Minimizing Cart Loss

Minimizing Cart Loss

A driver recovering Container Centralen racks finds a person at the rear of a retail store loading Container Centralen equipment into a truck. That’s odd, the driver thinks, so he questions the person about the loading job.

The driver quickly realizes this person is stealing carts and planning to deliver them to a scrap metal yard. Container Centralen files a police report with the information the driver provides, and the driver now qualifies for a $500 reward as an incentive of Container Centralen’s new Equipment Protection Program.

Container Centralen wins because it maintains its equipment; the driver wins because he’s eligible for a fistful of cash; growers win because they’ll have a load of carts to use for their next shipments; and retailers win because they’ve helped their vendors keep costs down and prevented an act of theft on their property.

“Cart and rack theft varies by region,” says Sonny Costin, president of Container Centralen, a company that specializes in operating a pool of returnable transport items. “The Northeast appears to have the largest problem with scrap metal yards and cart theft. Container Centralen has only a modest presence in the Northeast, so we have not had much exposure to these problems. However, as we expand into that region, we are implementing the Equipment Protection Program and other initiatives to address these challenges.

Retailer cooperation makes a huge difference in cart loss rates, Costin says, and benefits growers, retailers and Container Centralen because lower loss rates equal lower costs–a win-win-win for all.

Minimizing Cart Loss

If you regularly ship carts and racks to your grower and retail customers, you’ve likely experienced some equipment theft. And if you’re among the few who haven’t experienced theft, you’ve surely experienced equipment loss.

Tracking carts and racks is like herding cattle: You may be able to keep the bulk of your carts and racks together, but a few are bound to break from the pack, get stolen or lost and wind up costing you money.

Strategies for minimizing equipment loss, then, are:

– Hiring an equipment manager whose job is to track the whereabouts of all carts and racks.
–Aligning with suppliers that help minimize equipment loss through technology or take responsibility for lost or stolen carts themselves; and
–Buying less expensive equipment and assuming the loss.

“A lot of growers are buying cheap, and they’re doing it because they lose carts,” says Paul Burn, technical sales representative for Wellmaster Carts. “When they lose carts, growers will say it’s better to lose a $150 cart than a $350 cart.”

Some growers, Burn says, don’t track their equipment as well as others. In some cases, growers will argue their carts are stolen when, in reality, they’re simply misplaced.

“They may have been going to a big box retailer,” Burn says, “and they wind up going someplace else inside that retail operation. Or, there are instances when that retailer may decide it needs petunias at another operation–so equipment is misplaced.”

There are other frequent instances, Burn says, when drivers are asked to pick up carts yet pick up another grower’s carts instead. So by the end of spring, growers may have 20 or more carts in house that belong to totally different growers.

A Possible Solution

One way to minimize equipment loss is through RFID (radio frequency identification) chips. Container Centralen has been using a barcode scan system for years but is now committed to RFID. Bar code scanning, Costin argues, is limited by the need for human intervention–someone has to scan–while RFID is a more sophisticated means to reduce costs.

“We are installing RFID readers at all our customer and depot locations so we have real-time tracking of every cart across the United States as Container Centralen carts move between our customers and in and out of our depots,” Costin says. “As a cart arrives at a reader location, it is seen and our system automatically processes the appropriate tracking transaction.”

Burn agrees RFID is an upgrade over other tracking systems but argues it still has its flaws.

“Radio frequency chips are inexpensive but the problem is the controlling software–it’s costly,” he says. “Then, you’re going to have one person who just monitors that program. I have some customers who do operate that way–these growers have one person whose job is maintaining carts. If you have a guy whose job is managing carts, you will be on top of things.

“But even then, you wind up in a situation of still having to find carts within a 300-foot radius with RFID.”

And if you’re searching Home Depot or acres of a Top 100 growing operation for a single cart, your time is probably better off used elsewhere. Besides, if you do find the carts you’re looking for at Home Depot, an independent garden center or another retail operation, you can’t just take them. Can you?

“Even if you do find your cart, it may have other product on it,” Burn says. “What do you tell your customer then? It’s fairly difficult to solve. There are a lot of growers who think (finding a cart through RFID) will be the solution when, really, it won’t. It only means you know where it’s at. Then, you have to get it. You have to tell a $2 million customer they need to take that other product off your cart…”

… and growers won’t dare ask that.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line with carts is all growers lose them. It’s an unfortunate part of being a grower, but it’s an accepted part of the industry here in the United States.

Still, equipment suppliers like Container Centralen are working to help growers retain carts by involving them in a common cart pool system that has growers work together for faster, more complete recovery of carts.

“Our long-term goal is to have the majority of U.S. growers within our system,” Costin says. “A common cart system does offer a lot of efficiency–most supply chains end up with a standardized unit load platform–and we know from our success in Europe that the Container Centralen cart is a great fit for both horticultural growers and retailers.

“However, in the United States, growers have already made investments in their own non-standard carts. So migration to a common pool system has to allow for the useful life of existing grower carts.”

It may be years, even decades, before a common pool cart system is developed in the U.S. For the time being, Container Centralen is trying to minimize cart loss through programs like its Equipment Protection Program that requires drivers to carry ID cards when picking up Container Centralen equipment.

The program gives drivers, store merchandising teams and staff from participating retailers the ability to request that whoever’s picking up equipment present their ID (see ID on page 41). If a person is unable to present an ID, this can be reported to Container Centralen for a follow-up investigation and possible police action. To encourage reporting, Container Centralen is offering a cash reward program for receipt of actionable information.

“Getting on top of cart theft is going to be the result of multiple efforts,” Costin says. “Container Centralen’s driver ID program is one step. Increased understanding from retailers about how their cooperation can help reduce cart theft and related vendor costs is another, and a few high-profile examples of cart thieves being brought to justice will all help chip away at the problem.”

Leave a Reply

More From Equipment...
Mike McGroarty, owner of Mike’s Backyard Nursery

July 29, 2015

Backyard Success: Mike McGroarty Educates Aspiring Growers

Mike’s Backyard Nursery sits on a long, narrow, 5-acre property located in Perry, Ohio. There, customers can find a variety of flowering shrubs available, all in 2-quart pots, and all for sale for $5.97 each. Owner Mike McGroarty, a lifelong resident of Perry, says the town has a lot of plant nurseries, including 100 wholesale growers within a 10-mile radius of his house. That doesn’t discourage McGroarty, because he knows that while there are a lot of nurseries in his area, no one else is doing what he is doing. McGroarty has learned about plants — and marketing them to his audience — through decades of experience. He has never hesitated to pass along his knowledge to other growers looking to start their own backyard operations, and has created an entire program to educate aspiring growers. McGroarty Likes To Practice What He Preaches McGroarty’s operation serves as the laboratory for […]

Read More

July 29, 2015

2015 Spring Crops Report: Rain Soaks Spring Sales

Rain, rain and more rain. That was the story this spring for the large majority of growers across the U.S. And where it wasn’t too wet, it was too dry. Drought conditions cut sales in the West and Southwest. But it wasn’t all bad. Eighty-nine percent of respondents to Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Spring Crops Survey declared the season a success, despite its challenges. They said beautiful weather in April and excited consumers who were ready to spend got the season going early, but then cool temps and rainy weekends throughout May and June caused confusion over when and how much to plant. Of the 189 respondents to Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Spring Recap Survey, 53 percent identified themselves as grower-retailers, 34 percent were wholesale growers and 13 percent said they were young plant growers. Most responses came from the Midwest (27 percent), Northeast (18 percent) and Southeast (16 percent), but also […]

Read More

July 29, 2015

Dümmen Orange Continues To Strengthen Standards With MPS Certification

MPS recognized Dümmen Orange during an unofficial ceremony at Cultivate’15 for its continued dedication to ensuring sustainability in the floriculture industry. Through its deep understanding of environmental impact and the importance of sustainable operations, Dümmen Orange has implemented production best practices within its facilities to meet or exceed MPS standards on environmental and agricultural practices, as well as social responsibility. “Nowadays, consumers are not only interested in the visible and tangible characteristics of the products they buy, they also are concerned with how products are made,” says Carl Kroon, General Manager of the Dümmen Orange farm Las Mercedes in El Salvador. “Dümmen Orange is deeply rooted in our commitment to our people, our values and our planet. The MPS certification helps us to make it visible to our customers that our production methods respect our workers and the environment.” Setting A High Standard Dümmen Orange has taken a wide range […]

Read More
Latest Stories
Heating Feature image

July 27, 2015

In Hot Pursuit Of Heating Trends For The Greenhouse

From biomass boilers to hydronic-heating systems, growers have a range of options to fit their operation’s unique needs. Here’s what five manufacturers had to say about the latest trends.

Read More
lighting feature

June 29, 2015

Customizing Crop Foliage Color With LEDs: Red Leaf Let…

In the first of a four-part series highlighting the multiple uses of light-emitting diodes (LEDs), researchers share how end-of-production supplemental lighting with LEDs enhances red leaf lettuce color prior to harvesting and shipping.

Read More

June 28, 2015

Keep Your Cool In The Greenhouse

Summer is in full swing, and that means growers need to worry about protecting plants and greenhouse employees from brutal temperatures. No sweat! These product manufacturers have offerings to help beat the heat.

Read More
Greenhouse Electrical System

June 23, 2015

Don’t Let Your Greenhouse Electrical System Come …

The size of a greenhouse operation is one of the biggest factors when determining the type of electrical system to install. Part 2 of "Don't Let Your Electrical System Come Up Short" covers locating electrical wires, meeting electrical load demands and environmental considerations.

Read More
Schaefer-fan

June 23, 2015

Schaefer Ventilation Opens Distribution Center In Atlan…

Schaefer Ventilation Equipment, a manufacturer of ventilation and thermal comfort products, has opened a new distribution center in Atlanta, Ga., to increase efficiency and provide faster services to dealers. Additionally, the company has added a new staff member to its agricultural and horticultural division to help expand markets in Latin America.

Read More
HID Lighting System

June 18, 2015

Talking Shop: Using Lighting To Boost Beneficials

Peace Tree Farm was looking for a way to maintain beneficial insect populations through the winter. It found a potential solution through the use of rotating HID lighting.

Read More

June 17, 2015

Costa Farms Reduces Greenhouse Emissions With Solar Pow…

Costa Farms is seeking to make sustainability a top priority at its headquarters and two other buildings in Miami with the recent construction of new solar panels, which will replace 25 percent of the company's power usage with solar energy.

Read More
aquatrols

June 3, 2015

Aquatrols Renews Cooperative Research And Development A…

Aquatrols Corporation recently announced a new Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with Dr. Matt Madsen and the USDA Agricultural Research Service. The objective of the new CRADA is to further refine and evaluate surfactant seed coating technologies for use in wildfire rehabilitation, turf and pasture grasses, restoration species and other horticultural and agricultural systems. The three-year agreement renews a CRADA that Aquatrols first signed with the ARS in 2012. The original partnership has resulted in promising field and greenhouse trials, pending patents and initial steps toward commercialization of the surfactant seed coating technology. “We are very encouraged by the work that Dr. Madsen and his team have put together over the past three years,” says Aquatrols’ President and CEO Tracy Jarman. “This innovative technology has shown incredible potential with wide-ranging impacts in multiple industries. Aquatrols’ stated mission is to change the way the world grows and this technology has the […]

Read More
Growers are looking for low-cost options for temperature control, like circulating fans and exhaust fans.

April 10, 2015

New Ways To Give Growers Control Of The Greenhouse Envi…

From heating systems to circulation fans, manufacturing companies are finding new ways to help growers control the greenhouse environment, save on energy costs and streamline production.

Read More
Polyarch Berns

March 12, 2015

The Energy Efficient Greenhouse

New coverings technology means today’s films, plastics, shade cloths and climate screens slash heating and cooling costs while improving crop productivity year round. We checked with manufacturers to see what’s new and uncovered some best practices for buttoning up your greenhouse. Here’s what you need to know about the latest trends.

Read More
FormFlex_MTZ Hanging Basket

March 11, 2015

4 New Ways To Automate Your Operation

These new automation products can help streamline labor-intensive tasks, saving time and labor and increasing productivity.

Read More
Outfitting Your Greenhouse

February 24, 2015

Save Energy With The Right Greenhouse Glazing

The glazing you choose can make a big difference in your energy bill and the uniformity of your crops.

Read More
Michigan State University Extension

February 24, 2015

Ethylene From Defective Greenhouse Heaters Damages Crop…

Malfunctioning greenhouse heaters can lead to crop damage from ethylene and carbon monoxide induced illness for workers. Michigan State University's Extension educators Tom Dudek and Randy Beaudry teach you how to recognize the symptoms and check greenhouse heaters to avoid the concern.

Read More
Havest Automation Robot

February 18, 2015

Robots Grab Hold Of Growers’ Material Handling Needs

Harvest Automation’s HV-100 robots automate one of the hardest, most labor-intensive jobs at growing operations – plant spacing. With more technology coming, investing in robots could become even more realistic for growers of all sizes.

Read More

February 1, 2015

4 Lighting Products For Your Operation

These new lighting products have been developed for maximum energy efficiency in greenhouse production. Check out the slideshow to see which products are right for your operation.

Read More
LumiGrow

January 30, 2015

LumiGrow Expands Customer Base In 2014

LumiGrow, Inc. is adding more than 125 new commercial, governmental and research customers to its roster of customers, and beyond the new accounts added this year, many existing customers significantly increased the number of LumiGrow products they use and research customers made LumiGrow a part of their efforts to add to the body of knowledge about spectral science.

Read More
harvest automation featured image

January 13, 2015

Harvest Automation Extends Robot Rental Program

Harvest Automation's robot rental program proved to be such a success for the company that it is being extended through the spring. The program was unveiled last year as a way for customers to get started with HV-100 robots.

Read More

January 9, 2015

Innovations In Irrigation

Need help improving your irrigation? Check out these new products.

Read More