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Fast, Accurate Shipping to Your Door

Shipping live plants can be challenging, which is why we’ve created some unique sorting and shipping processes to make sure your plants arrive quickly and at the peak of health.

Speed, accuracy and safe delivery are our watchwords in the complex process of getting plants to your door.  For years, we’ve shipped millions of liners to growers coast to coast, and along the way, we’ve devised new methods to ensure you get the correct order of healthy plants, as fast as possible. 

Listening to customers

How do we do this?  We start by listening to customers and taking your comments seriously.  For example, customer feedback on the shipping reply cards evolved into our “box-filling calls,” where we automatically contact you to ensure that your boxes are full, to maximize your freight dollar.

In the same way, we moved our weekly order deadline from Tuesdays to Wednesdays to give you an additional 24 hours to place orders for the next week’s delivery.  This involved rethinking our processes so that the system is faster and more accurate, even in the busiest weeks of the year.

Even during the busiest weeks, the automated tracking and sorting system handles orders easily.
Even during the busiest weeks, the automated tracking and sorting system handles orders easily.

 

On the racks — the right way!

Your order goes into a computerized system that pulls together all the liner trays to be pulled in the greenhouse, plus all the correct tags.  Our team scans your liner trays on a conveyor line and gives each a label.

Pulled Orders
Each week’s total orders are pulled together, then sorted into individual orders.

 

That scan contains the product ID, the week number and lot tracking.  This information is received by our computerized system and the tray(s) are assigned to your order.  A sort label is generated, giving our team a rack, shelf, and position that the tray is assigned to.  The tray travels down the conveyor belt where a diverter arm moves it to the appropriate loading lane and a team member places it on the assigned rack. 

Scanning
Trays are scanned as they move onto the Sort Line, and then receive a Sort Label generated from the computer system. They are then scanned by a camera.


Trays are grouped by genera and variety, so it’s easy to double-check the order’s accuracy or see if anything is missing.  This corresponds to your packing slip, so you can quickly check your order on delivery.

We can move up to 2,400 liner trays and 3,600 bundles of tags per hour on this line, so we’re working fast!

Diverting arm
racked Complete oreder
Diverting arms on the line move trays into the appropriate lane. Then, members place the trays in the appropriate position on the racks, according to the Rack/Shelf/Position computer logic.  This system lets us easily double-check to make sure your order is correct and complete!

 

Pampered plants in boxes

Shipping to destinations north, south, east and west requires some flexibility in packing. To protect the plants, we cover the trays with our unique safety nets and place each tray into a cardboard sleeve, which then goes into the shipping box.  The sleeves protect the plants and are designed to neatly hold shrink-wrapped tag bundles for each liner. 

safety nets tags
Safety nets cover the plants in their trays to protect them, while sturdy cardboard sleeves keep them secure within the boxes.  Each sleeve has a nook to neatly hold shrink-wrapped tags.

Meet Some of Our Shipping Team

logistics
The automated sorting line keeps liner trays moving through the system around the clock during the busiest weeks.


These dedicated folks head our extensive logistics and shipping efforts.

Tom Brown

Tom Brown, Logistics & Customer Fulfillment Manager

How long with Four Star? Since Oct. 2015

What should customers know about our process and practices?  Our Logistics team, which encompasses office personnel and ‘shipping’ staff, strives to send only the highest quality plants/products to each and every customer.  I tell my staff, “If you wouldn’t find the plant acceptable if it was delivered to your door, then it’s not acceptable to ship to our customers.”

Matt Higgs

Matthew Higgs, Shipping Senior Team Leader

What can you tell us about the shipping staff?  These people really care about what the customer receives, because they know it is a reflection of the job they do.  The staff works really hard and is dedicated to getting the job done right.  On average, they have 15 years of service!

What should customers know about our process and practices?  We take great pride in shipping high quality plants.  We treat each plant as if it is our own. 

Four Star’s 8-count boxes have an extra-wide design to prevent tipping and allow them to ‘snuggle up’ to each other when in transit.  For winter shipping, we use double corrugation and Styrofoam insulation to keep the plants warm and protected.  In warmer months, our summer boxes have vent holes to let air circulate and keep plants cool for delivery. 

This system works well across the country.  Recently, a new customer (Colony Greenhouse in Alaska) wrote to tell their broker about the plants they received from Four Star:

“I am so happy with this company! When the order came in, we were so worried about the condition of the plants coming from so far away.  Let me tell you, those plants were awesome – every single one of them!  Loved the packaging, the size and health of them, just awesome!  Not only that, but we actually got this order on the ‘second day air’ shipping that we are always charged for and never get on the second day. It blew our minds!  The next thing we anxiously anticipated was the shipping cost – OMG – nothing we were expecting!  I am sooo happy this did not cost us an arm and a leg, and we got great quality plants. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

UPS Hub Induction for Speedy Delivery

For several years, we’ve worked with UPS hub induction for quick and safe shipping.  Our central U.S. location makes it easy to access this system, which involves temperature-controlled trucks delivering directly into UPS hubs throughout the country. 

This means fast delivery for our customers, and since each driver is a UPS employee (not a contractor); we have the ability to communicate directly, On average, once orders move into the UPS system, they arrive the following day. 

Many regional customers also may receive quick delivery directly by our temperature-controlled trucks.

These two systems have consistently resulted in a claim rate of less than 2/10th of 1%. 

As always, we'll continue to tweak our system, listen to your suggestions and focus on making delivery even easier for you in the future.  

Watch this video to see our Sorting Line in action.

For more information about ordering or shipping options, contact us at 734-654-6420 or mail@pwfourstar.com.


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