Superior Automation Means Premium Plugs For Dümmen

Dümmen has cataloged how much glue to add to plugs depending on the crop, weather, time of year and other variables.

Breeders develop the genetics and young plant growers produce them for regional customers. That’s typically the supply chain model employed here in the U.S., and it’s largely how breeders and young plant growers across Europe operate.

One breeder who operates this way in the U.S. is Dümmen, which has formed a network of seven rooting stations that stretches from as far east as Plainview Growers in New Jersey to as far west as Plug Connection in California. But Dümmen’s European business based in Rheinberg, Germany, follows a different model. Dümmen not only breeds its own genetics in Rheinberg, but it grows virtually all of its own young plants to ship worldwide there.

Dümmen, in fact, is able to reach 36 countries worldwide because of several automated systems it has introduced in recent years at Rheinberg. And, like U.S. growers continuously striving to establish stronger plugs, quicker bench turns and more efficient shipping, Dümmen has also sought to improve its own production efficiencies in Europe.

“Automation, when done correctly, is a cost savings,” says Perry Wismans, general manager of Dümmen USA. “More importantly, though, it allows us to standardize the process, have fewer quality issues and serve the customer better. Everyone receives standardized products across the board.”

Stronger Plugs Desired

Dümmen, as it does for the U.S., breeds a variety of items for the European market, but geraniums, poinsettias and petunias make up approximately 75 percent of all cuttings produced at Rheinberg.

After cuttings are cooled for a period following their arrival from Dümmen’s farms in El Salvador, Ethiopia and Israel, they’re stuck into a specially designed media and incorporated into a customized tray system. Dümmen partnered on the media development with Omni Solutions, which offers Aero NT media that includes a glue-like additive in plugs.

Dümmen isn’t the only producer using a glue plug worldwide, but Brian Wismans, operations manager at Rheinberg, says the company has cataloged precisely how much glue to add to plugs depending on the crop, weather, time of year and other variables.

“Knowing how much glue to add is absolutely crucial for us,” Brian says. “About three years ago we really improved our rooting plug by analyzing the whole process from the start. We found out how to improve the rooting speed by adjusting the rooting plug.”

In winter, for example, drier plugs are desired. So Dümmen will customize a plug to retain more water in the early stages, and it will adjust the watering schedule accordingly to have a drier plug later in production.

“We’ve been able to decrease one week of rooting time for many crops, including geraniums,” Brian says. “Due to this development, we did not have to expand our facility in Rheinberg, and that saved us some major investing.”

Even before plugs are moved into the greenhouse, a customized tray is utilized to improve water management and air volume for roots, as well as provide optimum space and protection for root balls during transport. The system is called Targa, but because Targa trays are difficult to stack once they’re filled, strips are first manually placed into Styrofoam trays, which are then filled before being moved into Targa trays. Styrofoam trays are emptied, and Targa trays are stacked onto a conveyor that moves them toward a sticking line.

“The Targa method is a patented method for the Rheinberg facility,” Brian says. “It actually encompasses the whole process of the Targa tray itself, including the two machines that pick up the strips from the other machine and put them into the Targa tray.”

Production, Shipping Optimized

In the greenhouse, Dümmen optimizes the production environment with artificial lighting and heat that’s radiated from above.

“We have invested in a lot of artificial light so that when a young plant makes the transition from one of our offshore farms, where a lot of high light is always given, it transitions easily and is less stressed,” Brian says.
Another important element is heating from above. “We try to keep the
environment as natural as possible,” he says. “Plants get heat and light from the top, so we create both. Most U.S. facilities heat from below. With heat that radiates from above, the foliage stays more compact.”

The facility’s general design is also a fundamental component to its ability to ship most efficiently. Items are conveyed chronologically throughout the greenhouse so when they need to be shipped, they’re easily accessible and employees don’t need to hunt for single trays.

Brian says the facility’s design follows the “time-zone principal,” which is
essential for Rheinberg.

“In this model, certain varieties are sorted into the different time zones in the greenhouse,” he says. “Every day has three time zones, and there are 21 in a week. We pack customers far away from our facility first in the delivery week. Customers who have a relatively small distance to our facility and customers who explicitly wish for it are packed latest in the week.”

Astoundingly, Dümmen relies on only four employees to load carts after items have been sorted on a conveyor belt. The company used to rely on more than 30 employees to load, Perry says. Employing the time-zone principal is part of the reason why only four employees are needed, but computerized packing and a cart-assembling machine are the keys to how Dümmen can operate with so few.

Computerized packing was implemented for two reasons, Perry says: an increase in business volume and space limitations.

“With the old system, we had packed by variety and then again on the cart allocated for individual customers. We needed almost two times the number of carts, and we were limited on space,” Perry says.

The new system moves an order directly to the appropriate cart, meaning fewer carts in the shipping area. The area has 80 offload positions for items. Once an item is set onto a conveyor belt, a computer scans the tray’s bar code and recognizes exactly to which of the 80 offload positions it must go. The system goes as far as telling the employee offloading the tray on which shelf a tray should be placed.

Dümmen solved its space issues further with a cart-assembling machine that builds custom carts on site the day of a shipment. The machine spaces shelves based on the order to come, so an ideal amount of space is created between shelves for the particular item being shipped.

“The computerized packing operation appears to be almost flawless,” says Doug Cole, president of D.S. Cole Growers in Loudon, N.H., who visited Dümmen’s Rheinberg facility with about 30 other U.S. growers during a trip to IPM Essen in January 2012. “The trays are bar-coded so that the machinery drops each tray at a station where an employee then sorts the tray onto the appropriate cart with ease.”

Standardization For Quality Control

One takeaway Cole took home after visiting Rheinberg and seeing the systems Dümmen has in place is that exceptions can get a grower into trouble.

“We are all about customer service, but when a system is put in place, do your best to go with the system as much as possible,” he says. “Making too many exceptions in your ordering, production or shipping process can lead to confusion, which can do more harm than good for the customer.”
Ensuring systems are followed across the supply chain, including at rooting stations, is also key to maintaining standardizations, Perry says. Because Dümmen breeds and, in Rheinberg’s case, produces virtually all of its own young plants, it can easily answer questions about stock plants and their performance for Dümmen growers around the world.

“We receive weekly reports from all of our farms around the world about what is good and what needs to be improved,” Perry says. “We don’t have to wait for our customers to contact us about a concern, as we are growing the same stock they are. We are constantly in front of the quality control.
“If we do receive a call, we are able to go into our own greenhouse and directly to the same variety to see if we are experiencing the same thing. It’s very reassuring for our partners.”

Leave a Reply

More From Varieties...
National Garden Bureau California Vegetable Summer Trials

May 26, 2016

California Summer Vegetable Trials In August Will Cover A Wide Range Of Crops

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
Eason 2017 Perennials Guide

May 25, 2016

Eason Horticultural Resources Releases New Perennials Guide And Spring Trials Report

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 Pollinators

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
Latest Stories
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
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
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
Rotary Botanical Gardens, Wisconsin

May 16, 2016

All-America Selections Summer Summit In Madison, WI, Wi…

Registration is now open for the 2016 Summer Summit, which takes place in August and features a focus on the locally grown movement.

Read More

May 10, 2016

13 New Native Plants And Nativars For Going Green [Slid…

Native plants are becoming a bigger part of living green, as consumers become more aware of the role regional native plants play in promoting biodiversity in the garden, in urban landscapes, and in habitat restoration. Here are 13 new native plants breeders are offering to consider for your product mix.

Read More
Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Ginger Love’ (Aris Greenleaf Plants)

May 10, 2016

12 New Ornamental Grasses For Low Maintenance Garden Ap…

Nothing says low maintenance like ornamental grasses. They add texture, movement, and all-season color to the garden. Check out 12 new ornamental grasses and grass-like varieties for growing in your greenhouse or the garden.

Read More
Blueberry ‘BrazelBerries Perpetua’ (Fall Creek Farm & Nursery)

May 9, 2016

Why Star Roses And Plants Is Buying The BrazelBerries P…

The purchase includes the brand, variety portfolio, and grower network, and allows Star Roses to capitalize on increased berry consumption among consumers.

Read More
Wave Petunias Team

May 3, 2016

Hot Pink Wave-Rave Van Making Its Way To The Big Apple …

Imagine driving down the road, minding your own business, when you’re passed by two smiling, waving, happy women driving a hot-pink van that’s adorned with petunia and pansy flowers. That’s not something you see every day, but motorists in the Midwest and Northeast may catch a glimpse of the Wave-Rave van this week as Ball Horticultural Co.’s Claire Watson, Product Marketing Manager, and Katie Rotella, Marketing Communications Manager, make their way to a media tour and plant giveaway in New York City. Watson and Rotella visited Cleveland’s WOIO Channel 19 news on Tuesday morning to tell consumers about Wave Petunias and Wave Pansies, and remind them to visit their local garden centers to purchase gifts for Mother’s Day this weekend. Check out this clip on Periscope. After the morning news, the ladies stopped by to visit the Greenhouse Grower staff at Meister Media Worldwide in Willoughby, OH. Next stop: Chelsea Garden Center in Brooklyn, NY, where […]

Read More
National Garden Bureau CAST 2016 Bloggers

May 3, 2016

5 Things Gardens Bloggers And Writers Learned At Califo…

For the second year in a row, the National Garden Bureau hosted five popular garden bloggers and writers on a trip to California Spring Trials. Here’s what each of them had to say about their experience.

Read More
Chick Charms

April 29, 2016

Kelly Norris: Why The Plant Collector Market Is Set To …

In his latest column for Greenhouse Grower magazine, Kelly Norris says there are more plant collectors out there than we think, which opens the way for the gift plant market to explode.

Read More
Pennisetum Fireworks

April 28, 2016

Why Ornamental Grasses Are Great For People In Condos A…

Allan Armitage says breeders need to do a better job of making growers, brokers, and garden centers aware of better ornamental grass cultivars for the increasingly shrinking garden space.

Read More
Andropogon gerardii Blackhawks (Intrinsic Perennial Gardens)

April 27, 2016

Know Your Market When Choosing Ornamental Grasses

Growers have no shortage of choices in the ornamental grass market. Narrowing down the selection comes down to finding the right plant for the right purpose.

Read More
Bee on Bidens

April 25, 2016

Breeders Go The Distance To Bring New Plant Varieties T…

Breeders are meeting the demand for new varieties that perform and sell well by extending trialing to engage the grower community, using advanced technology, and encouraging international collaboration.

Read More
Dr Allan Armitage

April 20, 2016

Growers And Breeders Are Always Looking For A Better To…

While edibles become more diverse, there's one goal that hard-core gardeners and urban foodscapers share.

Read More
Syngenta Pentas

April 20, 2016

Syngenta Flowers Opens Its Perennial Genetics To The Ma…

California Spring Trials 2016 visitors to Syngenta Flowers found the breeder company and its employees happy and excited for the future, in the wake of the announcement of its acquisition by ChemChina. Now Syngenta Flowers is ready to move forward with its breeding efforts in geraniums, pentas, and other crops, and it is opening its perennials offerings to the whole supply chain for a better chance to get those plants to retail.     Syngenta Wants To Revolutionize Geranium Breeding The big news in this year’s trial, says Karl Trellinger, Technical Services Representative at Syngenta, is the change in Syngenta’s breeding efforts in geraniums and pentas. The Calliope geranium series, long considered a premium line in the market, is getting a makeover. Growers have told the breeder that they love the colors available in the Calliope series, but the plants are just too vigorous for smaller containers and combinations. As […]

Read More
Petunia Vista Bubblegum (Proven Winners)

April 20, 2016

Proven Winners Funds Gardening “It Couple,” Names Plant…

Since 1992, Proven Winners has been changing the gardening game, and it’s not stopping now. With new plants, improved series, and interesting retail customers, the brand aims to make planning easier for growers, and make gardening easier and more fun for consumers. At its new 2016 California Spring Trials location at Kirigin Cellars in Gilroy, Proven Winners had the space and a beautiful setting to lay all of its offerings out, from new and improved varieties in annuals, perennials, and shrubs, to marketing and retail programs. Check out the slideshow below for highlights.   Proven Winners Is Flexing Its Marketing Muscle One of the ways Proven Winners is working toward better use of its products and gardening in general, is by supporting the gardening authorities that gardeners of all ages trust on social media. Director of Marketing Marshall Dirks says while searching for influential gardeners, he came across a young […]

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