Greenhouse Grower caught up with Container Centralen (CC) President Sonny Costin, who shares his vision for a rented transported cart system in the United States, his take on the effectiveness of RFID in tracking carts and more.
Are there a lot of carts purchases being made by growers right now?
Cart usage and growth is very strong. Retailers strongly prefer delivery on carts over floor-loaded trailers. In addition, retailers want live plants delivered using sustainable packaging.
Container Centralen’s cart system offers a nationwide sustainable packing system for the horticultural industry and this has reinforced growth in usage of CC carts. In addition, larger growers are buying in more and more product and want their inbound purchases to flow seamlessly into their businesses – this is another major source of growth for horticultural carts.
Lost carts: How big a problem are they for U.S. growers?
Anybody who uses carts has an exposure to some level of cart loss. When growers operate their own carts they appear vulnerable to relatively high loss rates. The CC system enables growers to work together for faster and more complete recovery of carts. This allows CC and its customer to achieve lower loss rates than most growers who operate their own independent fleet of carts.
RFID obviously has a future in tracking carts. Are there other potential solutions to tracking?
We have been using a barcode scan system but have now committed to our RFID tracking project. Bar code scanning is limited by the need for human intervention – someone has to remember to scan.
We are installing RFID readers at all our customer and depot locations so as CC carts move between our customers and in and out of our depots, we have real-time tracking of every cart across the U.S. As a CC cart arrives at a reader location, our system automatically processes the appropriate tracking transaction.
What are some of the best strategies you’ve seen greenhouse growers use to manage carts?
We work with many growers and most struggle with this challenge. Lack of strong, formalized control of carts at retail locations is the major issue. However, the other common denominator is the level of effort invested in documenting what is shipped to and recovered from each retail location. Growers who truly focus on this task and engage or incentivize their drivers do better than growers who don’t do these things.
Do you envision all U.S. growers being part of a rented transport system some day?
Our long-term goal is to have the majority of U.S. growers within our system. A common cart system does offer a lot of efficiency – most supply chains end up with a standardized unit load platform. We know from our success in Europe that the CC cart is a great fit for both horticultural growers and retailers.
But in the U.S., 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 those carts to expire.
Learn more about Container Centralen on its website at Container-Centralen.com.