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...

March 4, 2015

Nexus Corporation’s Cheryl Longtin Encourages Women To Seek Volunteer Leadership Opportunities

When Cheryl Longtin came to the horticulture business in 1994, she applied her experience in the automotive industry to promote the adoption of more technology in greenhouse production. Longtin says horticulture, with its rich family tradition, has long promoted women in the industry compared to other industries, but women in horticulture must continue to seek out opportunities to provide volunteer leadership in organizations that shape the future of the business.

Read More

March 4, 2015

Second Annual GreenhouseConnect Will Bring Growers and Suppliers Together in San Diego This October

Following a successful inaugural event in Tampa last fall, Greenhouse Grower has announced the dates of its second annual GreenhouseConnect: October 26-29, 2015. Representatives of an expected two dozen leading greenhouse operations from across the U.S. will join senior-level suppliers at Rancho Bernardo Inn in San Diego for several days of one-on-one strategic meetings, a growers-only roundtable, informational sessions and a variety of networking events.

Read More
cultivate'15 logo

March 4, 2015

Cultivate’15: AmericanHort Announces What’s New

In an industry that has seen major changes occurring at a fast pace, many industry professionals leave Cultivate with their heads spinning and no clear idea of how to regroup and strategize. Cultivate’15 is “Changing the Game.” As this year’s focus, Changing the Game will call your attention to the ways in which our industry has changed and your opportunities to compete successfully.

Read More
Latest Stories

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
Perennials in hoop house

February 21, 2014

Overwintering Perennials: Plan Ahead To Fungicide Drenc…

Demand for perennials has increased as consumers educate themselves and seek out new and improved varieties. Overwintering perennials can become an important profit center. Here's some advice on how to overwinter successfully.

Read More
Cold damage to ipomoea

February 11, 2014

Chilling Injury On Cuttings: What To Look For

During this young plant production season when many growers receive unrooted cuttings, liners and plugs for spring production. Cuttings shippers are delaying deliveries because the tender cuttings cannot withstand the frigid temperatures.

Read More