The Loading And Unloading Problem

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 are loaded. One of the most interesting things I have picked up on is how few growers actually optimize their loads using commonly available technology. Computer algorithms (“programs”) can take your entire week’s shipping data and tell you exactly the most efficient way to load and route your trucks. I see every week (no joke) at least one grower reduce his truck needs by 20 percent or more using technology to do this. So for every 100 trucks you thought you needed, you could save 20. Not bad. The computer does it in about 30 seconds and is always right.

Capacity is tight throughout the transportation industry, exacerbated by the seasonal nature and special equipment requirements of live goods. This spells “premium pricing.” Computerized optimization reduces the total number of trucks you need–effectively reducing the total “strain” that your nursery puts on the industry as a whole. The fewer trucks needed overall, the longer it will take for seasonal prices to skyrocket, allowing you to keep more of your hard-earned money in your pocket. By chasing these inefficiencies out of shipping, we all help each other keep rates as reasonable as possible deep into the spike seasons.

Live goods (plants, trees, flowering product, etc.) are unique in the transportation industry. I do not know of any other product that can be loaded in the truck in so many different ways. Here are a few that jump to mind: floor loaded, California stacked, decked, shelved, boxed, hanging, racked (with several rack sizes), on rollers–you get the idea. Most for-hire carriers will give you three things–a truck, a trailer and a driver. Anything else you need for special loading needs is a bonus.

Obtaining consistent capacity, especially when your equipment requirements are specialized, is almost impossible if you have any real load volume. Common carriers, generally speaking, cannot drag around decking, shelves or provide lift gates and other special equipment “just in case” they pull a plant load. In fact, many of their other shippers, because they want to maximize the trailer capacity (cube it out), refuse to load any trailer unless it is clean and 100 percent empty.

This has pushed growers to do one of several things to accommodate their specific loading equipment needs. First, more drivers are refusing to take floor-loaded or California-stacked loads. Who can blame them? Tailgating and unloading several thousand plants is hardly fun. Growers have come up with solutions that benefit the driver and the customer by shipping on rental racks or using palletized boxes. This keeps quality high (less material rejected and claimed) and the material “display ready” in many cases. If you use rental racks, you pay a flat, one-way rental fee per rack. The rack company (such as EZ Rack â€” www.ezrack.com) then worries about picking the racks up and getting them to the growers on an as-needed basis.

 

Many growers have been successful in getting the customer to either pay for the rack fees outright or to get higher prices for the product to offset these costs. The benefit is that a driver/client has an easy time unloading the truck, so you can negotiate lower delivery pay for each stop and you have a wider pool of drivers willing to compete for your loads (driving your costs down). Moreover, plants delivered on racks are virtually ready for sale–so everyone wins.

Boxed material is also becoming more common. We are seeing more growers using “pallet boxes” or “bin boxes.” These are, essentially, boxes perched atop a pallet, then stacked two high. Each customer/delivery may get several pallets, all well marked for the driver and consignee, that could contain one plant or be full to the top. This is akin to an ocean container you see on cargo ships–self contained and ready for delivery. Once again, creative loading techniques help you balance the need to load the truck as fully as possible while making it easy to get capacity to take your loads and keep the client happy with a tidy and simple delivery solution. Remember, your customers would much rather unload six pallets or six racks on a busy spring day rather than have to help unload 600 loose plants.

Moreover, unloading is always an interesting issue with live plants. First, nobody wants to do it. The driver looks at the receiver and the receiver looks at the driver, both hoping the other will give in and unload. I have witnessed several hours go by where nobody wants to unload loose plants, especially in the busy spring season when the receiver should be serving customers and selling plants. If a third-party merchandiser is involved, it gets even more interesting. The merchandiser may not know to be at the store when the truck arrives (a very common occurrence) and simply cannot get to the delivery location to help unload at short notice. Now you have an upset driver, an upset customer and an upset merchandiser. 

If you use a third-party merchandiser (such as Retail Plant Services, www.hpsw.net) and a common carrier, we highly recommend you use carriers that provide Internet load tracking capabilities. In addition, a very simple solution (solving 90 percent of your problem calls) is to give the third-party merchandiser the cell number of the driver. Even better, use a third-party merchandising company that has an existing relationship with your transportation source or logistics provider. That way, they can call to get an accurate estimated time of arrival on the truck and be ready to meet the driver to expedite the unloading process. Everyone wins.

My advice to you is simple: Put a little thought into how you load, unload and optimize your loads. I will almost guarantee that if you take this article with you to your next transportation meeting and read it out loud, you will get at least one good idea you can use. Try it. It will save you several thousands of dollars immediately and who knows how much over the long term!

Leave a Reply

More From Finance/Operations...
Trays move on an overhead conveyor to the end of the production line, where workers carefully pack the cleaned, sized, graded, counted and sorted Calla tubers

November 29, 2016

Texas Judge Halts Overtime Rule; Here’s What It Means For Greenhouse Growers

According to Craig Regelbrugge at AmericanHort, the injunction against the overtime rule is welcome news for horticulture.

Read More
Craig Regelbrugge, senior vice president of AmericanHort - Feature image

October 25, 2016

Contribute To HRI To Help Honor Industry Advocate Craig Regelbrugge

In honor of Craig Regelbrugge's extraordinary contributions to the horticultural industry, AmericanHort and the Horticultural Research Initiative created a special HRI endowment fund in his name: "The Craig Regelbrugge - Advocates for Horticulture Fund."

Read More
Lucas Greenhouses Shipping

October 6, 2016

Greenhouse Shipping Costs Down, But Concerns Remain

Lower gas prices have led to lower shipping costs for some growers, but many continue to seek out ways to become more efficient.

Read More
Latest Stories
Trays move on an overhead conveyor to the end of the production line, where workers carefully pack the cleaned, sized, graded, counted and sorted Calla tubers

November 29, 2016

Texas Judge Halts Overtime Rule; Here’s What It Means F…

According to Craig Regelbrugge at AmericanHort, the injunction against the overtime rule is welcome news for horticulture.

Read More
Craig Regelbrugge, senior vice president of AmericanHort - Feature image

October 25, 2016

Contribute To HRI To Help Honor Industry Advocate Craig…

In honor of Craig Regelbrugge's extraordinary contributions to the horticultural industry, AmericanHort and the Horticultural Research Initiative created a special HRI endowment fund in his name: "The Craig Regelbrugge - Advocates for Horticulture Fund."

Read More
Lucas Greenhouses Shipping

October 6, 2016

Greenhouse Shipping Costs Down, But Concerns Remain

Lower gas prices have led to lower shipping costs for some growers, but many continue to seek out ways to become more efficient.

Read More
Pansy ‘Cool Wave Blue Skies’ (Wave)

September 20, 2016

PanAmerican Seed Settles Alleged Trade Sanction Violati…

PanAmerican Seed, a division of Ball Horticultural Co., has been charged with violating trade sanctions to Iran over a number of years. According to a release from the U.S. Treasury department, PanAmerican Seed made 48 indirect sales of seeds to two Iranian distributors. The company shipped the seed to consignees based in countries in Europe and the Middle East. PanAmerican Seed’s customers then arranged for the re-exportation of the seeds to Iran. The release states that the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) determined PanAmerican Seed did not voluntarily self-disclose the alleged violations to OFAC, constituting an egregious case. “We believe that the settlement was extreme; however the alternative was to litigate with the U.S. government, which would take months, if not years,” says Todd Billings, Chief Financial Officer for Ball Horticultural Co. When asked what Ball Horticultural Co. has done to ensure that violations to trade sanctions do not […]

Read More
young-plants

September 20, 2016

The Top Young Plant Growers, And Four Critical Challeng…

In Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Top Young Plant Growers Survey, growers discuss the latest challenges and opportunities in fulfillment, shipping, labor, and crop protection.

Read More
Cavicchio Greenhouses

September 6, 2016

Cavicchio Greenhouses Wins Inaugural Sustainability Awa…

The Sudbury, MA, growing operation sustains more than 250 acres of annuals, perennials, and nursery stock, with a number of practices to mitigate its impact on the environment.

Read More
Charlie Hall Feature Image

September 6, 2016

10 Insights From Charlie Hall’s Green Industry Economic…

With the uncertain current economic climate, Texas A&M economist Charlie Hall says now may be the perfect time to invest — as long as you do it smartly.

Read More
Penn State Plant Bud

August 23, 2016

AmericanHort Is Helping Plant Importers Adjust To New R…

A report from Craig Regelbrugge at AmericanHort says the government is implementing a streamlined system for imports, in which all required data will be submitted electronically through a single window.

Read More
Plug Connection Assortment

August 9, 2016

AmericanHort’s Plug And Cutting Conference Will Feature…

This year’s conference, which takes place Sept. 19-21 in Carlsbad, CA, features discussions on water, pest and disease control, and production inputs, as well as a biocontrols workshop and tour of local cuttings facilities.

Read More
Cannabis In Greenhouse

July 27, 2016

The Top 5 Myths About Cannabis Production Cleared Up

There is a lot of misleading information going around about growing cannabis. Industry insider James Lowe makes sure you know the truth about cannabis production.

Read More
Joe Bischoff

July 26, 2016

SAF Partners With Cornerstone Government Affairs To Adv…

A new partnership between the Society of American Florists (SAF) and Cornerstone Government Affairs ensures that SAF will continue its highly effective work advocating for issues that affect the floriculture industry. “SAF and Cornerstone together provide experienced voices on Capitol Hill to protect our growers’ interests,” says SAF CEO Peter Moran. “We’ll continue to move major policy priorities forward on behalf of small business and agriculture.” Cornerstone is a public affairs firm specializing in government relations, strategic consulting, and advocacy. Its team of more than 50 senior professionals includes former senior professional staff from both authorization and appropriations committees and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), as well as veterans of the horticulture industry. Agricultural and horticultural issues of primary concern to SAF members include access to labor, immigration, crop protection, international trade and other matters related to the day-to-day operations of growers. Before she retired this year, SAF lobbyist Lin […]

Read More

July 26, 2016

AFE Releases New Videos Highlighting Industry Successes

The American Floral Endowment (AFE) recently released five new videos, created to highlight floriculture successes through industry collaboration, support, and participation. “Each video shares real stories from industry members on career development through scholarships and internships, and true examples of research solutions that have shaped how the industry operates today,” says Laura Shinall, President of Syndicate Sales, Inc., and AFE Public Relations and Development Chair. “We’re excited to be able to share some great success stories in an effort to increase industry participation.” The introductory video “Heard of the American Floral Endowment?” helps educate those who aren’t currently aware of AFE’s programs, while other segmented videos (retail, wholesale, grower) share how Endowment programs complement each group and why it’s so important that everyone in the industry participates: Retail Florists Share Why They Turn to AFE New Resources for Floral Wholesalers and Suppliers AFE Helping Growers Profit Ready for a Career in Floriculture or Horticulture? […]

Read More
Briscoe White, Growers Exchange

July 6, 2016

The Grower’s Exchange Unlocks The Secret to E-Commerce

In the Internet era, Briscoe and Kenan White knew they had to adapt or die and specialize to survive. Here’s how they took The Grower’s Exchange online.

Read More
Brie Arthur

July 6, 2016

5 Can’t-Miss Events To Watch For At Farwest 2016

Whether it’s classes on biocontrols and gardening trends, or networking opportunities in and around the trade show floor, there’s plenty happening at Farwest 2016 in Portland, OR, in August.

Read More
Cannabis states 2016

July 1, 2016

Adult Use Of Cannabis On The Ballot In 2016

25 states have legalized cannabis and public opinion is increasingly positive. Here’s where things may be headed as we move toward the fall elections.

Read More
Practical Software Grower Vertical

June 18, 2016

Practical Software Solutions Increases Accessibility, E…

Practical Software will demonstrate Grower Vertical, its customizable and scalable enterprise management system for the horticulture industry, at Cultivate’16 in July.

Read More
Battlefield Farms Company shot

June 14, 2016

Battlefield Farms Is A Finalist For 2016 Operation Of T…

Battlefield Farms in Rapidan, VA, is one of three finalists for Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Operation Of The Year award and winner of the Excellence In Innovation award for 2016.

Read More

June 7, 2016

Ball Seed Offers Full Mobile Ordering Capabilities With…

The latest update for Ball Seed’s WebTrack To Go mobile app now includes full ordering capabilities for the industry’s largest assortment of seeds and plants. App users can also complete order fulfillment via seed count or package size, find product substitutions, get personalized “contact us” information, request plant tags, and more. “Upgrading WebTrack To Go to the full suite of ordering and management tools is where we’ve always wanted to be,” says Mark Morris, Director of IT for Ball Seed. “With this new roll-out, we’re keeping up with our customers on-the-go and providing them the information and access they need –- even while away from their desks.” The Ball Seed WebTrack To Go app lets customers: Check order status and shipment tracking 24-7 Access up-to-the-minute product inventory from hundreds of suppliers Place orders by seed count, packet size, and more Find product info, culture and photos when and where they […]

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