Plant Materials Center update: December 9, 2021

Panorama of plant cooler
Plant cooler

Sales

Sales remain strong. So strong that there has not been time to generate a sales report. One will be coming next week.

Over 1.714 million plants have been sold so far between almost 400 orders. That translates into packaging and shipping a lot of individual orders which can be a bottleneck. With 371 different inventory items it can be a process to have what is needed for a variety of diverse orders in the cooler, find it, pull the quantities needed, replace the remaining plants back in the cooler, and arrange for shipping or pick up.

A lead time of up to two weeks may be needed to place an incoming order in the long queue for lifting and packaging. Once the order is built, we appreciate it when the customer holds to the date requested. Delays beyond that can result in excess plant material in the holding area of the cooler and costs staff time that could have been used filling orders that are needed soon by other customers.

November Financial Reports

The November financial reports are finished. There is not a lot of change from the October reports. Most of the PMC’s aged receivables are for either deposits or invoices less than 30 days out.  Revenue for November is always limited to a few orders of live stakes that shipped out and bare root harvest and shipping did not start until December. Revenues year to date of $73,493 are almost exactly the same this time last year when they were $73,535.

Total current expenses are similar to last year’s as well. They are $358,2212 year to date this year and last year they were $343,355. The biggest increase was in Seasonal Labor due to an increase in the minimum wage last January 1st, more spent on weeding, and processing live stakes this fall.

Harvest

Photo of lifting plants in nursery row
Lifting

The PMC has been in full bare root harvest mode for a week. The weather has been wet and cold but not enough to create any problems for lifting plants other than being somewhat miserable at times. The important thing is that there is a full harvest crew who are working hard to get the plants in the packing shed and processed.

There have been 287,562 plants harvested so far. Approximately 70,000 of those were live stakes processed in the fall and the rest have come in since full harvest started December 1. That is over 35,000 plants a day which is a high average.  t is important for harvest numbers to remain high since sales are running 29% ahead of last year. Hopefully, no time is lost due to frozen ground or anything else.

Warehousing Harvested Plants

Photo of root growth on Grand Fir seedling
Grand Fir

99% of the plants that are harvested at the PMC are stored in the cooler until they ship out or are picked up. It is likely that this year more than 2 million plants will pass in and out of the cooler doors. They will not all be in there at the same time. The majority will be sent out within a few weeks of harvest. There is a constant turnover of lifting and shipping.

The PMC will ship out over 230,000 plants this month and so far, 379,120 are scheduled to leave in January. More stock leaving earlier in the season means less to warehouse later. Last year a lot of stock was held until later in the season which resulted in a full cooler and the need for 3 refrigerated trailers to hold the excess.  The previous year that was not such a problem and hopefully that is the case this year.

The cooler was built by Scott Paper when they grew reforestation seedlings here. It was temporary storage until they were transferred to a larger cooler in Hamilton. They also had a limited number of inventory items. As mentioned in the Sales update there are 371 different inventory items this year and tracking them becomes more challenging as the cooler fills which in turn slows the process of filling orders. When the cooler is full it holds approximately 385 cooler frames with each potentially holding around 9 bags each, or a total of 3,500 bags of seedlings and live stakes. In addition, each refrigerated trailer can hold approximately 52 frames for a total of 500 bags.  Inventory control is a challenge but beats the alternative of having a limited number of plants and sales.

Operations

Everything seems to be working properly. That includes 5 tractors, a truck, 2 farm pickups, the lifter, 5 field trailers with field totes, the conveyor belt line, a root pruning saw, 4 strapping machines, a roller table, 2 forklifts, 3 cooler compressors, a domestic supply well for the building, furnace, 4 computers, 2 printers, a label maker, and a tablet to name a few. Farm Operations Supervisor Bill Mulder can be thanked for keeping the equipment and facilities running and well maintained.

The office staff work hard at keeping the tech items doing what we need them to do. The weakest link there is internet access. There is not any broadband or DSL available this far down Bradley Rd. so a Verizon “Jetpack” used. It works okay most of the time but it does slow or drop out occasionally. The PMC placed a deposit on getting Starlink last spring and at the time they promised better connectivity and that it would be available by late 2021. That date has been pushed back until mid-2022. Other options are being pursued. The main thing is that there is not anything holding back harvest.

I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have any questions.

Jim Brown, WACD PMC Nursery Manager
https://wacdpmc.org/about-us