Over the past couple of years, Bill Swanekamp, Owner of Kube-Pak in Allentown, NJ, had been looking for an efficient and cost-effective way to trim hanging baskets, sales of which have been on the rise.
“I could not find an existing trimmer made for hanging baskets that had the proper set up for what we wanted,” Swanekamp says. “The key for trimming a hanging basket is having the proper angle and speed. In the past, we would take 10 workers and put them in the greenhouse to trim baskets. Most workers felt they had to trim the basket like they were giving a haircut, and it became a very slow and time-consuming process.”
As a solution, Swanekamp decided it was best for Kube-Pak to design its own automatic trimmer. The model it developed is adjustable on three axes, allowing the user to cut the hanging basket at any angle that they want.
The cut stays tight to the basket, right under the lip for a close trim, or down at the bottom.
“It’s a very simple device to use,” Swanekamp says. “Each basket is placed inside an empty hanging basket that is attached to a rotating shaft. The speed of the rotating shaft can be modulated by a ratio of 8 to 1. We can then adjust the rotating speed to spin at just enough force that the plant starts to feel the effect of the force and moves the branches or the foliage up off the basket.”
It takes about five seconds to trim, Swanekamp says, which equates to 12 baskets trimmed per minute, or close to 720 per hour.
“So far it has been working well,” he says. “If we make any changes, it might be to figure out how to put a guard on it that does not interfere with trimming.”
Savings in Labor and Cost
“Since it only takes five seconds to actually trim a basket, setting up the job to get the maximum throughput on the trimmer requires 10 or 12 others to keep the job flowing smoothly,” Swanekamp says. “We found that if we have three people at the trimmer, one person hands a hanging basket to the person feeding the trimmer and another person takes it off. This keeps the baskets from getting backed up around the trimmer.”
Because the trimming is done right in the bay where the baskets are hanging, it reduces travel time and distance.
“You can immediately ship the hanging basket if you don’t want to hang it back up in the greenhouse,” Swanekamp says.
The other main benefit is the cost savings. Whereas the old system used to pencil out at around $2.00 per basket trimmed, the new process cuts the savings down to about 25 cents. In a time of tight margins, savings like this can add up quickly.
To watch a video of the hanging basket trimmer at Kube-Pak and see how it works, go to goo.gl/ezBPTy.