Using Distribution Technology To Save Money (And Make Your Life Easier)

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 contract grow material at other nurseries. For those that use racks to ship on, you need an efficient and effective way to know where your racks are and to get them back to your dock as quickly as possible.

An effective TMS can handle these needs with aplomb. Some growers using an inventory and sales software system may already have a “mini” transportation module built into their software. But these systems are almost exclusively designed for growers shipping short distances on their own trucks â€” and the functionality is limited because it was an “add on” to the inventory and sales system. However, for most small- to medium-sized growers, these “add on” modules may suffice. The easiest part is all you need to do is contact your software vendor to ask if they have a module that fits your needs.

At some point, however, as you grow as a company, you may need to look at a comprehensive and dedicated transportation system that will unify your entire shipping function â€” whether your material is shipped on your own trucks, common carrier, via transportation broker or even rail transport. Moreover, you need to be able to organize all the necessary paperwork to make the shipping function run smoothly. For growers with existing technology framework, this can seem a little daunting, but this is exactly what sets the larger growers apart from small growers â€” the willingness to go through painful change for the greater good. 

Starting The Journey

Many growers’ first transportation system is simply a spreadsheet and some mapping software. I still see this even as growers get to $10m in sales or more–quite amazing when you consider many growers spend 30 percent or more of their total variable expenses on transportation and distribution. So you would think an obvious place to install technology would be in this area.

Where do you start? There are hundreds of software options to handle the transportation function. Some will cost as little as $500 and others well over $1,000,000. Generally speaking, you get what you pay for and there are many considerations to be made. While many growers don’t have dedicated IT staff to analyze all the options and manage a complex installation procedure, you can rest easy because there are readily available solutions that are more “plug and play” than “pay and pray.”

Keep Your Letters Coming!

I have been both gratified and amazed at the amount of e-mail I have received in response to our Transportation and Distribution articles. It seems many of you have incurred challenges and are willing to share your advice and solutions to the Greenhouse Grower readership. Thank you!

I am also pleased to receive your ideas for upcoming topics. Suelynn Callahan, general manager of Advantage Oregon wrote to tell me about a successful co-op arrangement they formed in Oregon to support the needs of the region’s growers. We will be publishing a full report of our findings in the near future.

So, if you have topics you want to be addressed please e-mail me at thigham@interstate-transport.com. The more we all get involved, the more we will all learn!

One option is the new ASP.NET solution from Microsoft. The only full-featured TMS system designed and built for growers’ runs on this Microsoft platform and is called InMotion Global (www.inmotionglobal.com) and requires nothing more than an Internet connection. If you can surf the Web, you can access the system. The pricing can’t be beat–free of all upfront costs and a “pay-per-load” fee of $17. It supports an unlimited number of offices and users for no extra charges and connects you to a 24-hour freight management center for those last minute needs (and your customers can track and trace their shipments over the Internet). InMotion Global is used by some of the largest growers in the country. 

Mitigating Problems

At Interstate, we have found 90 percent or more of potential shipping problems can be eradicated by having the correct paperwork. Technology is also good at this “business process” function â€” allowing you to flow smoothly from order to truck with minimal fuss. When problems do occur, a good technology solution will fix the problem before it becomes an issue.

The funny thing about our business is “if we can just get through the spring” we seem to think we can avoid spending the money and enduring the pain of installing a transportation technology solution. But ironically, if we had the technology solution in the first place, our spring shipping season would be more profitable and easier to bear.

Leave a Reply

More From Finance/Operations...
PP&L CAST 2015 intros

April 22, 2015

6 Breeding Companies Serve Up New Varieties At Pacific Plug & Liner

Pacific Plug & Liner’s theme this year, Labyrinth, a conservatory of the world’s most captivating plants, was perfectly topped off (pun intended) with fascinators for the women and newsboy caps for the men. The PP&L team dressed their part to act out the gothic “conservatory of the world’s most captivating plants.” Truly, the displays looked like they practically popped out of a catalog, and the costumes were a nice touch. Retailers take heed, the fully merchandised displays at Pacific Plug & Liner are worthy of emulating. We’ll let the pictures tell the story of all the fabulous variety introductions presented at  Pacific Plug & Liner’s 2015 California Spring Trials, where Cultivaris, Cohen Nurseries, Histil Nurseries, Jaldety Nurseries, Southern Living/Sunset Collection and Pacific Plug & Liner all highlighted their 2016 introductions.  

Read More
Speedling 2015 CAST intros

April 22, 2015

Speedling Inc. Presents New Varieties From ABZ Seeds, Hem Genetics, Thompson & Morgan, Vista Farms & PSI

You name it, we saw it at Speedling's California Spring Trials location in San Juan Bautista, where five companies showed off their new introductions for 2016.

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
Latest Stories
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
GrowIt! App Wins Gold At Design100 2014 US Mobile & App Design Awards

March 10, 2015

GrowIt! Mobile App Now Available For Android

The mobile app GrowIt! Garden Socially can now be used by gardeners with Android-based smartphones. Now available on the Google Play Market, GrowIt! helps users find plants to fit their lifestyle and connect them with other local gardeners.

Read More

March 4, 2015

Second Annual GreenhouseConnect Will Bring Growers and …

Following a successful inaugural event in Tampa last fall, Greenhouse Grower has announced the dates of its second annual GreenhouseConnect: October 26-29, 2015. Representatives of an expected two dozen leading greenhouse operations from across the U.S. will join senior-level suppliers at Rancho Bernardo Inn in San Diego for several days of one-on-one strategic meetings, a growers-only roundtable, informational sessions and a variety of networking events.

Read More

March 4, 2015

Maryland Green Industry Associations Unite

The Maryland Nursery and Landscape Association recently announced that it is expanding its reach to include the greenhouse industry, meaning it has become The Maryland Nursery, Landscape and Greenhouse Association (MNLGA). The change comes as a result of the planned dissolution of the former Maryland Greenhouse Growers Association and the invitation for those members to join the existing and renamed association.

Read More
IPPS Sharing Plant Production Knowledge Globally Logo

February 25, 2015

International Plant Propagators Western Region Sets Ann…

The annual meet for the International Plant Propagators' Society (IPPS) Western Region has been set for this September. It will take place September 23 to 26 in Modesto, Calif., and will include learning sessions, tours to local nurseries, a research poster display and poster presentations, various networking opportunities and an awards banquet to close the event.

Read More
myers industries Lawn and Garden Logo

February 24, 2015

Myers Industries, Inc. Lawn And Garden Business Sold, N…

The management of Myers Lawn and Garden Group, along with Wingate Partners V, L.P. have recently acquired the Myers Industries, Inc. Lawn and Garden business. The new company is named The HC Companies, and will continue as a North American leading provider of horticulture containers supplying the greenhouse, nursery and retail markets.

Read More
american-hort-logo

February 17, 2015

AmericanHort Announces New Board Members

AmericanHort recently announced the election of new officers and members to the board of directors. Each will assume their positions on the board during Cultivate’15, July 11 to 14 in Columbus, Ohio.

Read More
All American Selections

February 17, 2015

All-America Selections Elects New Officers, Names New J…

While meeting during the Flower and Vegetable Seed Conference in Tampa, Fla., hosted by the American Seed Trade Association, All-America Selections elected new officers for a two-year term. Read on to learn about the new officers, as well as all of the new judges that were added in 2014.

Read More
Greenhouse Grower.com on your desktop, on your phone, on your tablet

February 11, 2015

GreenhouseGrower.com Relaunches With Responsive Design …

Greenhouse Grower magazine, the nation’s leader in profits, production and education for greenhouse growers, announces the launch of its completely redesigned website, GreenhouseGrower.com. The new design is the product of direct user feedback and GreenhouseGrower.com analytics, and includes responsive design for ease of mobile use.

Read More