Top 100 Growers: Plugged Into Performance

Floral Plant Growers is revitalizing its heritage as a leading young plant producer by zeroing in on order fulfillment

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel or invest in new systems and technology to make significant gains in your business. Floral Plant Growers has doubled its young plant business in just four years by doing a better job and creating a corporate culture with all employees focused on results.

Based in Denmark, Wisc., with satellite facilities in Iowa and Indiana, Floral Plant Growers (FPG) produces mostly finished plants for large retailers. But, a big part of its legacy is Greiling Farms, a leading plug producer in the 1980s and ’90s FPG purchased in 1997.

FPG President Dean Chaloupka recalls when founder Gene Greiling introduced him to plugs while working for him in his college years. “I remember seeing these odd plug trays,” Chaloupka says. “We used to sow seed in bulk trays and pull the seedlings out by hand. Gene told me about other industry leaders who were working on plugs and said this would be the way we would produce them in the future.” 

Plugs took off and Greiling Farms went on to produce millions of them at a 30-acre facility in Florida and another 8 acres in Georgia, which is now owned by Speedling. But under the new ownership, the focus shifted to finished plant production while still producing young plants under Greiling’s Natural Beauty brand. Chaloupka became concerned when plug customers were saying FPG’s order fulfillment was way down. “We wanted to address this but all we had was subjective input,” he says.

Measuring Up

The solution was to measure FPG’s performance and identify the most important metrics for serving grower and broker customers. “As it applies to the young plant program, it boils down to one measurement–on-time order fulfillment,” Chaloupka says. “What does that mean? It means the customer gets exactly what they ordered in the week it was ordered for.”

FPG began the journey in 2005 by establishing a baseline year with a performance of 94.6 percent. “Is that good or bad? It doesn’t matter if we think it’s good or bad if the customer thinks it’s bad,” Chaloupka says. In 2006, FPG moved the performance needle from 94.6 to 98.5 percent and has been above 98 percent ever since. So far this year, the performance is 98.9 percent.

“We track every last order to determine if we shipped out exactly what was ordered,” he says. “Things happen, but we don’t make excuses. If we ship early or late, we will do that if it’s the right thing to do. But every time we do that, it’s a miss and counts against our score. It’s not that the customers didn’t get the product, just not exactly when they ordered it for.” Substitutions also count as a miss. Pleased with the progress in plugs, FPG started extending this concept to the finished plant side, measuring on-time planting and delivery of all crops.

“We track our ability to deliver our crops as scheduled every week of the year,” Chaloupka explains. “The results were lower on the finished side, but this year we’re already seeing marked improvement. It relates to our ability to supply product to finished customers. Their metrics are different, but our ability to predict internally how to finish will translate into us meeting needs retail customers have for us.”

Creating A Corporate Culture

FPG reinforces its commitment to performance by posting its weekly score card throughout the company in break rooms and warehouses, and goals are communicated through company meetings and its internal newsletter all year. Broker customers and their sales representatives also receive weekly reports. “If the report is not up and out by Thursday, I’m the one looking for it. It’s important,” Chaloupka says. “It has to be understood that everybody in senior management believes in it and that we’re uncompromising. Employees are smart. If they hear us talk about it but don’t live it, they’ll think it’s a fraud.”

As FPG’s young plant numbers grow, Chaloupka acknowledges it will be harder to achieve 98.9 percent performance. “But it’s not outside the realm of possibility to double our business again in three years,” he says. “We see people gravitating to what we have to offer. We’ve shown we are a specialist and are dedicated to this. We do understand the pressures our grower customers are dealing with and we’re not going to add pressure and doubt and stress as a supplier.”

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