the team was able to help growers at Drumlin Farm, a local fresh market and Community Supported Agriculture farm, streamline tasks and make zero- or low-cost changes.

"An efficient pack-out area makes a huge difference," says Drumlin farmer Doug Wubben. "It's really important for the safety and quality of our crops to get them into the cooler as quickly as possible, and to save time and energy for other things."

Here are some of the things growers should consider when setting up or evaluating their packing area:

* Is there a clear, uncluttered path for product and workers to follow? Try to map out a step-by-step task line that does not waste effort. Keep supplies, such as bags or rubber bands, where they are needed. Consider which workstations need water, electricity or both, and where sections of roller table might be useful.
* Do workers have shade, plenty of light, ventilation access to water for drinking and hand washing, and ample workspace? Shade also helps preserve produce quality, and can be provided even in outdoor packing areas by using tarps.
* Are workstation heights adjusted to the individual workers? Could some workers use a stepstool, or perform their tasks while sitting?
* What about cleanliness? To keep plant diseases at bay, wash water should be changed frequently, drained away from the work area, and hose nozzles should not rest on the ground. Work surfaces should be easy to sanitize, such as screen tables made from galvanized hardware cloth.

For more information contact the Healthy Farmers, Healthy Profits Project at (608) 262-1054 or visit

394 Words

Nursery | Vegetable | Berry | Dairy


Search: The Web Our Website
[ Home ] [ Tip sheets ] [ About ] [ Press ]
[ Multimedia ] [ Calendar ] [ Links ] [ Contact ]
Partnered with: The University of Wisconsin-Madison,
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
  Most of our ideas come from the farming community.
Please email us with your favorite time-saving tools.