Management Board column: Quality, a matter for growers and buyers alike14 June 2021
In this series of columns we give the floor to the Management Board and managers of Royal FloraHolland. This time, Aad van den Enden, Quality Programme Manager, talks about the importance of quality improvement in floriculture. Including about why growers and buyers alike are responsible for it.
Pricing has been excellent in recent months, due to high demand and therefore scarcity in the market. In a situation like that, just imagine being an exporter buying a batch of flowers at a high price, and which ends up not meeting the promised product specifications. Said exporter keeps the products anyway due to scarcity in the market. He doesn't submit a complaint because he needs the product and is very busy anyway. On the other hand, the grower who supplied the batch takes every complaint seriously. He values complaints as a way to improve his processes. He is oblivious to the problem. And an unintentional error regrettably ends up going unnoticed. In this example, the grower has the best of intentions, but unfortunately some growers are negligent or fail to take things very seriously in this respect. The example illustrates that quality improvement is an issue for grower and buyer alike. And of course for Royal FloraHolland. We do this because the reliability of supply information is essential for the proper functioning of the marketplace. That's also why we are setting up a separate programme for this in order to reduce the number of corrections and complaints.
Reliability of Auction information and photos
We want all growers to become even more aware that it isn't Auction or the quality service that should be satisfied, but the customer who should be happy with what he or she buys. Customers buy remotely and rely on Auction information and photos. They need to be able to count on that. This is not only in the interest of buyers, but also that of growers. After all, reliable suppliers are appreciated more than growers who are prone to making mistakes. Reliable supply (reputation) leads to significantly better pricing.
It is generally understood that quality characteristics of natural products such as flowers and plants aren't always easy to categorise. In 95% of all trade that comes before Auction, the product information is correct. The fact that almost no grower is completely error-free proves that it is quite difficult. We know this from reports and complaints and because every day about twenty employees from the Inspection & Guidance team inspect 35% of the Auction supply. We do this very specifically by using current and historical data on complaints and previous inspections. Growers who get complaints or about whom complaints are received receive extra attention. We therefore also welcome feedback from buyers if there is something wrong, but they don't want or need to submit a complaint. We want to organise this in a more accessible way, uniformly across the three export locations. Of course, we also know that some growers are irritated when buyers too easily return a batch. You can, of course, always find something to complain about if you want. It will hopefully reassure you to know that we are alert to this as well.
Product photos are becoming even more important
In the run-up to a nationwide, digital auction - where physical products are no longer always present at one of our locations - product photos play a very important role. Remote Buying is the new norm. Last December, we appointed five additional employees to specifically look at the photos with the supply information and to provide growers with further guidance in this regard. Representative, true-to-life product photos are crucial. After all, buyers must be able to rely on the fact that they will receive what they see in the photo. To this end, we are developing a photo app together with growers and buyers. Growers can easily take several product photos (including close-up, trolley and mood photos) and send them along with their supply. Buyers can use these photos in their auction preparations. In due course, buyers will also be able to view the photo of the current or next product to be auctioned in high resolution on a second screen, such as a tablet or phone, during the auction.
Support for growers
Growers are not alone. In consultation with various FPCs, we are considering how best to support them. We are also improving the current QualityIndex. This is the indicator on the clock face indicating the reliability level of a grower. This is especially important for buyers who aren't sufficiently familiar with the supply or the suppliers. Ultimately, we will no longer accept growers deliberately supplying with unreliable information. We will auction them at the back or not at all. For example, we work together with growers and buyers to improve the purchasing experience. We want buyers to be able to increasingly rely on the product information provided by growers. This will provide growers with an ever-improving and even more reliable marketplace, where they can stand out in terms of quality, sustainability and reliability. Good quality is in the interest of all players in the chain. If we do this together, we will all be better off.
Aad van den Enden, Quality Programme Manager