Corso’s Perennials in Sandusky, OH, decided to invest in high-tech machinery to increase output and manage labor costs and shortages. High-tech machinery will make its production line leaner and more efficient, in addition to optimizing the company’s shipping process.
Transplanting Can Be More Efficient
The greatest improvement the company made this year to its production line was the summer adoption of a new AutoStix machine that mechanizes the sticking of unrooted cuttings. Created through a partnership by Visser Horti Systems and Ball Horticultural Company, AutoStix machines consist of a patented transplanter and an accompanying compatible Visser strip and tray that complete the system. The machine needs at most three workers: one operator and two workers in charge of the loading and unloading of trays.
The grower receives the cuttings, places them into the patented strip that holds different stem diameters, and then inserts them into the transplanter. The turn-key concept will ideally allow the grower to obtain 100% uniformity and accuracy from the transplanted cuttings.
“We were looking for a more efficient and cost-effective method for sticking cuttings,” says Chad Corso, Vice President of Wholesale for Corso Perennials. “We installed the AutoStix machine in July 2018.”
Corso says the company decided that the AutoStix machine had the greatest potential to help cut costs while increasing production. The company has improved its production efficiency exponentially since installing the new machines.
“We were sticking 10,000 [cuttings] per hour,” Corso says. “Our sticking crew was reduced from nine people to two for anything run on the AutoStix machine. We are still in the early stages of implementation, but the summer plantings have performed very well.”
According to Corso, the company continues to add items as they become available in the AutoStix strip. He says the company is hopeful it can run 75% of its cuttings through the machine in 2019.
In addition to working to constantly improve every process of its production line to save on labor and increase its efficiency, Corso’s Perennials is putting the same focus on other areas.
“We worked with AgriNomix to design a fork system for setting down our carrying trays after planting. We currently have two Trike forklifts in operation,” Corso says. “On the shipping side, this past year we focused on the implementation of Lean flow.”
Automation Could Increase the Need for Specialized Labor
The savings in labor costs through automation serve as an example of how the industry is becoming more mechanized as time passes, increasing its need for equipment operators. Greenhouse production is hard, and depending on the level of technology used, it requires specially trained staff to run the different machineries that are added into the production line.
Ever-growing demand for horticulture products and labor shortages continue to incentivize the growth of this category of workers within the industry. Continued trends in labor and politics guarantee that this investment will pay for itself in the long run.