Planning Made Easy

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 It Works

The program has several tabs users can click on to navigate to the pages they want to access. By clicking on the variety data tab, for example, growers can enter crop times and plants for 4.5-inch and gallon containers and then print a product list for their reference. The software also features combination recipe and combo planner tabs. Clicking on the combination recipe tab lets growers review lists of pre-built combinations and build their own custom combinations, too. In the combo planner tab, growers can enter the combinations they want to grow, enter finish weeks and crop times and tweak percentages to fit their needs. The same can be done for containers.

“We’ve also always put together the combination diagrams, as far as combination layouts and pictures of all the different baskets we’ve produced,” Strimpel says. “We have a couple hundred different combinations between hanging baskets and upright containers that we display at our May open house, and that’s all included on the same CD. We’ve actually incorporated the two together with the newest version of PW Plan-It, so the combos, along with a photo, a layout, what’s in it and how it’s planted, are part of PW Plan-It.”

Every combo is given a three-digit number to identify it. Growers simply have to decide how many of a particular combo they want to grow and PW Plan-It will do the rest.

“The software will automatically determine what liners and everything they need and transfer it right to an order form,” says Strimpel. He also notes that with all the new varieties coming out, it’s nice to be able to offer suggestions to growers who might not know how new varieties are going to turn out or which ones will grow well together.

“I think growers are looking for some kind of assistance to make things a little easier, because I know even for us, as large as we are and as many years as we’ve been using Excel, it’s a lot of work to put together a production plan,” Strimpel says. “This is our way of asking, ‘What are growers looking for? What do they need? Where could they use help?'” 

New Features

The 2007 version of PW Plan-It has several new features, including a pre-filled recommended starting point. For example, 4.5-inch and gallon pots start off with the 50 top selling varieties with pre-built percentages. This feature helps growers determine how many of each variety they’ll need.

Another advantage of the newest version is the addition of an order review page. This feature is especially useful to customers who grow on a smaller scale and may want fewer plants. Rather than ending up with a lot of full trays of product they might not need, the order review page displays how many extra plants above and beyond what they’re planning they’re going to receive. They’ll then have the option to tweak their numbers if necessary.

“It breaks it down into total plants and it also shows them every variety they’re receiving, and how many extra of each variety, so they can either plan on doing something with them, or they can go back into the planner and adjust a little bit to minimize those numbers,” Strimpel explains.

Another new addition is a blank order form that lets customers who just want to order a few particular items simply enter quantities and ship weeks, then print the order form. Strimpel notes this is an easy way for customers to adjust their numbers, because it means they don’t have to tweak all the numbers that are in the prefilled order form. 

Freight Savings

The latest version of the software also links to Four Star’s SuperSaver program, which helps customers get the best possible freight rates. Based on information customers provide on the original page, PW Plan-It knows when the customers are going to receive the product and automatically lets them know when the SuperSaver weeks for their areas are. Because all the rates are built in, the program also lets customers know exactly how much money they’ll save if they move their shipment dates to SuperSaver weeks.

“Freight rates are really a big concern for growers right now, so here’s another area where they can take a look at it and maybe just tweak when they’re going to receive the product,” says Strimpel. He also says he’s seen customers save as much as $2,500 in freight rates by switching to SuperSaver weeks. 

Customer Feedback

Strimpel says customer feedback on the program is very important in helping determine what changes to make for the next version.

“We keep adding a little more of what it does each year, and at our open house this last May, a lot of ideas came out just talking with different people. The more feedback we get, the more we know what they want or what they’re needing. Because we’ve got it so far along already, we can just keep adding little features to it,” he says. “We’re basically out for their best interests.”

Growers can download PW Plan-It for free or request a copy on CD by visiting www.PWfourstar.com.

Leave a Reply

More From Finance/Operations...
Cultivate'14 GG and TGC Booth

July 7, 2015

Join Greenhouse Grower And Today’s Garden Center At Cultivate’15

Greenhouse Grower and Today's Garden Center are excited to take part in Cultivate'15. We have a lot going on in our booth, and we hope you will be there to join us as we celebrate careers in horticulture and honor the industry’s top growers, breeders and marketers.

Read More
BeeSmart logo

July 7, 2015

Grow Wise, Bee Smart Website Launches As Industry Resource On Pollinator Health

The new Grow Wise, Bee Smart website, growwise.org,  was recently launched as a key component of the horticulture industry’s Bee and Pollinator Stewardship Initiative, which was created to provide leadership and guidance to the industry on pollinator health. The site serves as the communications hub for the latest research and developments related to the role horticulture plays in supporting pollinator health. Grow Wise, Bee Smart currently features information on the importance of bees and pollinators, threats to their health and steps everyone can take to improve habitat and forage. Links to the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge and Pollinator Partnership further guide retail and landscape firms and their customers on how to plant and register new gardens and habitats for pollinators. As the Grow Wise, Bee Smart stewardship program for plant production is launched, and as funded and directed research yields results and guidance, the site will feature timely new information and insights. Progress […]

Read More
The-Capitol

July 7, 2015

Washington Gridlock Could Block Industry Research Funding

The latest standoff on Capitol Hill could have some implications for the floral industry, including future funding for floriculture and nursery research initiative activities, says Shawn McBurney, SAF’s senior director of government relations. “Republicans in the House and Senate are determined to work within the sequester-imposed limits for domestic spending in the federal budget, but Democrats have threatened to block any appropriations bills until Republicans agree to spend more money than that agreement allows,” McBurney says. “With both sides digging in, there could be an impact on budgets that affect programs and services important to the floral industry.” The back and forth over spending limits isn’t new, McBurney says. In 2013, then-Budget Committee Chairmen Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) negotiated an agreement that increased spending levels for defense and nondefense discretionary spending equally above the sequester level for two years, offset by fee increases and changes to mandatory […]

Read More
Latest Stories
thermoflor

June 16, 2015

Philip Schaafsma To Represent Thermoflor In The U.S.

Philip Schaafsma is a new sales representative for Thermoflor, a company with a lot of experience building garden centers worldwide. The history of the Dutch construction company Thermoflor goes all the way back to 1877. Since then, the company has been through a lot of changes, from simple conservatories to complex glass and steel turnkey projects. With a new sales representative, Thermoflor is well equipped to service the American market. Previously, Petitti Garden Center (Avon, Ohio), Chuck Hafner (Syracuse, N.Y.), Jacob’s Garden (Ottowa Lake, Mich.), Hicks Nurseries (Westbury, N.Y.) and Holes (Alberta, Ca.) were all built by Thermoflor. After a period of absence, the company is now  represented in the U.S. and Canada by Schaafsma, who has more than 40 years of experience in retail lawn and garden, greenhouse growing and the floral industry, and is a former board member of the Garden Centers of America. Schaafsma is the former owner […]

Read More

June 15, 2015

Hortica Insurance To Become Member Of Sentry Insurance …

Upon completion and approval of an affiliation agreement, Hortica Insurance (Florists' Mutual Insurance Company) will become a member of the Sentry Insurance Group, based in Stevens Point, Wis. As a member of the Sentry Insurance Group, Hortica keeps its name and brand and will continue doing business from its current headquarters in Edwardsville, Ill.

Read More
Cal-Poly fields

June 2, 2015

Cal-Poly Students Seek Continued Industry Support To Sa…

Agriculture students and faculty at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, want industry members to continue to stand with them in their effort to preserve Class 1 agricultural land from being repurposed. The university recently released an update to its Master Plan that indicates that almost all of its orchards, horticulture facilities and field sites could be repurposed for buildings, including residential and/or recreational space. According to Joel Leonard of Students For Agriculture, an organization of Cal-Poly students in favor of saving the land, the Master Planning Committee will be meeting over the summer to form a final version of its plan and present it once more to the public in the fall, before it is submitted for final approval to the California Board of Trustees. Students For Agriculture’s goal in the meantime is to increase awareness and rally industry supporters to continue to send their input to the planning committee. Visit studentsforag.com to see more […]

Read More
Cal-Poly fields

May 27, 2015

Cal-Poly Students And Faculty Ask Industry To Help Save…

California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, has released an update to its Master Plan that indicates that almost all of its orchards, horticulture facilities and field sites could be repurposed for buildings, including residential, and/or recreational space. According to a letter from Scott Steinmaus, the horticulture and crop science department head, the proposed changes directly affect the current orchard plantings and other long term plans for the department. The department is committed to making sure that its facilities remain invaluable teaching environments that enable its students to learn about crop, fruit and horticulture production, food safety and pest protection, in addition to providing sites for externally funded research projects that benefit the industry. Industry members are invited to submit comments to the university. According to Steinmaus, a recent eMail to the Cal-Poly community from the university president indicates that all of the input gathered through the end of May will be studied by the planning […]

Read More
people-of-Battlefield

May 13, 2015

Battlefield Farms Receives MPS-A Qualification

Battlefield Farms, Inc., in Rapidan, Va., has been awarded the MPS-A qualification after becoming a participant for MPS-ABC in 2010. After four years of showing effort and improvement, the company has been awarded the qualification.

Read More
Barry_Sturdivant_columnpic

May 8, 2015

How To Survive Succession Planning And Resolve Conflic…

If you work in agriculture, you most likely work with family-owned businesses. This is especially true within the greenhouse industry. I’m fortunate to work for a company that specializes in financing and supporting such businesses. Family-owned businesses often have a level of commitment and support that helps during lean times. This is important for a company exposed to seasonality and events that are sometimes beyond management’s control. Business owners and management are constantly looking for solutions to the unique issues faced by these small but complex businesses. Specifically, how these issues affect the transition from one generation to the next. There are many family enterprise success stories, cases of harmony, health and longevity. Yet it’s no secret that family businesses can struggle with governance, leadership transitions and even survival. According to the Family Business Institute, only 30 percent of family businesses last into the second generation, 12 percent remain viable […]

Read More

April 30, 2015

North Creek Nurseries Welcomes Nikki Drake As New Finan…

Nikki Drake will fill the role of new financial administrator at North Creek Nurseries, with responsibility for the accounting department. She will also serve on the strategic planning committee.

Read More
Andy Huntington Pleasant View

April 29, 2015

Pleasant View Gardens Promotes Andy Huntington to Natio…

Pleasant View Gardens recently announced that Andy Huntington will be the company’s National Sales Manager. Huntington, who has years of horticulture industry experience, will oversee national territory and inside sales departments, while fostering strong partnerships with customers. “Our relationships with customers are central to all that we do at Pleasant View,” Huntington says. “In my new role, I am excited to work with a broader base of broker, grower and retail partners to understand their business needs. Pleasant View’s goal is to be so in tune with our customers that we are able to anticipate their problems before they arise.” Huntington has a history of growing sales and forming long-lasting relationships with a diverse customer base. For the past two years, he has been working as a territory account manager for Pleasant View Gardens, responsible for young plant liner sales in New England and New York. Prior to that, Huntington was […]

Read More
PittMoss on Shark Tank

April 22, 2015

PittMoss Wins On Shark Tank

Mont Handley, president and CEO of PittMoss, appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank on April 17 to try to get the “sharks” to invest in his peat moss alternative. Three investors from the TV show contributed $600,000 to PittMoss for a 35 percent stake in the company. Check out this clip from ABC’s website in which Mark Cuban, Kevin O’Leary and Robert Herjavec discuss getting on board with the product. PittMoss is an alternative to sphagnum peat moss, made up of a mix of proprietary additives and recycled paper rescued from landfill space. Handley founded the Pittsburgh-based company in 1994. What started as a small experiment grew into a full-fledged business with the help of funding provided by an EPA SBIR grant and Pittsburgh’s Idea Foundry. Today, PittMoss is available to commercial greenhouses and nurseries from Michigan to Maine to North Carolina, with plans to grow. To learn more, visit PittMoss’ website, or check it […]

Read More
Syngenta logo

April 15, 2015

Syngenta Names Chris Freeman Senior Key Account Manager…

Chris Freeman is the new senior key account manager for Syngenta Flowers, Home & Garden's Commercial Sales business in the Americas, effective March 2015. Freeman, who joined Syngenta in 2006, carries more than 25 years of experience in the agriculture and floriculture business.

Read More
Lake Buchanan_LCRA

April 10, 2015

USDA Designates Areas Of West And Southwest As Drought …

The ongoing drought has resulted in disaster area designations in counties across nine Western and Southwestern states, including Texas, where some reservoirs are at or near historically low levels.

Read More

April 9, 2015

Altman Plants’ Online Cactus Shop Shows Strong Sa…

Altman Plants recently opened its new Cactus Shop, an online retail store that sells a variety of cactus and succulents. The store is a take-off of Altman’s original wholesale business, as the company started as a mail order catalog.

Read More
Dummen

April 8, 2015

Dümmen Group Welcomes Jim Devereux And Andrew Konicki T…

Dümmen group recently announced the addition of Jim Devereux and Andrew Konicki to its team. They are the newest members of the Key Account and Broker Support team for Dümmen, and will be responsible for building, developing and maintaining current broker and grower customer relationships.

Read More
Gov._Jerry_Brown_California

April 8, 2015

California Institutes First Ever Statewide Mandatory Wa…

California Gov. Jerry Brown announced April 1 that, for the first time in state history, action will be taken to implement mandatory water restrictions, with the ultimate goal of reducing water usage by 25 percent. As Californians are pushed to conserve more, growers will need to think about how demand for products will be affected.

Read More
DNA-logo

March 31, 2015

DNA Green Group Will Acquire Rijnplant

DNA Green Group and Riknplant have finalized DNA Green Group's acquisition of Rijnplant, meaning that the breeding and propagation activities in pot and cut anthurium, bougainvillea and heliconia will transfer to DNA Green Group.

Read More
AFE scholarship_Ryan Dickson

March 25, 2015

AFE Educational Grant And Scholarship Application Deadl…

Apply now for American Floral Endowment (AFE) scholarships or educational grants. Applications can be found online. For educational grants for 2015-2016, applications must be submitted no later than June 1. Scholarship applications are due May 1. AFE will award $40,000 in scholarships for 2015.

Read More

March 23, 2015

UF/IFAS Appoints Joseph Albano As Director Of Mid-Flori…

The University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) has a new directors for its Mid-Florida Research and Education Center (REC) on Apopka, Fla. The role has been filled by Joseph Albano, a research horticulturist from the U.S. Department of Agriculture with more than 25 years of experience.

Read More

March 17, 2015

Pike Nurseries Implements Employee Stock Ownership Plan

Independent garden retailer Pike Nurseries has announced it will become an employee-owned company. Pike Nurseries management has combined with its sister corporation in California, Armstrong Garden Centers, to operate under an established Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP).

Read More