There are many factors that play in to producing quality plants. According to growers who responded to Greenhouse Grower’s 2019 State of the Industry survey, suppliers are one of the more important ones.
In the survey, we asked growers, “What have you done in the past six months to improve quality at your operation?” Several respondents talked about improving interactions with their suppliers. Here are six tips gleaned from the survey answers that might help you work with your suppliers more productively to improve quality.
1. Improve Communication. Growers said they achieved the best results when they communicated their expectations clearly and regularly with their suppliers. The more detail they gave, the better the results.
“We worked on being better organized, and we make sure we contact and communicate with suppliers when we have quality issues,” said one respondent.
“We have been more communicative with our reps,” said a grower. “We’ve tried to forecast our needs sooner, so we are not disappointed when it comes time to order.”
2. Identify What Real Quality Is. If you haven’t defined what constitutes quality at your operation, it’s difficult to demand it from your suppliers and your employees.
“We created visual quality specifications and had weekly conference calls to identify and create resolution plans for existing or ongoing problems,” said one grower.
3. Check-In. Visiting suppliers to see how plants are progressing and to reemphasize expectations is another strategy growers say they used to improve quality at their operations.
“Feet on the ground for our input suppliers, whether that is in Florida, Canada, or Central America,” said one grower.
4. Hold Them Accountable. Suppliers can’t fix a problem they don’t know about. Growers say they’re letting their suppliers know right away when plant quality isn’t up to par, and they expect them to make things right or the product is returned. Here are a few things growers are doing to hold suppliers responsible for poor quality.
“We have been more demanding of refunds for inferior product from suppliers.”
“We complained right away about bad quality.”
“I complain to brokers and growers directly.”
“We detail strongly on what we expect to receive, or it will go back.”
“We will not accept less than desirable plants or substitutions.”
5. Shop Around. If your supplier isn’t as committed to quality as you are, it may be time to look for one who is, growers say, even if it means going further afield.
“I had to go out of state to find quality,” said one grower.
“We have been forced to leave some long-time suppliers due to high pricing for average-at-best product,” said another respondent.
6. Keep Them on Their Toes. As one grower put it, “We continually challenge our suppliers for quality and on-time delivery.”