Monrovia uses plastic containers from The HC Companies for general ornamental crops, anything from perennials to conifers and trees to roses.
Ron Kinney, production resource planning manager with Monrovia in Oregon, says there are several factors that determine whether a container would meet the nursery company’s standards.
“The main thing that we look at is quality of the container,” Kinney says. “Reliability, as far as availability, and timeliness on deliveries is also key. Pricing is always there too, but quality is definitely the number one for us.”
Monrovia has production facilities in multiple states, including a 600-acre nursery in Central California, 550-acre nursery in Oregon, 160-acre nursery in Connecticut and 240-acre nursery in Georgia. As spread out as the company is, it’s important that when one of those locations needs containers that the supplier is able to get those containers where they need to be.
The HC Companies, with manufacturing facilities in Ohio, Florida, Nevada and Canada, produces quarts and trays along with 1-, 2- and 5-gallon containers for Monrovia. That includes the custom green container with the band in another color which bears the Monrovia logo.
There are several ways Monrovia measures quality in containers. First is color. The brand is known for that exact shade of “Monrovia green” so any container manufacturer must be able to accurately match it. Next, the band placement. It has to be done consistently, placed in nthe same location on the container each time. Third, the quality of the plastic itself. Some plastic containers can be too brittle, which makes them unacceptable for a nursery like Monrovia.
“Our plants sometimes will sit in the field for up to three years before they’re sold,” Kinney says. “And so they have to be out in the environment with the watering, the fertilizing, the extremes of the cold and the sun and the heat.”
Kinney says The HC Companies have been a reliable supplier that gets all those quality metrics right.
Automation is a big deal for Monrovia, as it is for many nurseries across the U.S. More nurseries are using loaders and forks to pick up, move or space containers to cut down on the manual labor costs and add uniformity to the production process. It helps to have a manufacturer that will work with you on any necessary changes to the product as your process changes.
“On occasion, their upper management will come out and visit us, tour the nursery and see how we use the pots, how they go through our canning machines, how we move them around in the field,” he says. “Automation is big now in the nursery business. So in some cases we’ve had to have some adjustments to how the containers are made, like a little bit thicker lip on the top part of the can. They’re always willing to help us out with improvements to the container as well.”