Planning For Greenhouse Production

Dennis Crum, Director of Growing, Four Star Greenhouse, Inc.

by DENNIS CRUM

EACH year, growers devote more time and focus toward planning the next spring’s production. Businesses are under pressure to reduce shrink, increase sales and margins and satisfy market demands more than ever before.
Because production planning is so critical to an operation’s profitability, growers should consider these factors for success.

1. Sell-Through
Detailed records of the amount started versus the sold history for each line item should be kept and analyzed. Sales history by container size and type is helpful, but detailed records for each individual item is best. These records will better show the under- and over-performing items.

2. Timing Of Sales
Tracking the sales of specific items is important, but it is equally important is to analyze the timing of these sales. Knowing which items sold out very quickly in relationship to their scheduled finish date is very helpful information. This data should be compared to other items that sold through well, over an extended period of time. Growers can use this information to plan for additional production of the one crop and possibly reduced levels of the other. Sell-through is crucial, but crop turns are critical.

3. Good Crop Notes
Be sure to walk the crops at various stages of the growing schedule and shipping. Take good notes on what looked good, what didn’t and what adjustments were made and planned for the future. There can easily be a short list of items recommended for dropping from the program due to poor performance. At certain times, there may also be crops that grow and finish very nicely, but just don’t sell through at retail. Remember, looking solely at sell-through numbers and not at the crops doesn’t paint the complete picture. It only shows a portion of the situation.

4. Customer Feedback
Discuss the crops produced with your sales staff, merchandisers, retailers and consumers, if possible. Sales numbers do show what they liked and were willing to purchase. However, we should also be asking what they liked about the crops, why they purchased, and why they didn’t purchase other items. It’s much easier to sell the consumer what they are looking for than to continually try to anticipate or create new demands.

5. New Varieties
It’s important to gather and evaluate information on new varieties each year. There are too many new plants introduced each year to simply grow a few of each. Attend trade shows, read catalogs, talk to salesman, visit trial gardens and grow some trials of your own. Based on observations and discussions with your staff and customers, select varieties that not only fit into your greenhouse production plan but also serve the needs of your customers.

6. Profitability
After reviewing the factors already discussed, growers must also address the profitability of all crops grown. Again, if good sales records and accounting practices are followed, growers should have information available to measure the profitability of each crop, determine a pricing strategy, and decide whether or not the crop should be grown. Remember, input costs are only one factor when determining profitability. Growers should not blindly allow input costs to influence crop selection or planning.

Other Key Considerations For Successful Planning
• Select container size and type. Based on sales records, profitability and customer feedback, offer a selection of container sizes that meet the demands and perceived value of your customer. As with plant varieties, there are countless container types and styles in each size available. Select the container style and color best suited to meet the need of the customer. When selecting containers, their cost and effect on profitability must also be considered.
• Combination planning. The production of combination containers has become a huge portion of growers’ production planning and requires great care and attention to detail. Good growing notes from the previous season, sell-through information, customer feedback, new varieties and trialing of new combinations all need to be considered. Plan a good mix of combinations to satisfy customers’ needs. These combinations should also be selected to grow well together and perform well for the consumer.
• Plan the growing environment. While developing a production plan, it is very helpful to plan the space required for each crop. This thoughtful foresight often provides the best growing environment for each crop.
• Plan production numbers to best use the plants ordered. When planning production numbers, most growers account for the amount of space available and for the number of containers wanted. These numbers are often in multiples of 10, 25, 50 or 100. If not already doing so, try planning production numbers to use full liner trays. It’s amazing how many partial trays can be avoided if this idea is used.
On many grower visits, I have seen a 10 to 15 percent overage of seedlings or rooted cuttings. Another option would be to calculate in advance any amount of expected overage and have a plan in place for their use. This could involve planting additional containers (of the same or different size), additional combinations or save to use towards the next week’s plantings. How the additional plants are to be used is important to both profitability and labor efficiency.

Failing To Plan Is Planning To Fail
Consider using these factors as a guideline when preparing for upcoming production planning. Hopefully, growers can create a production plan that meets customer needs, and does so with increased profits and with less guesswork and stress.GG

Leave a Reply

More From Finance/Operations...

January 16, 2018

AmericanHort Partnering with MPS on Sustainability Certification

The alliance with MPS is designed to promote and expand best practices in the area of environmental sustainability, enabling the entire industry to perform better.

Read More
Thomas-Hermes

January 15, 2018

Thomas Hermes, Owner of Hermes Floral Company, Dies at 75

Thomas J. Hermes, who owned and operated Hermes Floral Company in St. Paul and Becker, MN, with his brothers before retiring in 1998, died on January 5 at age 75.

Read More

January 15, 2018

Missouri Greenhouse Grower John Tomasovic Dies

The patriarch of Tomasovic Greenhouses & Nursery, Inc. in Des Peres, MO, was a legend in the plant industry, and widely involved in many associations.

Read More
Latest Stories

January 15, 2018

Missouri Greenhouse Grower John Tomasovic Dies

The patriarch of Tomasovic Greenhouses & Nursery, Inc. in Des Peres, MO, was a legend in the plant industry, and widely involved in many associations.

Read More

January 15, 2018

Perennials Icon Louis Stacy Dies

The founder of the former Stacy's Greenhouses in York, SC, passed away on Wednesday, January 10, 2018.

Read More
Charlie Hall Feature Image

January 9, 2018

AmericanHort Launches New Video Series on Profit Margin…

This week, AmericanHort is kicking off a four-part video series that offers perspectives on managing profit margins from AmericanHort’s Chief Economist, Dr. Charlie Hall.

Read More
Tax-Money

January 9, 2018

What You Need to Know About the New Tax Bill

The United Fresh Produce Association, which represents the needs and interests of fruit and vegetable growers, recently updated its members on how the recent passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act might affect their businesses. Many of the insights provided by United Fresh also apply to greenhouse growers and nurseries.

Read More
Doug Cole, Owner of D.S. Cole Growers

January 4, 2018

D.S. Cole Growers Blazes Its Own Path to Growth

Known for its commitment to sustainability and innovation, this grower is one of the pioneering trailblazers changing the way horticulture does business.

Read More

December 31, 2017

Ag Exemption for New Trucking Regulation Still Under Re…

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s trucking electronic logging device mandate, which took effect on December 18, includes an Hours of Service exemption that may or may not apply to greenhouses and nurseries.

Read More
Tillandsia Air Plants (Plantiflor)

December 15, 2017

Bonsall Nursery Devastated By California Wildfire

Rainforest Flora lost its main greenhouses and outdoor growing property in the Lilac Fire in San Diego.

Read More

December 9, 2017

Southern California Wildfires Narrowly Miss Most Grower…

Here’s an update on horticulture businesses in the areas affected by the California wildfires.

Read More

December 5, 2017

Skagit Horticulture Builds New, Inclusive Business With…

By merging two large-scale producers, Skagit Gardens and Northwest Horticulture, the new company has realized its strengths through focused divisions that emphasize efficiency and success.

Read More

December 4, 2017

Raker-Roberta’s Young Plants Debuts as Roberta’s Finali…

On December 1, Eric Wallien of Roberta’s Inc. in Waldron, IN, officially purchased C. Raker & Sons in Litchfield, MI. The new identity of the company is now Raker-Roberta’s Young Plants, according to a Dec. 1 letter to Raker’s customers, suppliers, and business partners from Vice President Susie Raker-Zimmerman. “There have been minimal changes in management and we will be providing the same products and services on which we have built our reputation in the industry,” Raker-Zimmerman said in the letter, which also announced the name change and new logo. The sale of C. Raker & Sons was announced in September . A series of events affecting Raker’s financial situation caused the need for the operation to find an alternate solution. Roberta’s had been a customer of Raker’s since 2011, and the fourth generation, family owned grower-retailer was a fan of Raker’s commitment to quality. The agreement to purchase C. […]

Read More

October 10, 2017

Sharpen Your Skills in Cost Management and Profitabilit…

The University of Florida is offering a new online course on costing and profitability. The course will take growers through the process of how to accurately evaluate cost of production, labor efficiency, pricing, and equipment investment decisions.

Read More
Willoway Nurseries Team

October 1, 2017

How Willoway Nurseries Gets Its Staff Engaged in The Co…

Willoway Nurseries in Avon, OH, is creating a culture with people who think, act, and feel like owners. Learn how its team is taking the business to the next level.

Read More

September 21, 2017

Horticulture Is All About Connections

The beauty of our industry is that we are more than willing to reach out and help those around us. What connections can you make today to help your business, and what can you offer to help another grower?

Read More
Worker taking cuttings at Vivero Internacional.

September 11, 2017

Vivero Internacional Elevates Clean Cuttings to New Hei…

One of the last independent cutting operations, this fast-growing company raises the standard for delivering clean, high-quality unrooted cuttings.

Read More
Selecta Sponsor bed at Raker trial gardens

September 5, 2017

C. Raker & Sons Acquired By Roberta’s Unique Garden…

Ownership will change hands in December, and Raker will supply young plants for the 2018 season. Beyond that, leadership of the two operations say they are excited to move forward with a partnership that will continue to supply the industry, and gardeners, with top-quality plants.

Read More

August 1, 2017

MPS Honors D.S. Cole Growers for 10 Years of Sustainabi…

At Cultivate’17, a ceremony to mark a 10-year milestone since D.S. Cole Growers became involved with More Profitable Sustainability (MPS), as the first U.S. grower to achieve MPS certification, took owner Doug Cole by surprise. Separate celebrations also recognized Metrolina Greenhouses and Dümmen Orange for achieving MPS certification.

Read More
Nexus greenhouse construction for Knox Cannabis Facility

July 27, 2017

Ornamental Growers Will Revolutionize Cannabis Industry…

Professional growers have much to offer the emerging cannabis market, according to the co-owner of Knox Medical, one of the licensed cannabis producers in Florida.

Read More
Ball ColorLink logo

July 11, 2017

Get Guidance on Running Your Business from Ball ColorLi…

Representatives from Ball ColorLink will be on-hand at Cultivate’17 to answer questions and present business-building tools and industry insights to growers.

Read More