December 28, 2004, 12:00 AM

To shorten the supply chain, Proflowers plants web technology at farms

Proflowers.com speeds flower delivery with systems that reach all the way out to its flower growers. Growers take on tasks otherwise handled by middlemen, supported by web applications that let them pick, package and ship directly to consumers.

Provide Commerce Inc.’s flagship web site, Proflowers.com, promises flowers that are one to three days out of the ground upon delivery, versus more than a week, which is average under traditional cut flower distribution methods. Proflowers meets the shorter window with web-based technology that makes the whole supply chain more efficient, including proprietary software it installs at flower-growing farms.

For example, at domestic flower growers with which it has contracts to ship product directly to customers – representing about one-third of the flowers shipped by Proflowers – the growers have taken on many of the tasks formerly conducted by a series of middlemen, supported by web-based technology designed by the company. At each such facility, Proflowers installs a file server/PC attached to a series of printers. For each order to be filled, the system generates a packing slip, greeting card message and shipping label – all on the same perforated form.

Under traditional models, those three pieces of information are pulled from three different systems. “But this way, the growers don’t have to collate it themselves to make sure that the right shipping label goes with the right packing slip and the right greeting card message,” says CEO Bill Strauss. “If they have to do that, they are going to be inefficient and the chance of error and of not satisfying the customer goes up.”

Such automated efficiency becomes critical at peak times. As online orders grew in the days that preceded Mothers’ Day last year, for example, Proflowers received more than 14,000 online orders in the peak hour of its busiest day.

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