Choosing Shipping And Distribution Software

For big businesses that ship many things to many places, distribution software can optimize loads to minimize costs.

It often surprises me to hear how many growers don’t use adequate software for shipping and distribution. Sometimes they don’t use any software for shipping and distribution — just spreadsheets, paper and a whiteboard.

Why? For most growers, the cost of shipping and distribution is among the highest for line items. The return on investment of logistics software and automation, however, is one of the shortest you will find. In some cases, the investment is returned in a matter of days — or during your next shipment run.
If I were to give you the following offer, would you take it? You give someone $1 on Monday, and by Friday, you will have reduced your costs by $2?

Of course you would. In the same way you use automation for your greenhouse or shade house operations, like watering, heating, air flow control, potting, etc., you should also look at every area of your operation to automate shipping and distribution.

After you automate, you will wonder why you didn’t do it sooner. For example, how many of you still have a person walking around turning watering systems on and off all day, every day? Nobody does this. You just set the automated systems and, from time to time, you make adjustments.

The same is true for shipping and distribution. Large and successful growers use a transportation management system (TMS) that can automate and control 90 percent of the shipping and distribution needs of a typical growing operation. The software shows how to load the trucks, optimize the loads, route the drivers, assign the right trailer and driver, manage fuel and smoothly coordinate third-party carriers and drivers that supplement your own trucks. From loading to dispatch to delivery, every aspect is fully controlled — and the transportation costs are managed and reduced. Moreover, the reporting and analysis  capabilities are worth their weight in gold when it comes to tweaking your distribution operations to further reduce costs.

Types Of Transportation Management Systems

Growers generally have two options when it comes to a TMS: a packaged system and a stand-alone system. Your size and sophistication — and annual load
volume —will determine which is right for you.

Packaged Systems

A packaged system is usually a module or add-on to your existing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. Now, I know that very few growers use a true ERP. Most growers use a system that manages inventory, growing cycles, invoicing and input management, which is used to track the expense to get the plants to a marketable state and determine the right price to charge. Many of these software applications have very basic shipping and distribution management built in. These are often good enough for general use and for smaller growers, such as those outside of the annual Greenhouse Grower Top 100 Growers list.

Because these shipping and distribution modules are built by your software vendor, they are usually integrated into your other operational processes. This means you can move plant material that is ready to be shipped from the inventory area of your software to the shipping area and then to the billing area in a seamless manner.

The downside is that many of these shipping and distribution modules are nothing more than a display that shows a status change of the plants from “in inventory” to “being shipped,” and they don’t actually manage the process at a deep level, such as optimizing the loads, routing the trucks, managing third-party drivers and carriers and allowing detailed cost reporting. Therefore, you may not be able to see your true landed cost of the final material after it was shipped.  
For most small growers, however, such packaged systems do an adequate job and offer the basics.

Stand-Alone Systems

Large growers (and by large I mean those on the Greenhouse Grower Top 100 list) almost always need a stand-alone system that is often integrated to their ERP systems with real-time data exchange to the shipping and distribution system. Large growers’ shipping and distribution needs usually consist of moving freight via their own trucks, logistics brokers, asset based third-party carriers and even power-only tractor providers pulling company-owned or leased trailers. A packaged system is just too basic to provide an adequate solution to properly manage each of these needs.

Most stand-alone systems can integrate with your grower software through manual import and export functionality or through an automated solution. Both integration methods provide the same results, and your choice of integration will be based on the length of your growing season and load volume.  
A true stand-alone TMS provides 100 percent of what you require when it comes to your shipping and distribution needs.

Costs To Consider

As always, there is a cost. Money and time are both rare resources.
If you have an ERP platform or grower software installed already, then look there first. Some vendors may include the shipping and distribution module as part of the package price, but don’t expect too much in terms of features if they do.
If you decide that you need to get a stand-alone system, the cost can be anywhere from $50 per month for the most basic system to more than $1 million upfront (plus annual license fees) for the most comprehensive and complex system.

In my opinion, no grower, even in the Top 100, needs the type of system that large retailers or manufacturers need. So don’t spend more than you need buying a system that does more than you will use. Spending $50 per month or a few thousand dollars per year for multiple users and locations is a good place to start. You can always upgrade to bigger and better systems if needed.

The Future Of TMS Systems

One big plus today is that the entire world is moving to hosted or web-based systems, and that is where you should be heading. Let someone else take all the technical headaches away, so you can focus on the features and functions that meet your needs. That way, all you need is an internet connection and a web browser — and a firm desire to automate and control your shipping and distribution operations.

Leave a Reply

4 comments on “Choosing Shipping And Distribution Software

  1. We had a logistics system at my old job and it worked great. my new nursery is a little smaller and they don't have one and it is chaos in season. the need one bad. we are looking at at http://www.TheFreeTMS.com which is InMotion Global. They have been around for many years and they new system is totally free. if you need a good system that is free for any user that is it. Systems to buy are $50,000 to $200,000 for a grower plus annual license fees.

  2. We had a logistics system at my old job and it worked great. my new nursery is a little smaller and they don't have one and it is chaos in season. the need one bad. we are looking at at http://www.TheFreeTMS.com which is InMotion Global. They have been around for many years and they new system is totally free. if you need a good system that is free for any user that is it. Systems to buy are $50,000 to $200,000 for a grower plus annual license fees.

  3. We intergrate your TMS system into ours to provide reliable trucks when you need them. I ship Horticultural and produce everyday everywhere in north america. Give me a call. 513-831-2600 x53624 ACorcoran@tql.com

More From ...
PP&L CAST 2015 intros

April 22, 2015

6 Breeding Companies Serve Up New Varieties At Pacific Plug & Liner

Pacific Plug & Liner’s theme this year, Labyrinth, a conservatory of the world’s most captivating plants, was perfectly topped off (pun intended) with fascinators for the women and newsboy caps for the men. The PP&L team dressed their part to act out the gothic “conservatory of the world’s most captivating plants.” Truly, the displays looked like they practically popped out of a catalog, and the costumes were a nice touch. Retailers take heed, the fully merchandised displays at Pacific Plug & Liner are worthy of emulating. We’ll let the pictures tell the story of all the fabulous variety introductions presented at  Pacific Plug & Liner’s 2015 California Spring Trials, where Cultivaris, Cohen Nurseries, Histil Nurseries, Jaldety Nurseries, Southern Living/Sunset Collection and Pacific Plug & Liner all highlighted their 2016 introductions.  

Read More
Speedling 2015 CAST intros

April 22, 2015

Speedling Inc. Presents New Varieties From ABZ Seeds, Hem Genetics, Thompson & Morgan, Vista Farms & PSI

You name it, we saw it at Speedling's California Spring Trials location in San Juan Bautista, where five companies showed off their new introductions for 2016.

Read More
PittMoss on Shark Tank

April 22, 2015

PittMoss Wins On Shark Tank

Mont Handley, president and CEO of PittMoss, appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank on April 17 to try to get the “sharks” to invest in his peat moss alternative. Three investors from the TV show contributed $600,000 to PittMoss for a 35 percent stake in the company. Check out this clip from ABC’s website in which Mark Cuban, Kevin O’Leary and Robert Herjavec discuss getting on board with the product. PittMoss is an alternative to sphagnum peat moss, made up of a mix of proprietary additives and recycled paper rescued from landfill space. Handley founded the Pittsburgh-based company in 1994. What started as a small experiment grew into a full-fledged business with the help of funding provided by an EPA SBIR grant and Pittsburgh’s Idea Foundry. Today, PittMoss is available to commercial greenhouses and nurseries from Michigan to Maine to North Carolina, with plans to grow. To learn more, visit PittMoss’ website, or check it […]

Read More
Latest Stories
PP&L CAST 2015 intros

April 22, 2015

6 Breeding Companies Serve Up New Varieties At Pacific …

Pacific Plug & Liner’s theme this year, Labyrinth, a conservatory of the world’s most captivating plants, was perfectly topped off (pun intended) with fascinators for the women and newsboy caps for the men. The PP&L team dressed their part to act out the gothic “conservatory of the world’s most captivating plants.” Truly, the displays looked like they practically popped out of a catalog, and the costumes were a nice touch. Retailers take heed, the fully merchandised displays at Pacific Plug & Liner are worthy of emulating. We’ll let the pictures tell the story of all the fabulous variety introductions presented at  Pacific Plug & Liner’s 2015 California Spring Trials, where Cultivaris, Cohen Nurseries, Histil Nurseries, Jaldety Nurseries, Southern Living/Sunset Collection and Pacific Plug & Liner all highlighted their 2016 introductions.  

Read More
Speedling 2015 CAST intros

April 22, 2015

Speedling Inc. Presents New Varieties From ABZ Seeds, H…

You name it, we saw it at Speedling's California Spring Trials location in San Juan Bautista, where five companies showed off their new introductions for 2016.

Read More
PittMoss on Shark Tank

April 22, 2015

PittMoss Wins On Shark Tank

Mont Handley, president and CEO of PittMoss, appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank on April 17 to try to get the “sharks” to invest in his peat moss alternative. Three investors from the TV show contributed $600,000 to PittMoss for a 35 percent stake in the company. Check out this clip from ABC’s website in which Mark Cuban, Kevin O’Leary and Robert Herjavec discuss getting on board with the product. PittMoss is an alternative to sphagnum peat moss, made up of a mix of proprietary additives and recycled paper rescued from landfill space. Handley founded the Pittsburgh-based company in 1994. What started as a small experiment grew into a full-fledged business with the help of funding provided by an EPA SBIR grant and Pittsburgh’s Idea Foundry. Today, PittMoss is available to commercial greenhouses and nurseries from Michigan to Maine to North Carolina, with plans to grow. To learn more, visit PittMoss’ website, or check it […]

Read More
Danziger_Coreopsis_Solanna Glow1

April 22, 2015

Industry Perspective: McHutchison’s Vaughn Fletch…

Vaughn Fletcher with McHutchison Horticultural Distributors is part of Greenhouse Grower‘s Medal Of Excellence For Industry’s Choice Panel. Fletcher recounts some of the standout varieties he saw while visiting Danziger "Dan" Flower Farms and Beekenkamp during California Spring Trials.

Read More
Lomandra-Platinum-Beauty-Ball

April 22, 2015

Allan Armitage Finds A Lot To Love On His Last Day At T…

On the last day of the 2015 California Spring Trials, Allan Armitage and the Greenhouse Grower team visited three stops that accounted for 12 breeding companies. From annuals and perennials to herbs and strawberries, Armitage found plenty to get excited about.

Read More
CrownBees_Blue-Orchard-Bee-Female_Artz

April 21, 2015

There’s Still Time Left In Crown Bees’ Camp…

There is a little more than a week left in Crown Bees’ Indiegogo fund-raising venture designed to give garden center retailers a chance to help increase awareness of native bees, and to increase the number of bees to pollinate local food. The company is raising $100,000 to redesign “Bee with Me,” a social network that connects, maps and empowers bee boosters across the U.S. Garden centers that take part in the campaign can: Be listed as a local resource for products and supplies in the online network Get access to and activate a new group of customers Be viewed as a leader in the community Be seen as a source of local expertise. Within your own store and brand, there are several ways you can also help to raise awareness about native bees, such as educating customers about the gentle nature of solitary bees. Visit CrownBees.com for some easy facts to pass […]

Read More
Viola 'Yellow Purple Wing'

April 21, 2015

Benary Combines Fun Marketing Ideas With Strong New Pla…

It's no surprise that Benary, which built its company on begonia breeding more than 100 years ago, still has a magical touch when it comes to the genus. Two standouts among a field of great introductions were begonias.

Read More
Syngenta CAST 2015

April 21, 2015

Syngenta’s Getting Crafty With Containers

Containers seem to be the name of the game for Syngenta, perhaps because the company knows that the consumer garden of today and of the future is on the deck. From Kwik Kombos to veggies, Syngenta’s California Spring Trials display provided a variety of options and information that growers and retailers can use to drive consumer success. Bengal is a new series of F1 seed gerberas in six classic colors. The big brother to the popular Jaguar gerbera series, Bengal gerberas have a larger flower but remain compact in containers, and they’re ideal for six-inch and larger pots. The grandiflora F1 hybrid Tritunia series is a compilation of genetics from three different petunia lines, to allow Syngenta Flowers to declutter the market and growers to simplify their orders. Tritunia is available in 20 colors and three mixes. Kwik Kombos, Syngenta’s line of mixed containers, is a big deal for the breeder and […]

Read More
Danziger CAST 2015

April 21, 2015

Danziger Highlights The Best Of Its 2016 New Variety In…

After a long day during California Spring Trials (CAST), Vice President of Marketing Chanochi Zaks highlighted the cream of the crop among Danziger “Dan” Flower Farm’s new varieties. Check out the slideshow to see the 10 varieties that CAST attendees were most excited about.

Read More

April 21, 2015

2015 Paul Ecke Jr. Scholarship Goes To Daniel Klittich

The American Floral Endowment presented University of California Davis student Daniel Klittich with the 2015 Paul Ecke Jr. Scholarship. Klittich will receive $5,000 for two consecutive years, provided he continues to meet scholarship requirements.

Read More
Green Mum Basket

April 21, 2015

Growers Face Dilemma In Managing Plant Growth

Whether you’re applying plant growth regulators, manually pinching plants or using automated trimming, the most important thing is to find the right balance.

Read More

April 20, 2015

Three Michigan State University On-Demand Webinars Offe…

The first rule of effective insect and disease control for vegetables is to take action to prevent problems before they occur. But in order to do that, you need to have an effective pest and disease management strategy in place that incorporates best practices to ensure a successful outcome. Michigan State University offers three pest and disease management on-demand webinars that will get you started and keep you on the right track.

Read More
PW_Sakata_CAST15-4

April 20, 2015

Sakata’s Celosia ‘Dragon’s Breath’ Steals The Show In S…

Since January, when I first saw celosia ‘Dragon’s Breath’ in the landscape at Costa Farms’ Season Premier, I knew it looked like a great plant that would garner some serious attention. And sure enough, up and down the trials road, people were talking about Sakata’s hot new introduction. Celosia ‘Dragon’s Breath’ is a seed-propagated, plume-type celosia that is said to actually perform better with less fertilizer and water. If it’s fed too much, its dark leaves lose their reddish-purple coloring and turn green, and by restricting water, it tends to bloom more. It tends to be a more vigorous plant than other plume-type celosias, and its large blooms are quite attractive. Sakata also introduced a new series of African Marigolds. Proud Mari comes in Orange, Yellow and Gold, and has huge, fist-sized flowers that bloom vigorously. New colors in SuperCal petunias are L.A. Yellow and Pink, and they are fabulous additions […]

Read More

April 17, 2015

Sakata Seed Uses California Spring Trials Display Plant…

Sakata Seed America is putting its post-CAST (California Spring Trials) plants and flowers to good use to support events in local California communities of Salinas and Morgan Hill. The plants, along with donations through Sakata's Charitable Giving Program, will support three fun-filled community events that promote healthy lifestyles and support the agricultural industry.

Read More
Hakonochloa macra Aureola v

April 17, 2015

Ornamental Grasses — A Few Thoughts

Grasses have been embraced by growers, landscape architects and retailers, and are an important component in wholesale and resale sales. Allan Armitage shares some popular grasses, one to avoid and a few to use with caution.

Read More
PW_CAST15

April 17, 2015

Allan Armitage’s Favorite Plants From Proven Winn…

Between visiting California Spring Trial giants like Proven Winners, Syngenta and Danziger, Allan Armitage saw a lot of great plants in one day. Despite the size of the challenge, Dr. Armitage finds a few favorites he thinks you should try.

Read More
Gazania hybrid 'Amber Ice' (Cultivaris)

April 17, 2015

The 80/20 Theory Approach To Inventory Selection Is Put…

Tim Runte of Calloway Gardens is a member of Greenhouse Grower's Medal Of Excellence For Industry's Choice Panel. Here, he shares how he determines which plants shown at this year's California Spring Trials will make the cut at his retail stores.

Read More

April 17, 2015

Trends At California Spring Trials: AmericanHort’…

Michael Geary, CEO and president of AmericanHort, hit the road during California Spring Trials, and noted trends he saw at many of the stops. Here's one that he says we'll need to consider carefully.

Read More