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.

Latest Stories
Pollinator-friendly perennials are a big hit with eco-concious consumers

May 27, 2016

Which Pollinator Terms Appeal Most To Consumers?

A team from the University of Florida tested several promotional phrases, from the specific ("butterflies" and "bees") to more general.

Read More
Harvest Automation HV 100 Feature

May 27, 2016

Harvest Automation Robot Helps You Move Plants Without …

The Harvest Automation HV-100 robot units use lasers and sensors to handle some of the most labor-intensive tasks in the greenhouse.

Read More
National Garden Bureau California Vegetable Summer Trials

May 26, 2016

California Summer Vegetable Trials In August Will Cover…

The National Garden Bureau is once again organizing summer vegetables trials this August in California, giving attendees the opportunity to visit with several breeding companies.

Read More
IGC App For 2016 Shows

May 26, 2016

IGC Shows Release Free Apps To Help You Plan For Both T…

Free event planning apps for each show are now available for download in the Apple App Store and on Google Play.

Read More
SBI Rack Scanning feature

May 26, 2016

Take Your Data Management To The Next Level

New developments in software technology allow growers to customize inventory, tracking, and labor performance into systems unique to their greenhouse operations.

Read More
Eason 2017 Perennials Guide

May 25, 2016

Eason Horticultural Resources Releases New Perennials G…

The two guides are available in digital and print versions and offer information from several breeders.

Read More
Echinacea ‘Butterfly Rainbow Marcella’

May 25, 2016

15 New Perennials For Bees, Butterflies, And Other Poll…

These 15 new perennials, available for retail in 2016 and 2017, will produce colorful flowers and foliage year after year, providing habitat and food for bees, butterflies, birds, moths, and other pollinators.

Read More
P.Allen Smith Cut Flowers

May 25, 2016

Sakata Seed America And P. Allen Smith Extend Partnersh…

Sakata is taking its partnership with plantsman P. Allen Smith a step further to create the P. Allen Smith Home Grown Cut Flowers Collection, a selection of premium cut flower seed hand-picked by Smith and bred exclusively by Sakata.

Read More
Triathlon BA container shot

May 24, 2016

OHP’s Triathlon Biofungicide Now Listed By The Organic …

Triathlon BA is a broad-spectrum preventative biofungicide that provides control of many foliar and soilborne diseases in ornamentals and herbs.

Read More
Costa Farms won International Grower of the Year. Representing the operation, (left to right) were Chuck Zala, Michael Vera, Menachem Ganon, Jose Costa, and Mike Rimland

May 24, 2016

AIPH Seeking Entries For Its International Grower of th…

The International Association of Horticultural Producers (AIPH) is inviting ornamental growers from all around the world to enter the AIPH International Grower of the Year Awards (IGOTY) for 2017. Last year’s big winner was Florida-based Costa Farms.

Read More
Coleus Fancy Feathers Pink (Terra Nova Nurseries)

May 23, 2016

Take A Sneak Peek at Terra Nova Nurseries’ New Coleus F…

A brand-new collection of Terra Nova Nurseries coleus varieties called the Fancy Feathers Series is now available to growers for online orders. The series produces narrow, feather-like leaves and offers a mounded habit.

Read More
Gotham Greens Atrium Style Greenhouse Chicago

May 23, 2016

What’s Good For The Environment Is Good For Business [O…

Investing in technology to become more sustainable “always goes hand in hand,” says Abe VanWingerden, co-CEO of Metrolina Greenhouses. “If it is good for the environment, it normally is good for business over the long term.” That connection was abundantly clear in the responses we received to this year’s Top 100 Growers Survey. VanWingerden points to three investments Metrolina has made as good examples of how technology can reduce an operation’s carbon footprint and pay dividends financially. Its biomass system burns locally sourced waste wood — a renewable resource; its ozone water treatment system cleans irrigation water, reducing the need for fertilizers and pesticides, and improving plant quality and precision growing; and electrostatic sprayers reduce water and chemical use, and provide more targeted chemical applications. Other Top 100 Growers have found VanWingerden’s theory to be true, as well. Costa Farms’ investment in solar energy panels on three buildings at its […]

Read More

May 23, 2016

Ian Baldwin Sees Several Garden Trends Developing This …

The garden industry consultant reads the mid-spring tea leaves and sees several trends emerging.

Read More

May 23, 2016

Manhattan’s Urban Garden Center Suffers Second Di…

Two years after a nearby gas explosion destroyed the store in Manhattan's Spanish Harlem, Urban Garden Center had a four-alarm fire that disrupted a popular train route, and the garden retailer is now dealing with an angry community.

Read More
Aerial_view_of_the_Bayer_cross_high_res

May 23, 2016

Bayer Sells Consumer Garden Products Division To French…

The sale to SBM Développement comes just as Bayer AG makes a bid for Monsanto.

Read More
GG Tech Editorial Advisors Feature Image

May 23, 2016

Meet The New Editorial Advisors For Greenhouse Growe…

Greenhouse Grower TECHNOLOGY presents the inaugural members of its Editorial Advisory Board, six pillars of knowledge about greenhouse automation and technology. Get to know each of these gentlemen and what they’ll help bring to each issue.

Read More
Pythium On Chrysanthemum

May 20, 2016

How To Prevent Pythium In Fall Garden Mums

Avoid profit loss in fall garden mums due to pythium root rot with good drainage and integrated pest management practices that reduce risk factors.

Read More
Agro-K

May 19, 2016

Agro-K Expands Distribution In New England Through Part…

Agro-K, which manufactures conventional and organic foliar plant nutrients, will distribute its full line of foliar fertilizers and soil biological products through NEAG.

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]