In this series of columns, we give the floor to directors and managers of Royal FloraHolland. In this column we give the floor to COO Leendert-Jan Plaisier.

Let's peak together

The peak is coming soon. An important period for growers and buyers and therefore for us. We are well prepared to handle the expected increase in supply from 3 April. We are aware that whatever measure we take it will affect buyers, growers, transporters and/or employees. Measures have pros, but sometimes cons too. We naturally try to minimise the latter. If we can't quite manage that, I ask for understanding in advance. After all, we all agreed that doing nothing is not an option either. In the run-up to the peak, we discussed this with growers and buyers. That was the basis for the peak plan that is now in place.

The slogan of our peak campaign puts it very aptly: Let's peak together. The peak plan requires flexibility from all of us and together we can make it a success. Different delivery dynamics, especially for plant buyers, may require adjusting working methods and affect the planning of transporters. Growers face a reduction in the maximum percentage of clock pre-sales. Employees are flexible in terms of working hours, leave days or deployment as peak help. On the other hand, we can give more certainty about end times, and deliver flowers as often as possible 'as usual': within standard time. I think it is good to review our peak plan. That way, I hope to clear up some misunderstandings.

Parts of the peak plan

Everything we do is geared to providing predictable logistics services despite the shortage of staff and busy times. Predictable logistics is in the interest of strength of the clock. Reliable logistics and certainty about end times ensure that buying via the clock remains attractive and thus pricing is optimal. The peak plan consists of the components:
  • Staff recruitment, flexible deployment and deployment of peak helpers
  • Making sufficient logistics supplies available
  • Extended opening hours (direct flows)
  • Early auction days
  • Accelerated start for flowers, final push for plants (from 3 April, also after peak as needed)
  • Higher volumes per auction with adjusted percentage of clock pre-sales (from 3 April to June)

As the peak period is nearing, we are increasingly able to estimate when it will be busy. Although the outside temperature and number of sun hours still cause uncertainty, as does the ratio of clock sales to direct sales. We also now know better how our staffing is doing. Of course, we do what we can to round out that staffing. Besides numerous local initiatives, our online recruitment campaign is almost impossible to miss, is a success, but is not yet generating the number of new colleagues we need.

Flexible measures

You will recognise in the list the usual peak measures such as early auction days and availability of sufficient logistics supplies. These measures help, but more is needed. Introducing accelerated start flowers/end-of-season plants in Aalsmeer and Naaldwijk and coarser auctioning at all export locations, allows us to respond flexibly to peak demand and shortage of staff. Per week, and for bulkier auctions per day, we consider to what extent we should deploy these measures. This allows us to move with the course of the peak. We also want to maintain some of this flexibility after the peak. That's why we continue to accelerate start of flowers and final push of plants after the peak if needed.

In recent months, as expected and understandable, reactions have been very diverse. Understanding, concerns, questions, everything came and still comes. We did not shy away from the conversation about it. Precisely because of this, we have good insight into the concerns, open ends and needs. We took these things into account when working out details. For instance, we did our best to make expectations about end times plants clearer. The good news is that it looks like we will deliver no later than 3 p.m., and 70% of days before 2 p.m. Since reality can always vary, I urge everyone to check the forecasts weekly on our website. From 29 March, we will also publish there the expected starting times of plants for Aalsmeer and Naaldwijk, a wish of many buyers.

Auctioneer monitors optimal pricing

With regard to higher volumes per auction, I would like to emphasise the role of the auctioneer once again. He/she determines how we use this instrument per day and per product group, the speed of lifting and distinguishes between niche and bulk products. Small transactions remain possible, including through KVV. We will lower the maximum percentage of clock pre-sales from 50 to 45%. Below the line, this relatively minor intervention in the auction process makes a significant contribution to better and predictable end times. Naturally, we will keep a close eye on optimal product pricing.

Outstretched hand

For many, the peak period has already started with Valentine's Day and International Women's Day. We got through those busy times just fine. But from 3 April onwards, we certainly cannot avoid the busyness. The peak plan really has to prove itself from then on, I realise. Along the way, we adjust where necessary and of course a final evaluation will follow. In between, we will keep you informed. For now, I want to wish everyone success. For many it has to be done in the spring, a beautiful but also stressful time. Above all, let's keep an eye on each other and stay in contact. Above all, see our peak plan as an outstretched hand to make the best of it together. If you have any questions, suggestions or concerns, please approach our contact centre or your logistics contact at your location. Sometimes more is possible than you think. After all: peak periods are done together.

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