Garden State Growers cultivates more efficient plant distributionSeptember 16th, 2014
Garden State Growers LLC., a leading wholesale greenhouse business based in New Jersey in the United States, produces and distributes a range of plants including annuals, perennials, and ground cover, which it supplies to big box stores, supermarkets, garden centers, and smaller retail businesses.
The company mostly uses outside motor carriers to handle its deliveries and collections, augmented by a core fleet of company vehicles.
Highly seasonal and demand-sensitive
The business is seasonal, and demand is highly sensitive to changes in the weather. “We need to be responsive to consumer demand that can change from day to day,” says Greg Van Grouw, head of inventory. “This requires us to plan vehicle movements as flexibly as possible, so that we can make changes right up to the last minute.”
The call from MAPMECHANICS gave us the reassurance to upgrade to the latest version of Truckstops and go back to using a system we already knew would work well for us.
Need to track empty carts
There is also a requirement to keep track of the steel carts used to carry the plants. In some cases they can be picked up on return journeys, but it can be difficult to predict when carts will have been emptied by retailers.
To manage orders, Garden State uses Plant Partner enterprise resource planning system from Starcom Computer Corp. of Seattle; but transportation requires specialist scheduling software, Greg says.
In the past, the company used the Truckstops VRS (vehicle routing and scheduling system) to plan deliveries by its carriers, but then support for the product in North America was discontinued by the original developer. To avoid loss of service, the company tried a substitute scheduling system, but found it lacked the required functionality.
Mapmechanics, which now has sole worldwide responsibility for sales and development of Truckstops, contacted the Garden State at this point, and was able to reassure the company of ongoing support for the system. Given this new confidence, Garden State renewed its commitment to the product and invested in an upgraded version.
Truckstops plans journeys automatically to achieve optimum vehicle fill and minimum time, distance and cost consistent with legal constraints, delivery time windows and available driving time, and includes options to take account of truck restrictions such as height, width, and weight. This has been an important feature for Garden State Growers, helping the company to route its longest and tallest vehicles safely, using only suitable roads.
By using HERE mapping, we now avoid having to install frequent costly patches and updates, which we experienced in the past.
Starcom’s Plant Partner software handles the entire pulling and loading process, and has many functions designed for growers, including managing seasonal orders, filling carts economically, and handling order substitutions.
Orders from Plant Partner are now downloaded daily from to Truckstops for routing and scheduling – an arrangement that allows the company to vary schedules to reflect late changes in customer requirements.
Mapmechanics and Starcom have cooperated to ensure that their systems work effectively together. Starcom president Sharon Nuss comments: “The result is some pretty tight integration of loading and staging with the logistics function.”
- Reassurance of ongoing support for a proven routing and scheduling system
- Opportunity to upgrade to the advanced features of the latest Truckstops VRS
- Tight integration with Plant Partner ERP from Starcom Computer Corp.
- Ability to track and recover empty steel carts economically in narrow time windows
- Opportunity to choose background mapping from HERE, saving on update costs
We don’t have to set up each carrier as a separate business center and schedule its trucks separately.
“The call from Mapmechanics gave us the reassurance to upgrade to the latest version of Truckstops and go back to using a system we already knew would work well for us,” says Greg Van Grouw.
In particular, he says, all vehicles are scheduled by Truckstops as part of a common pool. “We don’t have to set up each carrier as a separate business center and schedule its trucks separately.”
Greg says he particularly likes the more modern interface in the latest version of Truckstops, and the fact that it can work with various different mapping systems. “By using HERE mapping, we now avoid having to install frequent costly patches and updates, which we experienced in the past.” HERE was formerly known as NAVTEQ vector digital mapping.
Plant Partner has proved particularly effective in keeping precise track of which carts are delivered to which retailer and when, and Mapmechanics has been developing a system that allows Truckstops to capture that information and feed it into the scheduling process.
Garden State has done its own geocoding of customers’ locations, and Truckstops is able to take account of this information when creating its schedules.
In its next stage of development, Garden State Growers plans to offer a transportation capability to outside customers, taking advantage of the spare capacity of its own and its carriers’ truck fleets in off-peak periods of the year. “We foresee a key role for TRUCKSTOPS in that operation,” Greg says.