Nursery Inventory Management

For a nursery, inventory management is critical, especially when the bulk of your inventory is grown on site.

CLEVELAND – For a nursery, inventory management is critical, especially when the bulk of your inventory is grown on site. Dale Manbeck, owner, Manbeck Nurseries, New Knoxville, Ohio, turned to computer software to help him manage his 400-acre operation.

"We enter our field inventory when we plant it, even though it will be five to eight years before the plants are harvested," he said. "That way we are able to track our inventory by when it was planted. It is time consuming, but it has to be done."

Manbeck uses software to help him manage what was planted, how much was planted, how much it has grown and when it will be ready for sale. In addition, he is able to track sales at his nursery and landscaping operation and monitor their profitability.

Because Manbeck Nurseries is also a landscape operation, inventory tracking is doubly critical as much of his plants are used in company projects. "We will process the orders on our projects much like we would for sales, and those plants are billed to the appropriate customers through the system," he said.

"The software allows us to operate the landscaping and nursery functions from the same program," he said. "You can find landscape programs. You can find nursery programs. We needed both. I wanted one program that will interface both operations and do a good job of managing our business practices as well."

Manbeck said his automation is limited not by software, but by hardware. "We still have to tally our inventory on paper and input it back at the office," he said. "I would love to be able to go to a hand-held system, but we haven’t found one that is durable enough for us yet.

"And they don’t have enough capacity for an operation our size. So far no one has shown me a program that will allow for the different sizes and then allow us to download that into a computer, so we have to enter all that by hand," he added.

That can be laborious, as Manbeck re-inventories his plants every year. "We plant between 10,000 and 12,000 trees every year and we do recount them every year," he said. "The computer cannot count so we have to go out and do it ourselves."

The author is Editor of Lawn & Landscape magazine.

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