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...
University of Florida Online Greenhouse Training Courses

April 25, 2016

University of Florida Offering Online Training Courses For Greenhouse Growers

There will be five courses offered, with the first starting on May 30. Courses are available in both English and Spanish and range from beginner level to advanced education.

Read More
Sanitation programs are essential to preventing and removing food safety concerns.

April 7, 2016

USDA Launches GroupGAP Program For Fruit And Vegetable Growers

The new certification program is designed to help small and mid-size growers, including greenhouse vegetable producers, comply with new food safety regulations.

Read More
Young Plants Farm North Carolina

March 15, 2016

Young’s Plant Farm Obtains MPS-A Qualification

MPS, an organization that develops and manages certification for companies in the horticulture industry, has awarded MPS-A certification to Young’s Plant Farm in North Carolina and Alabama.

Read More
Latest Stories
University of Florida Online Greenhouse Training Courses

April 25, 2016

University of Florida Offering Online Training Courses …

There will be five courses offered, with the first starting on May 30. Courses are available in both English and Spanish and range from beginner level to advanced education.

Read More
Sanitation programs are essential to preventing and removing food safety concerns.

April 7, 2016

USDA Launches GroupGAP Program For Fruit And Vegetable …

The new certification program is designed to help small and mid-size growers, including greenhouse vegetable producers, comply with new food safety regulations.

Read More
Young Plants Farm North Carolina

March 15, 2016

Young’s Plant Farm Obtains MPS-A Qualification

MPS, an organization that develops and manages certification for companies in the horticulture industry, has awarded MPS-A certification to Young’s Plant Farm in North Carolina and Alabama.

Read More
Charlie Hall Feature Image

March 14, 2016

Dr. Charlie Hall Will Offer Keynote Address At Farwest …

The Texas A&M economist will discuss factors affecting short- and long-term demand driving the future of the green industry.

Read More
Seed Your Future Logo

March 8, 2016

Longwood Gardens And American Society For Horticultural…

Under the direction of co-chairs Paul B. Redman of Longwood Gardens and Anna Ball of Ball Horticultural Company, the “Seed Your Future” initiative is designed to combat declining awareness of horticulture while promoting it as a viable career choice.

Read More
Florida Green Industry

March 4, 2016

University Of Florida Study Shows Green Industry Genera…

According to the study, the rise of large retail chain stores with garden departments has made plants and other horticultural products more readily available to consumers than ever before.

Read More
Great Lakes Growers Expansion

February 22, 2016

Great Lakes Growers Expands Its Production Capacity For…

The Burton, OH-based grower has added 25,000 square feet to its operation, helping it to keep up with rising consumer demand.

Read More
National Garden Bureau Logo feature image

February 16, 2016

New Officers And Directors At National Garden Bureau an…

During the ASTA Flower & Vegetable Seed Conference, National Garden Bureau and All-America Selections elected new officers and directors.

Read More
Katherine Wolper

January 24, 2016

Ludvig Svensson Hires Katherine Wolper As West Coast Sa…

Wolper says she looks forward to listening to growers and understanding the concerns, obstacles, and opportunities they face.

Read More

January 20, 2016

Tips For Overcoming Challenges In Family Business From …

Our industry is run by a collection of family businesses, and every one, no matter how big or small, has its share of management issues. But there are several differences between one that is run successfully as a business and one that allows family politics to distract from the organization’s goals. In this year’s State Of The Industry Survey, we noted that labor recruitment and succession are two areas where growers struggle. In talking with the owners of Costa Farms for this month’s cover story, I thought some of the values they have incorporated into the operation’s management structure really stood out as practices that other family businesses could use. The participatory management approach to business and team building is one that Tony Costa, the second-generation owner of Costa Farms, instilled in his children, Maria Costa-Smith and Jose Costa, and son-in-law, Joche Smith, the current owners of Costa Farms. In […]

Read More
I-9 Form

January 13, 2016

Proposed Changes To I-9 Form Important For Greenhouse G…

AmericanHort’s Government Relations and Grassroots Representative Davi Bowen says growers need to become familiar with the new form and should be prepared to make comments if necessary.

Read More

January 13, 2016

Wenke Greenhouses Buys Zylstra Greenhouses

Two Kalamazoo, MI-based greenhouses have merged after Wenke Greenhouses closed on Zylstra Greenhouses at the end of November. The additional property and facilities will allow Wenke Greenhouses to expand its young plant business, among other areas.

Read More

January 13, 2016

Costa Farms Wins With Its Emphasis On Team, Solutions, …

Based in Miami, FL, Costa Farms has gone global by focusing on strategy, systems, and vertical integration. See how the operation continues to expand through its emphasis on team, solutions, and growth.

Read More

January 11, 2016

New Transportation Funding Bill Is Good News For Floric…

According to AmericanHort, perhaps the biggest benefit of the new bill is what it doesn’t include: a proposed amendment that would have prohibited the use of federal funds for vegetative enhancements.

Read More

December 29, 2015

The Home Depot Says No To Neonics

The Home Depot plans to phase out neonicotinoids by 2018, according to a recent statement on the company’s website. The large home improvement retailer stated that its live goods suppliers have reduced the number of plants that they treat with neonicotinoids, and now more than 80% of all flowering plants sold at The Home Depot are not treated with neonicotinoids. The retailer said it will continue this decrease unless: Treatment is required by state or federal regulation, or Undisputed science proves that the use of neonicotinoids on live goods does not have a lethal or sub-lethal effect on pollinators Aside from these exceptions, the retailer has implemented a complete phase-out of neonicotinoid use on live goods by the end of 2018. Meanwhile, The Home Depot has required all of its live goods suppliers to label plants that have been treated with neonicotinoids. “The Home Depot is deeply engaged in understanding the […]

Read More
Gardeners of all ages enjoyed the annual plant sale at McCorkle Nurseries

December 22, 2015

Allan Armitage Explains Why People Will Always Want To …

We may believe that an appreciation for gardening and plants is rapidly draining away, but there is reason to hope.

Read More
Canadian Greenhouse Conference 2015

December 21, 2015

Presentations From Canadian Greenhouse Conference Avail…

Many of the talks that took place at this year’s Canadian Greenhouse Conference in Ontario focused on improving production efficiencies in the greenhouse.

Read More
Sanitation programs are essential to preventing and removing food safety concerns.

December 7, 2015

How The Finalized Produce Safety Rule Will Affect Green…

While the new rule from FDA has many exemptions that will likely apply to greenhouse growers, the reality is that buyers may still require strict adherence to food safety standards.

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]