Packing fruit needs a sound system that packs a punch.
Text:/ Graeme Hague
EastPack is a company that specialises in packing fruit, orchard management, and in advising growers on best practises and the latest trends in their industry. This possibly brings to mind rustic, ramshackle farm buildings with stacks of wooden boxes in the corner, a few tractors, and bunches of chickens getting under your feet.
Not quite – try 58 million crates of fruit, mainly kiwifruit, being distributed globally with each individual fruit graded and checked before being carefully tucked into cartons specially designed to protect the delicate skin.
It’s big business, and the picturesque town of Te Puke in the Western Bay of Plenty on New Zealand’s North Island, known as the kiwifruit capital of the world, has one of EastPack’s largest facilities for packing and distributing produce.
EastPack is very aware that it’s mostly manual work, and with that in mind, the care and wellbeing of its 700-strong workforce at Te Puke requires a slightly different approach for providing a safe and happy workplace. Near the top of the list has always been playing background music for the workers, and with the existing system being little more than ageing boomboxes squawking from the corners of the roof, things needed a refit. EastPack approached Triac AV Light and Sound to design and install a replacement music system that could deliver quality sound throughout the packing facility. Of course, improved paging systems and announcements were part of the deal, but it was all about the music. Triac’s owner and founder, Neil Turner, who has over forty-five years’ experience in the industry (his staff just won’t let him retire despite Neil’s best efforts to put his feet up) put David Diprose in charge of the project.
Now you know the scale of this operation, you can imagine the packing shed. An enormous space of over 15,000 square metres with tin walls, a tin roof, and a concrete floor, filled with three ‘lines’ of packing processors, one of them recently upgraded at a cost of $33 million, all combining to create a difficult level of ambient noise and reverberation. Added to this, the various sections of the facility had these factors in significantly different amounts and tight, controlled zoning was going to be needed. Two of the lines required five zones, while the third ended up with seven zones. The control of each of them was a tricky issue – you’re not going to please everybody when it comes to volume and a compromise had to be integrated into the design to prevent any of the workers cranking the volume up to ‘11’ whenever something like Metallica hit the playlist. One factor in Triac AV’s favour was the off-season when the equipment could be installed without getting in everyone’s way. Packing kiwifruit takes about a seven-month period, dependent on the success of the harvest, during which the facility operates almost 24 hours a day. Obviously, that allowed something like five months to get the AV job done. Unfortunately, that window of opportunity shrank a lot after unavoidable delays in getting the project confirmed, but David and the team from Triac AV Light and Sound were up for the job and achieved the install on time, and nearly on budget.
Nearly? As David explained, “We were assured the existing network in the building was usable and we had no reason to believe otherwise. Then at the last minute we discovered the network wouldn’t do the job at all and we had to quickly add network components to the design. Aside from that, we got everything done within the budget and time-frame we quoted.”
While the client had a reasonable idea of what they wanted, they had little understanding of what was possible. So Kelvin Colling of NAS Solutions literally loaded his car with a bunch of inDESIGN speakers and other gear and drove all the way from Auckland to help Triac put together a demonstration. Everyone was seriously impressed – with the equipment as much as Kelvin’s above-and-beyond road trip – and the next step was to design a layout. This involved a total of 44 inDESIGN D-MH1512 speakers and six inDESIGN BGM8 speakers to create those 17 separate zones. A mix of Ashly amplifiers and InterM amplifiers power everything. The main control comes from the Production Office, but the individual zones can still adjust volumes in their respective areas.
No surprise, the floor staff wanted “plenty of bass” and didn’t reckon on just what the inDESIGN units could do. Soon after the job was completed, Triac was asked to come back and turn down the bass because the walls of the Production Office were shaking too much.
Triac AV Light & Sound put in the finishing touches with new inDESIGN paging microphones that prove to be far more resilient to what’s actually a tough environment – aside from the workers being a bit unforgiving on equipment due to the rigours of the work, wearing gloves and so on, apparently the dust from kiwifruit can wreak havoc. Who knew?
Soon after the job was completed, Triac was asked to come back and turn down the bass because the walls of the Production Office were shaking too much.
FRUIT OF THE LABOUR
David Diprose can’t say enough good things about NAS Solutions and Kelvin Colling. “As soon as you need anything, or any advice, NAS is there to help. And Kelvin didn’t hesitate to personally deliver gear when we needed it in a hurry, and at the same time he’s straightforward and honest when he feels a different supplier has a good alternative, such as some of the new network components. NAS Solutions has only the one thing in mind – supporting their customers in providing the best result.”
It all begs the question, what are the workers listening to? Spotify, we’re told, and since the facility decided to upgrade to a paid, higher resolution plan, the staff are even further amazed at the quality of music. Whether they squabble over who chooses the playlist isn’t known.
At the core of that quality is a clever design and very effective sound reinforcement system that’s operating in a challenging environment, delivering exactly what the client needed – albeit briefly with a bit too much bass! The not-so-humble kiwifruit is in safe hands, thanks to NAS Solutions and its catalogue of excellent products, and the talented crew at Triac AV Light and Sound.