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Touring Planters, Nov. 17, 2005

It was an enjoyable afternoon Wednesday at Planters as the company held a ceremony to dedicate its new 57,000-square-foot warehouse facility.

The event was held outside in a tent, one that had to be secured to 55-gallon drums filled with water to keep it from flying off in the strong afternoon winds.

Speakers had to compete with the sounds of the wind, tractor-trailers and the sounds of traffic.

&uot;This is a really busy corner,&uot; city communications director and Master of Ceremonies Dennis Craff said, or something to that effect. &uot;You don’t realize it until you stand here.&uot;

After the speeches the group got to tour the warehouse. Were forced to don earplugs, goggles and hair nets, yes, hair nets, and remove all jewelry before going on the tour.

I talked to Walter Ruff, a delightful gentleman who came to Planters as operations manager in 1966, and he was amazed at the cleanliness of the facility. He said it was filthy in his day.

It really was immaculate. One could have eaten peanuts off the floor. Plant officials should be proud.

The other thing that struck Ruff was the relatively few people who worked there. He said there were 1,300 people at Planters when he got there, along with 48 restrooms (white male, black male, white female, black female).

&uot;That’s how much more efficient a clean place is,&uot; Ruff said.

I agree. I can’t stand a cluttered office, with things stored on the floor and desks all messy. It’s a sign of inefficiency and I’m sure the same applies to a manufacturing facility.

The new Planters warehouse can hold up to 58,000 pallets of nuts and trail mix. It was amazing to see the pallets which had anywhere from 2,800 to 3,400 cans of nuts on them, depending on the size. And while there was a lot of automation with various machines and conveyors, it still took people at the end of the line to catch things and put them in boxes. With all the automation, we’re fortunate manufacturing facilities still provide as many jobs as they do. People are becoming obsolete, I guess.

Anyway, I was glad for the opportunity. I’ve been working up the street from Planters for five years and had no idea what went on inside there. I was little embarrassed about that until Dr. George Barnett, who has a few years on me anyway, said he’s been here his whole life and that was his first trip inside the plant. I didn’t feel so bad after that.