On Sharpening Business Management
Cost of production is something near and dear to us all. Saving money is not about beating up your suppliers. There are tremendous gains to be made internally. For the coming year, we have a renewed focus on defining our processes. If you can define exactly how your company works, making improvements is easy. This philosophy has been part of our culture for a long time, but it is more important than ever to stay competitive. Start with a simple process. Dissect it, step by step. Time each movement, and in simple terms, list the skills required to perform each step. It becomes clear where things don’t make sense or are wasteful. You might find that your process is great, but your people are not qualified. Either way, you have a map for improvement. Do some specific training or adjust your process. Measure it again. You just decreased labor, increased productivity and made someone’s job easier. The challenge is making the time commitment to analyzing each process.
Cost of sales, particularly in the office, was not something we focused on in the past. Sales grew organically. Most of our time was spent figuring out how best to produce our product. Today, having control over the information systems that drive business transactions is a must. Response to customer demand needs to be immediate and there is no room for inaccurate data. As we move into 2013, our new ERP system will come online with electronic availability to complement the electronic sales orders and acknowledgements that we already produce. Building toward this has taken a year so far and will continue well into the future. It will also allow us to accurately project future availability based on real time changes in stock plant potential and inventory. The goal is to provide customers with a complete picture of what we know we will produce, plus what we could produce. I like to call it virtual production. The goal is simple: our customers get what they want more often.
Managing distribution costs is critical for any manufacturing business. Our focus centers on two things:
1. Eliminating claims: It makes sense to start with existing business. Protect existing business now, and then worry about finding lower-cost alternatives for future orders. Who cares how cheap the freight was if the shipment was damaged? To this end, we continually improve packaging to minimize potential damage in transit. It might be different insulation, a stronger pallet or the addition of netting that makes all the difference. Refer back to defining your processes to make sure the correct option is chosen for each shipment.
2. Matching freight services to regions: Every shipping region has seasonal challenges. It’s either really hot, really cold or the customer is way off the beaten path. Or perhaps there is just an overly aggressive driver on a particular route. We evaluate transit time, type of service (dry, reefer, etc.) and packaging options to come up with the best solution for each customer order. Spending the extra time to examine each order continues to drive costs lower and customer satisfaction higher.
On Investing In The Industry
Every company owes a debt to their industry for some of the success they enjoy. We believe in paying this back. It’s an investment like any other. We’ve identified what is important to us and are investing time, money or materials in those areas.
For young plant producers like James Greenhouses, being a part of the Floriculture Research Alliance is an obvious choice. This national group is on the cutting edge of production technology. It keeps our people sharp and current.
At the state level, we will stay involved with the Georgia Green Industry Association. Our time is limited, so we’ll contribute by growing gift plants for the annual Capitol Day event. This helps keep the specific needs of our industry on the minds of law makers.
At the local level, we support the University of Georgia by helping evaluate their breeding efforts and hosting class tours whenever asked. This type of goodwill continues to lead us to great employees and new product lines.