Shipping systems are nearly perfect

Shipping systems are nearly perfect

Tracking software can improve your efficiency and your bottom line. Find out how inside.

September 29, 2014
Amanda Tomaini
Industry News

Michael Van Wingerden doesn’t want to talk about how bad Metrolina Greenhouses’ bill of lading errors once were. “It was embarrassing,” he says with a smile.

The problem began when Walmart expanded its UPC system to give unique codes to plant varieties and colors. For example, the retailer used to have one UPC for a 4-inch annual pot. That changed overnight to more than 20 UPCs, down to the variety, and on some items, down to the color detail.

Luckily for Van Wingerden, the vice president of logistics for Metrolina, the team at Young’s Plant Farm in Auburn, Ala., was also tackling the same issue at the same time.

When Walmart made its decision to expand its UPC system, the team at Young’s feared they would be prone to the same errors with their orders. That’s when General Manager Bryan Young approached Practical Software Solutions with a concept that would vastly improve the shipping process.

The idea was to make sure that any changes that an order might incur would go all the way through to shipping. That idea became Scan by Cart, available through Grower Vertical for Sage ERP. Scan by Cart rebuilds sales orders and generates all the shipping orders, documents, and labels as the product is loaded onto the truck. This is done with the use of hand-held scanners and barcode technology.

The module was implemented in the summer of 2010 and went live in time for mum production that August.

“Sometimes, we were having issues getting [a change] documented all the way through,” Young says. “Now we scan one item on every single shelf on every cart, and [the software] knows how many units would be on the shelf. And once you scan every shelf on that order, it deletes the old sales order and replaces it with the sales order you just scanned.”

For its efforts, Young’s Plant Farm earned the Sage Customer Award for Innovation and a healthier bottom line with customer receipt errors dropping to less than 1 percent.

It wasn’t too long after Young’s implemented its system that Metrolina in Huntersville, N.C., followed suit so they could begin using Walmart’s Advance Shipping Notice process and to correct its billing errors, says Metrolina’s Michael Van Wingerden.

This is critical because in the horticulture industry, if the product is wrong, the retailers will collect a charge-back fee on top of not paying for the product that was already shipped. The product is not returnable because it’s a live product, so it instantly becomes waste. This, of course, is different from traditional manufacturing, where items shipped in error can simply be returned without penalty and put back on shelves for the next order.

Grower Vertical, created by a combined effort from Metrolina and Practical Software, helps Sage ERP – a traditional manufacturing software – compensate for the complexities of producing a live product. Metrolina also won a Sage Customer Award for Best Use of Customization. Adding Scan by Cart helped Metrolina accurately manage multiple UPCs per item group while streamlining some of its processes.

“We can add shelves or take away shelves per cart when the height of our product changes without making changes in the order,” Van Wingerden says. “With substitutions at the end of runs, we don’t have to make the changes in our system. And the system gives us more flexibility with mixes because we can adjust as needed.”

While Van Wingerden still doesn’t want to talk about how bad Metrolina’s bill of lading errors once were, he is more than happy to discuss current statistics.

“We now bill at a 99.96 percent accuracy rate,” he says proudly.


Amanda Tomaini is marketing director for Practical Software Solutions in Concord, N.C. Tomaini worked 10 years as a journalist before working in marketing. She comes from a long line of tomato farmers in Italy, and says she is proud to carry on the tradition in her home garden.

For more: