This nation loves two things: business success stories and pizza. Papa John’s combines them, and TKO dock doors at its Quality Center in Grand Prairie TX have contributed in part toward this success.
The story starts in 1983, when John Schnatter, fresh out of college, came home to help work his father’s tavern out of debt. Despite his father’s untimely death later that year and in the face of all he had to deal with, Schnatter pulled the business into solvency and supplemented sales along the way by offering his own approach to pizza.
Though pizza sales started slowly at first, by 1986 Schnatter had built up enough appetite for his product in Jeffersonville IN to launch Papa John’s. He sold the bar and began to build an international company that now has sales of more than a billion dollars a year, employing more than 70,000 people worldwide, making it the third-largest pizza chain in America.
The firm’s menu is simple, made up of superior, quality-controlled ingredients.
This philosophy extends to the way the company distributes its product. Early on, Schnatter came up with idea of producing dough at a central location to ensure quality and consistency. This also keeps the restaurant’s equipment cost low, enabling a more modest investment by franchisees and leading to faster growth for the chain.
Now all the ingredients are processed through the Quality Centers such as the location in Grand Prairie, which serve Papa John’s restaurants within a roughly 400-mile range of the more than 2,800 locations. This approach has been carried over to Papa John’s international operations in places such as China and Bahrain.
Out of its 75,000-square-foot facility in Grand Prairie, the company sends dough, toppings, sauce, cheese, and other franchise supplies to stores in the home state, as well as Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, Kansas, and New Mexico. It also ships to locations throughout Mexico.
Larry Parker is facilities manager at the Grand Prairie Quality Control Center. After operating in the facility for at least 11 years, Parker concluded that the dock doors were running up unacceptable costs for the business. With a brisk operation pace over two shifts, accidents between the dock doors and forklifts were fairly common. Here, the doors suffered damage ranging from slight to devastating.
Shipments go out twice a week to each location. The meat comes in frozen, goes out frozen, and thaws partially along the way. Vegetables, sauce, cheese, and dough are stored and shipped chilled. Though the docks are kept at ambient temperature, product is brought off trucks and into the freezers with some staging at the dock.
When forklifts carry product out of the freezer, it goes directly to the trucks. During this trip to the dock, doors can get hit any number of ways, including direct hits by reversing forklifts, or by pallets shoved into the lower panel.
Door accidents were often a disruption to the operation. “I often had to have the door repair company come in and re-hang the doors,” said Parker. Losing just one door can hinder the flow of product.
“Now that we have TKO doors, the guys reset the panels quickly and easily after they get hit. In fact, many times when the doors do get hit, they never have to tell me.”
In all food operations, doors are a necessary component in the supply chain. Even though the docks are kept at ambient temperature, gaps between the door and the doorframe allow energy to escape.
When outdoor temperatures are extreme, the dock area becomes uncomfortable and less productive. An effective door weatherseal is also necessary to prevent the invasion of rodents and insects that would devour the fresh ingredients.
After coming across the TKO doors at a trade show, Parker felt these doors could withstand the abuse on their docks.
“We looked at other doors, but felt that the TKO doors met our needs,” he said.
When most operations encounter door damage, they solve it gradually by replacing a couple of doors at a time. Parker took it head-on.
He elected to replace all eight dock doors on the shipping and receiving walls at one time. Parker pulled his numbers together for Papa John’s management at the Louisville KY headquarters and got the OK to invest in heavy-duty TKO ThermalWeight doors.
Designed with 4-inch-thick insulation, the door’s panel-mounted weatherseal is protected from tearing to create a dependable full-perimeter seal. The door’s rugged design allows operators to quickly pull the door back into its track and continue operation after an impact.
The ThermalWeight dock door has a unique impactable design. Its panels ride on heavy-duty steel plungers within a grooved track. When a Papa John’s forklift collides with the door, the impact causes the plungers to retract, pushing the door out of the track without causing damage to it.
A quick yank on the panel resets the plungers, and the door is back to normal operation quickly.
“The crew quickly learns how to do this themselves with no tools necessary,” said Parker. “Downtime is practically zero.”
When a standard door track is bent out of shape, misalignment invites in warm air, and the roller guides that carry the door panels become harder to operate. In some operations, dockworkers would be tempted to keep the doors open between deliveries.
The first line of defense against energy loss on the TKO ThermalWeight door is its Impact-A-Track that runs the full height of the doorway. This track is a solid, heavy-duty column of UHMW plastic that effortlessly deflects forklift impact without sustaining damage.
Traditional sheet metal tracks on standard doors easily crimple and deform, making them hard to open. This is not a problem with the ThermalWeight. Its strong track enables the doors to glide easily up and down with no strain on the backs of the dock crew.
Seal loss is a big problem for standard doors. Mounted on the door frame, weatherseals are usually the first component to suffer from tearing due to passing forklifts. When that happens, it is like having no door at all, and the food operation is vulnerable to infestation. On the ThermalWeight door, the gaskets are mounted on the door panel. The weatherseals are protected by the track, stopping invaders and energy loss.
Has the investment paid off?
“After the first two or three hits we had, the TKO doors paid for when you work in the labor, parts, and downtime,” said Parker. “We used to see the door repair company a lot. Now we never see them at all.”
Papa John’s formula for success has been to focus on one thing and do it better than anyone else. Thanks to the TKO doors at its Grand Prairie facility, its attention no longer needs to be on dock door repairs and maintenance, allowing it to fully focus on realizing “Better Ingredients, Better Pizza.”
For more information, contact Michael Brittingham at TKO Dock Doors by e-mail at [email protected] or phone 877-408-6788.