Buckhorn Inc, innovators of the first reusable plastic bulk box for seed, has found a way to help seed manufactures service their fleet by introducing the industry's first mobile washing service.

For years, Buckhorn has been referring its CenterFlow seed box customers to third-party companies to wash their containers for the upcoming season, which resulted in additional freight charges. Some seed customers opted to wash the containers in-house. Unfortunately, this caused various labor challenges, liability risks, and time constraints.

"The customer should be able to remain focused on making the best seed product" said Jon Bertolino, National Sales Manager for CenterFlow at Buckhorn. "Too much time was consumed preparing boxes for the upcoming season. After researching multiple approaches, we designed a service offering that responded to our customer's primary needs."

Subsequently, Buckhorn Services was born, and the company developed and deployed its first mobile washing unit designed to travel directly to customer locations.

Container washing generally occurs between June and October as seed companies prepare to distribute seed in the ensuing months. The primary benefit of the mobile washing unit is that it allows seed manufacturers to focus on their core business while reducing transportation expenses and multiple stages of container handling. Seed businesses are able to save $10 to $30 per box on shipping - sometimes even more depending on distance. Also, Buckhorn Services is able to wash in a matter of days what would normally take weeks or months.

The mobile washing unit is comprised of two 53' trailers. One is a dry van that contains equipment, and the other is a flatbed that houses the washing unit and conveyors. On site, the washing unit is backed up to one of two adjacent dock doors. A conveyer system in the design of a horseshoe is set up, so as boxes proceed through the washing unit, they re-enter through the adjacent door. Set up and tear down is quickly managed by Buckhorn Services' on-site team.

The Buckhorn Services team includes an operations manager and a highly skilled crew. Some members have their CDL, and the staff is cross-trained on each station. The team is flexible, and their hours vary depending on the client's shift schedule.

Customer flexibility is what this is all about. The customer can design a program to fit their needs. They can choose to have the outside only washed for aesthetics, or the services team will wash both the inside and outside of the container for reclamation (the ability to use boxes that previously contained treated seed in a non-treated seed application). Being able to reclaim a box also minimizes the need to buy extra boxes.

The boxes go through three main stages during the wash cycle:

Stage 1: Because CenterFlow seed boxes are shipped back from farmers and warehoused in a nested state, the boxes are de-nested using an inverter that Buckhorn provides. They are inspected for rocks, debris and damage. If the inside of the container is being washed, they will get pre-washed and undergo a manual scrubbing prior to entering the main washing unit.

Stage 2: The boxes then go through the main washing unit and experience a high pressure, high temperature chemical wash. The washing is completed with a fresh water rinse. Lids go through the machine separately.

Stage 3: The boxes and lids are air dried, inverted, nested and returned to the warehouse.

Container throughput is based upon the client's customized service requirements and can range anywhere from 350-600 boxes per day. This is up to four times more boxes than when a seed company chooses to perform the washing themselves.

"Buckhorn Services arrived on time, set-up, cleaned the boxes to our satisfaction all in a short amount of time compared to transporting boxes long distances to be washed," said Barry Warton, Plant Manager at Pioneer Hi-Bred in Elizabethtown, PA. "I was really impressed with the work they did and their professional approach to servicing our business. The entire team worked well together and blended well with our team. Most importantly, everyone stayed safe while accomplishing the goal."

Safety is top of mind, and Buckhorn Services is environmentally conscious. The water is recycled during the wash; and twice throughout the shift, that water gets purged and replenished. All reclaimed water is disposed by the customer in accordance with local codes.

"Every bit of feedback I have received has been positive," reflected Buckhorn Director of Engineering, Jack Fillmore. "Without exception, everyone that we have provided services to this year has expressed an interest in a similar program for next year or even expanding service offerings beyond the wash. There's a number of service offerings to consider."

Buckhorn Services also currently offers recycling and buy-back services, removing damaged or unusable products from a customer's system.

"The customer's response to the service offering in year one has proven to be a success," observed Bertolino. "We are confident that with the interest we received in 2015 that we can expand our service offering next year."

Buckhorn Services is currently scheduling for the 2016 season. To get your plant on the schedule, e-mail services@buckhorninc.com.