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Andrew Fagan helps keep produce on track at Railex

Mr. Fagan with his father, William Fagan Jr.

Andrew Fagan, the inventory and receiving manager for Railex in Rotterdam, NY, takes great pride in being part of the process of getting fresh produce to consumers.

Mr. Fagan, at just 27, is already a 10-plus-year veteran of the produce industry, having worked for six years for Powerhouse Produce in Youngwood, PA, before joining Railex four-and-a-half years ago. Both companies are owned by Andrew & Sons. At Railex, he worked as an inventory control specialist, and then as an inventory control supervisor before assuming his current position.

“I am responsible for maintaining the accuracy of all customer inventories if they are brought in for any storage period in our facility,” he said. “In addition to this, I am responsible for guiding training programs in Rotterdam and establishing procedure with the other Railex facilities in order to maintain customer service.”

He received a strong grounding in the trade with his first job at Power Produce, where he started when he was 16 years old. There he worked in a variety of roles, including as a packer-stacker, team leader, forklift operator and training lead.

“My father has been in the produce industry for 40 years, so I thought I would see what kept him in the industry for so long,” Mr. Fagan said of what has amounted to a calling. “I was fascinated by the process of making produce consumer-ready and the delivery process behind this.”

Mr. Fagan learned a lot from those early years, including pride and passion for the job. “I was taught to care about and take pride in everything I do,” he said.

He credited his time on the packingline with teaching him the interpersonal skills he utilizes to this day at Railex to motivate people. Powerhouse “is where I learned that people have different knowledge, skills and abilities, and it is important to allow different viewpoints into situations. I was taught to respect others at all points in my career and appreciate the contributions of everyone you work with.”

At Railex, he works with his older brother, Bill Fagan, who described the business and his younger sibling’s role in it: “We bring ... trains across the country twice a week filled with produce. ... He is an integral part of the operation.”

Their father, William Fagan Jr., has been in the produce industry for over 40 years and most recently opened Railex-Rotterdam in 2006 for Andrew & Sons. Mr. Fagan Sr. is now working independently as a business consultant.

His younger son attended California University of Pennsylvania in California, PA, where he graduated in June 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in marketing.

Mr. Fagan noted that he comes from a strong background in computer systems that has “really enabled me to pick up on warehouse management systems quickly and suggest improvements.”

While his relative youth may have sharpened his focus in that area, he acknowledged that the flip side is that “at some points people may not feel I have enough experience in a particular situation, but this has allowed me to evaluate every situation I am part of and play devil’s advocate to my own decisions.”

He feels up to the challenges at Railex. “We bring a large amount of product into our facility in a very short period of time,” he noted. “The challenge behind this is maintaining the accuracy of this product while balancing the efficiency of the warehouse. The proper balance is key in setting procedure, and this can be very time consuming when initially setting up the and implementing the new process. Making sure everything is in the right place at the right time is sometimes difficult, but it is necessary to maintain customer deliveries.”

The rewards are the satisfaction of knowing that he is integral to maintaining accuracy for the platform, he said. “I also take great pride in knowing that we are a relatively new company, and I get to be a part of the company growing. Being in the operations for Railex has allowed me to take a front seat in being a part of the most innovative platform in the produce industry.”

Traveling for the job has enhanced Mr. Fagan’s perspective. “I was able to travel to our Washington and California facilities to view the operations,” he said. “This gave me a great overview of how the entire platform works and allowed me see the process from beginning to end. This gave me an understanding of the overall process and allowed me to fully understand the methods behind what we do and how we take the extra steps to satisfy our customers.”

In his free time, Mr. Fagan enjoys a broad range of activities. “I produce music, fish, spend time with my family and try to work out as much as possible,” he said.

When he is not working, Mr. Fagan enjoys spending time with his family and his girlfriend.

This past April 16, at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, PA, he ran his first 5K race in honor of a friend, Pennsylvania State Trooper Kenton Iwaniec, who was killed by a drunken driver.

“His family organizes a 5K every year in his honor, and money is raised to benefit the Trooper Kenton Iwaniec Memorial Fund,” said Mr. Fagan. “This money goes toward [driving under the influence] prevention programs and is a great asset to the fight against drunk driving.”

The 2012 race is scheduled for April 21 at the same location, and he plans to run again.

Mr. Fagan is well satisfied with his chosen career, and his original impressions of the industry have been reinforced by his experiences.

“I was amazed by all of the hard work involved with putting produce on the shelves and I took — and continue to take — great pride in being a part of this process,” he said.