This wholesale plant grower and distributor needed to prune its labor expenses and increase the performance of its workforce. So we worked from the ground up to establish productivity measures, set expectations, coach supervisory skills, and cultivate leadership. As a result, the company has reaped productivity improvements and bottom-line benefits from sustainable labor savings, a higher volume capacity, and a nearly 4-to-1 return on its consulting investment.
Our client is a South Carolina-based wholesale grower and distributor of perennial and ground- cover plants. It sells approximately 14 million plants annually to national retail garden centers, such as Lowe’s, Home Depot, Walmart, and other specialty growers and distributors.
The company’s farm operations require crews of workers to tend to plants throughout the year. However, the wholesale flower business is highly seasonal: The 10-week peak selling season (April 1 to mid-June) accounts for 53 percent of sales. During this time, workers with tractors and trailers are given a picklist with the numbers and types of plants needed each day. Plants are then taken to shipping, assembled by order, placed on carts, directed to the appropriate trucks, and dispatched for delivery.
Business was good, but the company needed to reduce its labor costs and boost productivity, particularly during the peak season. In the past, the client would merely hire more workers at the start of the season, but there was no way to establish the actual headcount required to handle any given volume of work. In addition, there were no established productivity measurements, so no one in the organization knew how they were performing.
And although there were forecasts and good historical information available, this data was never integrated into a Management Operating System (MOS) that was usable to a first-level farm supervisor.
The company sought to lower its costs per unit shipped and increase revenues without increasing labor costs. However, there was a lack of leadership and ability at the production level to define and improve processes.