Minimizing Mistakes

Minimizing Mistakes

Bruce Knox grabbed a tray of gerbera plugs, turned to place it inside a box and immediately stopped as a foghorn sounded to indicate some kind of shipping error.

The color listed for the order was exactly right, and the description seemed to be spot on. At the time, Bruce was demonstrating Knox Nursery’s new RFID program to a broker. So he continued to scan the tray three or four times before turning to place it in the box, and that foghorn sounded on cue three or four more times.

What on earth was the problem?

“He was trying to pack a 384 tray size for a 105 on the order,” says D.J. Matthews, internal developer at Knox Nursery. “That one mistake would have been about $100.”

Well then, that’s one solid demonstration. It’s also just one example of a $100 shipping error Knox Nursery, located in Winter Garden, Fla., has avoided since implementing the RFID program for plugs early this year. Consider the number of $100 mistakes that could occur in an hour, a day, a week or a month, and the savings there obviously add up tremendously.

Knox has, however, found multiple ways to save at the shipping stage because of its ability to track an assortment of data with RFID labels. Wrong tray size was a common shipping error, Matthews says, and one wrong tray size error can lead to a domino effect of other errors.

“By correcting this error, it could save money utilizing the correct, less expensive unit,” Knox says. “It will then also make certain that the correct item will be available for another order. There will be no cost incurred from the need to reship the proper item when the customer receives an incorrect item.”

Instant Information

The most important savings with the investment of an RFID program for Knox Nursery might be in reputation. Brokers, like everybody else, crave information–and they certainly don’t want the runaround when they call or e-mail about the status of trays they’ve just ordered.

Knox Nursery brokers are fortunate, though, because Knox can now track orders through FedEx once labels are printed. Knox even notifies brokers by e-mail when trays are headed out the door, and it links them to the FedEx Web site with the tracking number of their trays.

“There was one instance where we had a broker here, and I just set up the e-mail notification system that sends out e-mail tracking numbers,” Matthews says. “We shipped an order, hit a button and within two minutes, a woman with a PDA (personal digital assistant) received an e-mail about her order from us right there on the spot while we were there talking. Everybody was just astounded that we could do that.”

The RFID program, called Growers Own, also captures information at delivery. Before RFID was implemented, brokers would call Knox and explain how their grower customers hadn’t received a particular order when, in fact, they might have yet simply didn’t know it. Knox had to issue a few credits back then, but now it knows who signed for packages and when they were delivered–and it can feed that information back to brokers.

Growers Own, which is software that encompasses inventory, production, RFID and other aspects of Knox Nursery, also helped the company catch one major shipping error this year.

“We billed a broker for FedEx, and we were getting billed for it,” Matthews says. “At the time, it was a $20,000 mistake.”

What’s Next?

For Knox, the transition from traditional bar codes to RFID on plugs is still an ongoing process. Still, workers who might have questioned a switch to RFID a year ago are now on board with the program after witnessing first hand how it increases the speed and efficiency of simple tasks that probably took up too much time for many years.

“Shipping was very hectic because you had to make sure that all the boxes had labels, and if you needed an extra label, you had to go into the office and print it,” Matthews says. “That stopped the person in the office from what they were doing, and they also had to print out all the packing lists. In a day, that could be hundreds of pages of packing lists that we had to put into boxes.”

Now, as orders are completed, packing lists are automatically printed. Time is saved, frustration is lessened and data that workers once counted by hand is now calculated scanned inventory.

And that tray that workers say they counted but is nowhere to be found?

“Now, we actually know they counted it because we can track the scan they counted it on,” Matthews says. “There have been times we’ve proven trays are out there when the crew isn’t sure they are. When we say there’s a tray out there somewhere, they believe it.”

Looking Ahead

The next step for Knox Nursery and its new technology is to find different ways to use Growers Own. Knox would like the program to be able to locate the exact position of each tray in the greenhouse.
Matthews and Brian Levine, manager of information systems, have talked about stationing marker RFID tags throughout the greenhouse. As workers read the marker tags, they can also read tags on trays. And depending on where marker tags are placed, trays could be pinpointed to a 10- or 20-foot radius.

“Going from 3 acres to 10 to 20 feet is a huge improvement,” Matthews says. “We’ve tested it. What we’ve gotten is pretty accurate and being able to print this information out would reduce the time our pullers are actually out there looking for orders.”
Bruce has also seen increasing interest from other growers about using Growers Own, which Knox might eventually market.

“There is no denying the effectiveness of Growers Own, only a concern on the payback for each growing operation,” he says. “The interesting aspect of the various growers’ interest is to watch each grower determine how this program would best benefit their operation. I believe that everyone wants RFID. They’re watching to see how the technology evolves.”

Leave a Reply

More From Plant Culture...
Hendriks-Half-Open-Roof_GGS

March 26, 2015

10 Greenhouse Products For First-Rate Growing Environments

From coverings to fork-lifts, greenhouse suppliers offer a variety of products to make growing easier. Check out the slideshow to learn more about these, plus several other products that can offer you value, versatility and durability.

Read More
Rose rosette on Knockout rose, April 2012. Photo credit: Alan Windham, University of Tennessee

March 25, 2015

$58 Million In APHIS Farm Bill Funding Will Support Horticulture Priorities

Nearly $58 million as been allocated by the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to support the industry's Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention Program, under Farm Bill Section 10007. The program will support mitigation efforts for specialty crops, including providing research and other funding to address plant pest and disease priorities for the specialty crop industry, including floriculture and nursery crops.

Read More
AFE scholarship_Ryan Dickson

March 25, 2015

AFE Educational Grant And Scholarship Application Deadlines Approaching

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
Latest Stories
Bee on a Sedum

March 17, 2015

4 Key Pollinator Research Projects To Be Funded By Hort…

The Horticultural Research Institute will grant $125,000 in financial support for four key projects as part of the Horticultural Industry Bee & Pollinator Stewardship Initiative. The Initiative has three primary goals. First, to convene a task force to develop a bee and pollinator stewardship program, including creation of best management practices for plant production. Second, to identify and fund research that will help answer key science questions and fill gaps needed to design and refine the stewardship program. Third, to seek to positively position the horticultural community and its customers by collaborating with other compatible groups interested in augmenting pollinator habitat and protection.

Read More

March 11, 2015

Pollinator Initiative Promotes Bee-Friendly Talking Poi…

AmericanHort and the Society of American Florists are working tirelessly with the ornamental industry's Pollinator Stewardship Initiative on a number of new projects.

Read More

February 11, 2015

Infusion Technology Boosts Seed Performance, Study Sugg…

Seven-year-old wheat seed germination can increase by as much as 83 percent, according to a Vital Force Technology Study that looks at the effects of energy infusion technology on plant vitality.

Read More

February 3, 2015

American Floral Endowment Accepting Research Pre-Propos…

If you are pursuing a floriculture research project, now is the time to apply for funding through the American Floral Endowment. Research pre-proposal applications for 2015-2016 funding are due to AFE by June 1, 2015.

Read More

January 27, 2015

Marijuana’s Trajectory And Ascent To Horticultural Cr…

Marijuana growing is poised for change as growers and researchers focus on improving production practices.

Read More

December 9, 2014

Greenhouse Production: Two Years Of Basics & Beyond…

Greenhouse Grower's Basics & Beyond articles cover some of the latest news and research going on in greenhouse production. Here are article links for the last two years.

Read More
GrowIt! App Wins Gold At Design100 2014 US Mobile & App Design Awards

November 24, 2014

GrowIt! App Wins Gold At Design100 2014 US Mobile &…

The social garden app GrowIt! takes the Gold Winner award at the design100 2014 Mobile & App Design Awards.

Read More

November 10, 2014

The Perennial Farm Joins HGTV HOME Plant Collection

The Perennial Farm joins the HGTV HOME Plant Collection growers' network for 2015.

Read More
AmericanHort

November 4, 2014

AmericanHort Publishes Revised American Standard For Nu…

AmericanHort announces the revised American Standard for Nursery Stock (ANSI Z60.1) is now available for industry use. The Standard reflects the consensus of the industry regarding how nursery stock — living plants other than annuals — should be specified and sold within the trade.

Read More

September 26, 2014

Master The Art Of Watering

Watering is elemental to healthy plants, but one of the hardest concepts for new employees to master in the greenhouse. Recommend these tips to start them off right.

Read More

September 16, 2014

Ball FloraPlant’s Las Limas Facility Provides Gro…

Ball FloraPlant’s Las Limas farm in Esteli, Nicaragua, is one year away from full production, but sales and quality from the two-year-old facility are right on track.

Read More
Erysimum 'Cheers' from Darwin Perennials

September 15, 2014

Darwin Perennials Takes Production Offshore In Bogota, …

With its recent purchase of a farm in Colombia, Darwin Perennials is ready to amp up supply of its perennial genetics, to provide growers with tried-and-true varieties and comprehensive production specifications.

Read More

July 23, 2014

Plan Now To Prevent Bract Edge Burn On Poinsettias

Reduce fertilizer and water, and allow your poinsettias to develop slowly during the final four weeks of production to avoid bract edge burn.

Read More

July 11, 2014

Growing Your Crops Above Their Base Temperature

Lowering temperature set points in the greenhouse may help you combat rising heating costs.

Read More

May 1, 2014

Growers Report Nutritional Problems On Geraniums

In recent weeks, several growers have contacted Michigan State University Specialists about leaf discoloration on geraniums, especially the purpling of lower leaves.

Read More

April 22, 2014

How Two Postharvest Care Products Worked On Potted Plan…

What your potted plants look like at retail translates to sales or fails. North Carolina State University researchers report on how two postharvest care products performed.

Read More
Dianthus 'Passion' from Emerald Coast Growers

March 27, 2014

Growing Dianthus Successfully

Here's some advice on transplanting and producing this classic perennial favorite.

Read More
Aquilegia canadensis

March 10, 2014

Tips For Producing Aquilegia

Advice on planting, temperature, vernalization, lighting and more on columbine from Emerald Coast Growers' head grower Josiah Raymer.

Read More