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...
Katherine Wolper

January 24, 2016

Ludvig Svensson Hires Katherine Wolper As West Coast Sales Manager

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 The Owners Of Costa Farms

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 Growers

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
Latest Stories
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
Smith Gardens Marysville outdoor field production

November 30, 2015

Why Smith Gardens’ Marysville, WA, Facility Is A Great …

Labor rates in Washington State are some of the highest in the nation, making competition for labor fierce. This is why Smith Gardens in Marysville, WA, wants to strengthen its reputation as a great place to work.

Read More
Great Lakes Expo

November 30, 2015

6 Reasons You Should Attend The Michigan Greenhouse Gro…

The Michigan Greenhouse Growers Expo, held Dec. 8-10 in conjunction with the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market Expo, will feature an expansive trade show and several educational sessions aimed at greenhouse growers.

Read More

November 25, 2015

Everything You Need To Know About the New England GROWS…

Held In Boston December 2-4, New England GROWS includes a comprehensive conference program, a trade show, and with six special programs that teach new skills and provide opportunities to network with colleagues.

Read More

November 20, 2015

Lessons Learned From The California Drought

For those of us who live in the areas of the country that experienced harsh winters and significant rain over the past three seasons, water has become a nuisance in some cases, rather than a blessing. I can’t count the number of times I have wished to be able to send the snow or the rain to the West Coast, tied up with a big red bow. But think about how we’d feel if we didn’t have the snow and the rain, and we were experiencing the same dry conditions that the residents of California, Oregon and Washington have. With fresh water supplies dwindling in regions of the world, and the resistance of residents in states like Michigan to share water from the Great Lakes, it’s likely that the next civil or world war could be fought over our most precious resource. California’s epic drought should cause everyone to look […]

Read More
Jill Calabro

November 3, 2015

AmericanHort Names New Research And Science Programs Di…

Jill Calabro will bring strategic direction and oversight to research funding by the Horticultural Research Institute, the research affiliate of AmericanHort.

Read More
SBI’s ANY Device Application allows growers to quickly determine availability-featuer

November 2, 2015

SBI Software’s Solutions Help Simplify Logistics For G…

The company focuses on helping growers improve their existing processes with solutions for site fulfillment, replenishment, inventory management and more.

Read More
Griffin Expo15 seminar

October 28, 2015

Griffin’s Hits Record Attendance With 2015 Expos,…

Griffin Greenhouse Supplies set new attendance records with its 2015 Expos. Its 2016 Expos are set for August 31 and September 1, 2016, in West Springfield, Mass., and September 21-22, 2016, in Lancaster, Penn.

Read More

October 28, 2015

Possum Run Greenhouses Taken Over By New Owners

Justin and Lynn Marotta have placed Possum Run Greenhouse and Gifts into the hands of new owners. John and Caroline Bletner, a newly married couple, took over the Bellville, Ohio, property October 2, according to an October 24 article in the Mansfield News Journal. The Marotta family has run Possum Run Greenhouse and Gifts for 41 years. When the Marottas announced in April the greenhouse operation was for sale, they said they were looking for an energetic couple to take the business to the next level, which is what they found in the Bletners, the article reports. The Bletners have hinted they’ll be “opening to a larger market” and that the retail side will “look different.” They’ll hold a grand re-opening the week of April 22, 2016. Staff are staying on board and the Bletners are maintaining many of the suppliers. The 200-plus varieties of fuchsias Justin brought to the greenhouse […]

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