July 11, 2013
New Rules Of The Road
As if we didn’t need more stress and strain, another challenge is headed our way that will further impact our day-to-day efficiency and profitability. The trucking market is in rapid decline and we will see even further rate increases over the next year or two. This time, the culprit is not a short-term spike in fuel prices, which often decline as quickly as they rise. Rather, the issue now is more structural in nature and will be with us for the long term. The good news is that when something is structural, we know it will be with us for awhile and we can plan for it. But the bad news is that it will be with us for a long time and that we need to plan for it. New Rules Now In EffectAs of July 1, new Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rules went into effect. Within […]
October 24, 2012
Choosing Shipping And Distribution Software
It often surprises me to hear how many growers don’t use adequate software for shipping and distribution. Sometimes they don’t use any software for shipping and distribution — just spreadsheets, paper and a whiteboard. Why? For most growers, the cost of shipping and distribution is among the highest for line items. The return on investment of logistics software and automation, however, is one of the shortest you will find. In some cases, the investment is returned in a matter of days — or during your next shipment run.If I were to give you the following offer, would you take it? You give someone $1 on Monday, and by Friday, you will have reduced your costs by $2? Of course you would. In the same way you use automation for your greenhouse or shade house operations, like watering, heating, air flow control, potting, etc., you should also look at every area […]
August 2, 2012
The Great Truck Driver Shortage
You probably got into trucking by complete accident. You started growing or brokering plants and all of a sudden, you were in the trucking business too! How did that happen? Don’t worry, you are not alone; I ask myself the same question every day. As with all of the challenges we face each day, except for the drain on cash part, the actual physical trucks aren’t really the problem. No, the real problem is the drivers, or rather, the lack of good ones. There is good reason for this shortage — and it is getting worse. Demographics People are getting older. This seems obvious, but what I mean is that the general population is getting older, and a lot of the good old drivers of the past are retiring or close to retirement. Typically these empty seats would be filled by new drivers entering the market. The problem is, nobody […]
January 19, 2012
Overcoming Spring Freight Challenges
Here we are again, with spring upon us as well as the worst freight market in modern history. What do I mean by “worst in modern history?” In the trucking and logistics world that I live in, we are experiencing the toughest capacity crunch in more than 50 years. It is a perfect storm of driver demographics, government regulations, lack of financing and shippers willing to pay top dollar to move their freight. Let me explain. Driver DemographicsDrivers are leaving the workforce faster than ever before. Many trucking companies are paying sign-on bonuses of up to $10,000 for drivers to change companies rather than allowing the truck and trailer to sit idle. Unused vehicles cost the trucking company money. As a whole, our workforce is getting older, and the drivers aren’t necessarily the youngest (nor the fittest) bunch. Moreover, strict immigration laws and government regulations have virtually stopped foreign drivers […]
August 10, 2011
Is Dedicated Contract Carriage The Trucking Solution For You?
Dedicated Contract Carriage is one of the fastest growing segments of the trucking and distribution industry. Companies like Walmart, Target, Kroger and a host of name brand distributors use Dedicated Contract Carriage as a way to reduce costs, increase truck capacity and transfer liability and headaches. In fact, many major corporations that need a truck fleet are moving away from ownership (including leasing) and toward Dedicated Contract Carriage for some or all of their trucking operations. Generally, you have four options when moving your material to your customer locations. The first three of these options are relatively common–and 99 percent of growers fall into one of these three categories. First, you can buy your own trucks (and I include leasing or renting trucks in this category). Second, you can outsource the entire job to a third party (a third party logistics provider, 3PL or a broker). Third, you can try […]
June 24, 2011
Higham: One Transportation Solution
Dedicated Contract Carriage is one of the fastest growing segments of the trucking and distribution industry. Companies like Walmart, Target, Kroger and a host of name brand distributors use Dedicated Contract Carriage as a way to reduce costs, increase truck capacity and transfer liability and headaches. In fact, many major corporations that need a truck fleet are moving away from ownership (including leasing) and toward Dedicated Contract Carriage for some or all of their trucking operations. Generally, you have four options when moving your material to your customer locations. The first three of these options are relatively common–and 99 percent of growers fall into one of these three categories. First, you can buy your own trucks (and I include leasing or renting trucks in this category). Second, you can outsource the entire job to a third party (a third party logistics provider, 3PL or a broker). Third, you can try to […]
April 20, 2011
Higham: Freight Rates Soaring, Capacity Tightening
A perfect storm of issues are affecting available truck capacity, causing freight rates to soar and growers to scramble for capacity. Interstate Transport’s Tim Higham explores the challenges many growers are facing. For those growers reaching into the common carrier pool this year, in order to move material to customers they are finding trucks impossible to find–at any price in some regions. A perfect storm of issues are just beginning to show their effect on available truck capacity, causing freight rates to soar and growers to scramble for capacity. This week, I have been inundated with calls from growers nationwide looking for help. One grower, who did not want to be named, stated: “I have loads sitting on the dock for days while we look for trucks. I am at the point where I will pay anything to service the customer or I will lose them. The problem is that […]
March 17, 2011
Minimizing Freight Claim Headaches
As a grower, you know it can take months or even years to produce a finished product. You put tireless hours, hard-earned money and personal pride into growing products that please your clients. And how unpleasant it is when you get that phone call from one of them reporting a claim on those products. You want nothing more than to make sure your client is happy, yet you know you must minimize your out-of-pocket costs, especially when it comes to claims. The question is then: How do you mitigate most of these claims up front and handle them professionally when they do occur? The answer is to have a claims process in place before you ever load your product on a truck. The two basic components of that process are communication and documentation. If you use your own drivers and local delivery trucks, you have much more control over the […]
September 28, 2010
If you think your distribution costs are high now, just wait until new government regulations become effective later this year! What? You didn’t hear? I love the free market. I love it when barriers to enter a market are low, and the most cost-savvy companies offer the most competitive rates. Competition in the marketplace goes a long way toward keeping the prices of goods and services contained. When the free enterprise system is allowed to operate with minimal interference, consumers benefit. Unfortunately, government regulations will soon be imposed that may constrain the free market that most of us hold dear. The regulations may eliminate much of the competition that keeps trucking healthy. The issue at hand is the government’s desire to place new standards on truck drivers and trucking companies. While safety is important to all of us in the industry, the regulations may have some unintended economic effects on […]
November 30, 2009
Cutting Transportation Costs To The Bone
As I have written here many times over the years, transportation and distribution are among your greatest costs. Any cost decrease has an immediate effect on your bottom line, so cutting costs is a compelling proposition that translates to more money – right away! I have heard from many growers over the years who have followed the advice in my columns, and they have had great success. What I don’t understand is why more growers don’t implement these cost-cutting measures. If growers would merely simplify the fundamental elements of their businesses, they would not only stop wasting money but could focus their time on growing. So, here is your chance to cut your transportation costs to the bone. These four things will immediately slice at least 20 percent off your entire distribution costs. Bid Your Freight Today The available truck capacity in the market is greater than ever. Freight volumes […]
November 11, 2008
Driving Home A Point by Tim Higham
Transportation and logistics are going to get worse–a lot worse. I don’t want to paint a bleak picture, but the outlook for traditional transportation and distribution will make grown men and women cry. Why? Two major reasons: First, trucks run on oil, and oil prices are going to rise for decades to come. That’s right–decades, given the growing demand for oil from China, India, South America, Central America, Europe–everywhere. This is a fact. It won’t change no matter how much we want it to. Second is the aging population in the United States. This quantifiable fact means fewer truck drivers–a lot less. So, that was the bad news. At least we got it out of the way. Now to the good news. These challenges create opportunity as we all look for different (and better) ways to accomplish things. For example, technology that can help you manage your distribution efforts can […]
June 23, 2008
The Transportation Headache
Never in this industry has the pain of getting your product to the customer been so great and there seems to be little relief in sight. The transportation and distribution challenge has always been one forced upon growers — a necessary evil of sorts that was just part of the business process. The problem? Cost and capacity. The former is rising and the latter falling, making for an unsure future when planning any transportation budget. The issues stem from the underlying costs of running a truck or trucking company. If you run your own trucks, you know some of the numbers. If you use a common carrier, then you truly feel the numbers, especially in the spring shipping season when drivers and their brokers seem to be in control and you have to play by their rules. The obvious question to ask is, "Why has transportation become so costly and […]
June 23, 2008
Do I Use My Own Trucks Or A Common Carrier?
Many growers call me here at Interstate and tell me they have their own trucks and drivers and they only use common carriers for the “occasional load.” They justify this by telling me how common carriers are too expensive, so they bought their own trucks and trailers. My next question to them is always, “What is the cost of your freight as a percent of your shipped goods?” Surprisingly, few growers know or, even worse, they guess. If you are shipping on your own trucks, you need to know what the true cost is. What is interesting about our business is the seasonal component. Consider this: if you were shipping a consistent amount of freight over 12 months, you would be getting near 100 percent utilization of your equipment. That means your trucks and drivers would be used five days (or more) each week for 12 months of the year. However, […]
June 20, 2008
Outsourcing Transportation And Logistics
Distribution is one of the biggest issues faced by growers – and a business in which many growers have been forced to operate in to be effective. From the very first day you opened your doors, you grew beautiful material – but at some point you had to get that material to your customer. As you grew, so did your "trucking business," and the expenses and headaches that came with it. Owning a "trucking business" was not by choice but came through necessity. Adam Smith, the famous Scottish economist of the mid 1700s, is well known for a simple yet effective concept known as the "division of labor." I guarantee you use it every day in your business. The basic concept is simple, people are more effective and efficient if given one task and taught to do it well. For example, Ford does not make cars by having one person make […]
June 18, 2008
So, you’ve read all the Greenhouse Grower transportation articles, conducted meetings with your staff, readied your carriers, fired up your new technology – and you’re ready for a smooth (and less expensive) shipping season. Right? Good! Then please read on. Most of you reading this are not directly involved with the daily transportation, logistics and distribution functions of your company. The first thing you should have done during the off-season is to have engaged the right people in your organization. The success of your program will come down to being organized and whoever is in charge of your shipping function needs to be fully onboard with the refined procedures. These procedures will save you money starting today. So, I have compiled a short checklist to help you get ready, set and go! Each of these tips are outlined more fully in my articles published in Greenhouse Grower over the last […]
June 17, 2008
Using Distribution Technology To Save Money (And Make Your Life Easier)
Transportation is often referred to as “logistics.” Computers are great at “logistics” â€” people are not. I have yet to see a human being route and optimize customer orders for shipping better than a computer. Computers are designed to quickly run through millions of permutations in order to arrive at the most efficient result. Any large company you can name would grind to a screeching halt without effective transportation and distribution software. These programs are commonly known as a Transportation Management System or TMS for short. As your nursery grows in size and you find you are shipping to multiple states for multiple clients, you will quickly realize growing your product is not the major limiting factor â€” getting it to the client is! This is especially true in “shipping season.” Moreover, in today’s competitive landscape, and to complicate matters, you may even bring in brokered material to fill out your orders or […]
June 17, 2008
Routing And Optimization Software — You Need It!
If there is one area of transportation that you can get the most from technology, it is reducing the number of miles your deliveries are routed and maximizing how full your trucks are. There is a reason the "C" in "PC" stands for "computing." Computers are designed, by their very definition, to take in data and analyze it according to rules set by the operator or program. For example, let’s take a simple route that goes from point A to point B (one pickup and one delivery). Any reasonable person may think that with this simple scenario they can be as efficient as a computer in calculating the route. This may or may not be correct (and you would probably have to resort to using PC mapping software to get your results in the end). The bottom line is that even between two points on a map, there are literally millions […]
June 17, 2008
The Loading And Unloading Problem
What is more expensive â€” hiring a truck to drive 1,000 miles with one plant on it or 2,000 plants? Well, for those who are not mathematically inclined, the cost of the transport divided up among 2,000 plants is much less than one plant. Not rocket science â€” right? So why is there such a debate with regard to how you ship your product, how you load it and how you get it off the truck when you deliver it? This is an easy answer if you have your own truck. Fred, the driver, loaded it, drove to the customer and unloaded it. He then drives back to you, empty (see last month’s column). However, when using common carrier, you have many choices of loading and unloading. Some good, some bad. Some are more costly than others and some have hidden advantages and disadvantages. We have seen some interesting ways in which trucks […]
June 16, 2008
Keeping Drivers Coming Back For More Loads
Imagine that every driver that loads at your facility is only allowed to load there once. How quickly do you think it would be before you were having trouble finding drivers to take your loads to your customers? Without your own drivers or ready access to common carriers, many wholesale growers would perish. The amount of your sales or the quality of your product does not matter if you are unable to ship them to the customer. Every truck driver knows two things that relate to his or her job. First, they know the shippers that pay the best and worst rates. The second, often overlooked, item is drivers know where the best and worst places are to load and unload (and, moreover, the best and worst products to haul). These two items are not mutually exclusive. If a driver knows your loading dock takes 8 or 10 hours to […]
June 12, 2008
The Co-operative Movement
Difficult times call for interesting ideas – and the co-operative idea is one that has had varying levels of success for generations in several industries. In fact, rarely has such a simple idea had such a huge impact for those that earnestly participate. Risking the obvious here … the word "co-operative" comes from the word "co-operation" or "co-operate." Most people don’t think of this when you ask them what a "co-op" is. Ask 100 people what a co-op is and you will get a lot of answers that involve organic farming or other small local farm operations. However, a co-operative can involve as few as two "members" or as many as thousands. Indeed, farming has often been the genesis of many co-operatives. To this day, dairy farming, organic farming and berry farming are areas where we see co-operatives thrive. The reason? It makes sense. A co-operative is a partnership, of sorts. […]
April 25, 2017
Kelly Norris: Diversity is the Key to Growing the Ornam…
Offering a selection of ornamental grasses that cater to customer needs will keep sales from stagnating.
April 25, 2017
Out-Of-This-World Plant Nutrition: Fertilizer Company I…
NASA scientists are growing vegetables on the International Space Station using Florikan’s controlled release fertilizer.
April 25, 2017
41 New Vegetative Petunias From California Spring Trial…
With the abundance of new introductions for the 2018 retail season, we’ve made it easier for you to sift through them by separating out the vegetative petunias from the Northern sites, which includes selections from Westhoff Flowers, Sakata Ornamentals, Danziger, Proven Winners, and Syngenta flowers.
April 24, 2017
Ian Baldwin Offers Examples From Grower-Retailers on Pr…
In March, Baldwin wrote a blog advising grower-retailers to consider raising their prices this spring. The post inspired a number of creative suggestions.
April 22, 2017
American Floral Endowment Announces Winners of 2017 Pau…
Four students pursuing careers in horticulture now have scholarships to help them along the way, thanks to the American Floral Endowment.
April 20, 2017
Terra Nova Nurseries Releases Two New, Attractive Begon…
Stardust is the latest addition to Terra Nova Nurseries’ existing T Rex Begonia series, and Silver is the first introduction to the company’s new Spectre Begonia series.
April 19, 2017
Suppliers Can Offer Technical Solutions for New Cannabi…
Here’s a look at how a few manufacturers have partnered with growers to make their transition into cannabis a smooth one, whether it’s through hands-on guidance or partnering with other industry leaders.
April 18, 2017
Cool Combos From CAST 2017 – Editor’s Choic…
With container gardening becoming more of a lifestyle among consumers than a trend, and breeders continuing to put more effort in container mixes and components, I feel I would be remiss if I didn't share some of the special combinations that not only caught my eye at California Spring Trials, but absolutely took my breath away and made me want to immediately get started gardening.
April 17, 2017
LumiGrow’s Latest Lighting Research Highlighted in Grow…
Industry leaders representing a broad range of vegetable, floriculture, and cannabis producers gathered to learn how to implement modern lighting strategies for their own production.
April 16, 2017
Danziger Invests in Continued North American Business G…
As part of a new business structure for its North American market, Mike Fernandez has been appointed Market Manager North America for Bedding Plants and Perennials, and Kate Zvara was named as Key Account Manager and Retail Specialist.
April 15, 2017
How Oregon Growers Are Making Lean Improvements With He…
The Oregon Nursery Lean Consortium recently helped two Pacific Northwest growers realize significant productivity gains and labor savings.
April 14, 2017
How to Trial a New Product Before You Use It in Your Gr…
Before you apply a new product on a plant, you want to make sure it is safe and effective. Technical experts from Kemin have compiled a five-step guide designed to help you measure the benefits of a new product you want to incorporate into your operation.
April 13, 2017
AmericanHort’s Production Technology Conference To Debu…
The AmericanHort Production Technology Conference is designed to give nursery and greenhouse growers a chance to get hands-on with the latest advancements in production technology and explore the return on investment potential of equipment purchases and upgrades.
April 13, 2017
Research Team Seeking Feedback From Hydroponic Growers
Are you a hydroponic grower of food crops? If so, Michigan State University and Iowa State University researchers are looking for your input.
April 12, 2017
Looking for Info on New Varieties for Hot Climates? Che…
The Florida Nursery Growers and Landscape Association’s Florida Flower Trials, which are focused on new and improved varieties able to thrive in the extremes of Florida’s climate, are a great opportunity to connect with national breeders.