June 23, 2008

Uncertainty = Opportunities (And Threats)

Planning is an ongoing process and adjustments have to be made on a regular basis. Some businesses try to develop a 5-year plan. Others are so far-sighted that they have identified what they would like to achieve in 10 to 20 years. On the other hand, I know of businesses that do little or no planning and prefer to "fly by the seats of their pants." There is no doubt that with all the uncertainty today and the negative mood of many people, it is difficult to predict what conditions will be with us next spring. We see economic conditions that are very unstable, for example, huge government deficits, increasing inflation, rising interest rates, the war on terrorism, incompetence in big business and government, as well as unsound business practices throughout our society. This causes enough anxiety to keep everyone awake at night. While most of these factors are beyond […]

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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, […]

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June 23, 2008

Software Solutions

•  Direct-To-Store Advanced Grower Solutions: A browser-based software solution called Direct-to-Store (DTS) by Advanced Grower Solutions (AGS) is designed specifically for growers that sell directly to large national or regional retailers and controls all aspects of vendor-managed inventory. DTS takes the guesswork and time out of managing your supply chain by taking data used everyday in the back office and putting it where it’s needed most–in the hands of your sales team, store merchandisers and management. DTS does not replace your existing accounting or production system, but extracts and exposes critical data — putting information in the hands of decision makers. Growers track product in real-time as it leaves the dock, through delivery to the store. At the store, inventory deliveries are updated, waste is recorded and replenishment orders created. Visit RSXpress at www.greenhousegrower.com        •  NiceLabel Pro OnSyte Printing Systems, a division of Horticultural Marketing & Printing: […]

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June 23, 2008

Planning Made Easy

    Dan Foster, a grower and site manager for Proven Winners’ Four Star Greenhouse, was receiving request upon request from customers for help putting together their production programs. Foster was already planning Four Star’s production using Excel, and it eventually became too time consuming for him to cater to each of those grower’s needs. In search of a solution, he approached George Strimpel, director of marketing for Four Star Greenhouse. Strimpel came up with a plan. His knowledge of Excel allowed him to create a software program growers could use themselves to plan production. The user-friendly software, born out of Foster’s original method for planning Four Star’s production, is called PW Plan-It. It runs in Microsoft Excel and is free to anyone who grows PW product. Based on a customer’s needs, PW Plan-It calculates the number of trays necessary and automatically creates an order form based on those numbers.  How […]

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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 […]

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June 23, 2008

Hola Amigos!

Finding enough good workers has always been a problem. Today, though, employers have reached a tipping point. Anyone needing more help is faced with a labor pool that’s almost exhausted. "Many employers now find they can’t hire a sufficient number of capable people or they can’t get anyone at all," reports Tom Maloney, a human resources educator specializing in the Hispanic workforce at Cornell University’s Department of Applied Economics and Management. The only solution for many, according to Maloney, is to look for workers from Mexico, as well as El Salvador, Guatemala and other Central American countries. Interest in Hispanic workers has only grown as they’ve proven themselves capable and enthusiastic. "Hispanic workers have a positive attitude and a strong work ethic," says Maloney. "Because their whole idea in coming to the United States is to get a job to support their families, they are highly motivated to perform well." There’s […]

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June 23, 2008

Keeping Variety Alive

While walking me around her Blooming Nursery, Grace Dinsdale makes sure to point out the old dairy barn that now houses the offices for her floriculture business. It’s recognizable to customers, she says. A loyal and long-time staff works hard at keeping flower varieties alive that are threatened by commoditization and keeps a sense of professionalism and community flowing through the business. A background in farming meant Dinsdale was keenly aware of commodity growing and its challenges. From its beginning in 1982, she envisioned a Blooming Nursery that would be free to make its own choices. “I knew we wanted to be in a market that was more under our control,” Dinsdale explains. “We can make decisions based on what we want our price to be, how many of something we’re going to grow, how we we’re going to schedule it and who we we’re going to sell to. I […]

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June 20, 2008

Peace Of A Puzzle

    It was a strange thing…” So begins Lloyd Traven’s explanation of exactly how he embarked down the path of merging his Kintersville, Pa.-based Peace Tree Farms with Dave Eastburn’s Chalfont, Pa.-based Gro ‘n Sell. Traven and Eastburn had known each other for 30 years, and being only 20 miles apart, they had even done some business together over the years. Each was wrapped up in the day-to-day needs of their growing businesses while thinking daily about plans for future expansion.  Two Growers Walk Into A Bar… For his part, Traven was busy designing and building his new greenhouse facility when one day, a visitor stopped by. “More than two full years ago, Dave Eastburn’s partner and manager, Dave Newberry, the logistics guy at Gro ‘n Sell, stopped by to see what we were up to,” recalls Traven. “Dave Eastburn was literally out of the country, in Siberia, at the […]

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June 20, 2008

Moving Plants Without Losing Profits

Pushpins in a wall map may not be the best way to track logistics of perishable products like plants. Rising costs for fuel and drivers, all while growers are trying to cut costs, have led growers and transportation pros to look for new efficiencies. Packing each truck to capacity is key, according to Richard Martins of Peninsula Trucking. That’s why the company uses a multi-decked trailer system. Shelves are adjusted to plant height and Peninsula trucks sizes from cell packs to 3 gallon pots with this setup. Trucks are loaded last in, first out and the shelves are broken down as plants are offloaded. The shelves also allow growers to ship foliage without boxing, saving packaging costs as well as labor. There’s less waste, also. Growers Take On Transportation Masterpiece Flower Company has taken on shipping for itself and other growers through its Peak Transportation division. Here are some tips from […]

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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 […]

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June 20, 2008

Storytelling

This past July, the 15th American Horticultural Society (AHS) National Children and Youth Garden Symposium was held in Minnesota. The keynote speaker was Eric Jolly, president of the Science Museum of Minnesota. The noted author indicated, "There is a need in our culture to celebrate diversity and reach those who don’t have the answers." Jolly encouraged the practice of storytelling. He said, "Stories are like seeds, planted by one generation to be harvested by another." Also speaking at the conference was professional storyteller Sherry Norfolk. She said planting stories will improve a person’s imagination. Norfolk explained that there are many types of intelligence, for example, linguistic, mathematical, musical, kinesthetic, interpersonal, existential and naturalistic. She indicated that we all don’t think the same way. We use the skills we have based on the information we have obtained. By telling stories, we allow people to use their brains to decipher what information […]

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