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Stan van der Waal, Rainbow Greenhouses: “The system has worked absolutely perfect from day one, impressive!”

Rainbow Greenhouses, a wholesale grower and distributer of potted plants, recently invested in a SmartFlo system for transporting trays. Crops may need to be moved as often as every two weeks to provide the best growing environment. With WPS they created an effective system with the aim of reducing labour and increasing space utilization and working speed in the nursery.

Rainbow Greenhouses, Canada

Stan and Wilma van der Waal started Rainbow Greenhouses in 1985 brokering potted plants an cut flower into the Seattle, Washington marketplace. Today Rainbow Greenhouses Inc. is a privately owned wholesale grower and distributor of potted plants, located in Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada. Rainbow Greenhouses is committed to providing the market with high quality plants. The company serves various markets in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba as well as Washington, USA. Rainbow Greenhouses Inc. produces a wide variety of indoor, outdoor and seasonal plants.

Rainbow Greenhouses operates 3 sites totalling 2.5 million square feet in British Colombia and Alberta. They are currently employing 400 employees. As a company, Rainbow Greenhouses continually strive to find ways to increase process efficiency and drive cost out of production. The goals are increased production from the same 4 greenhouse walls and lower cost of production.

First time that Rainbow Greenhouses got in touch with WPS
Stan van der Waal met a WPS account manager 2 years ago when he stopped by in Canada. This was followed by a trip to the Netherlands, where WPS showed Stan some installations. One of the key considerations was flexibility as Rainbow Greenhouses grows many crops and sizes. This poses challenges in automation as automation often works best in mono crop setting.

Which key aspects convinced you of the benefits of SmartFlo for your company? 
‘We targeted our propagation area, which has frequent turns. Crops may need to be moved as often as every two weeks to provide the best growing environment. Second, we often move only portions of the bay, which can be in the middle. Conveyor belts solve the access problem allowing easy access and consolidation,’ Stan van der Waal explains.

Which goals did you want to achieve with the SmartFlo system?

  • Ultimate goal is to reduce labour by 4 full time positions;
  • Increase space utilization by 10%;
  • Increase flow work speed.

What is your experiences with the system? 
‘First, it takes time to adapt. Initially, the staff were not looking forwards to this change as they felt the system would be challenging to operate. Turns out, staff now love the system and are impressed how easy workers have worked with the system. At this time, the labour savings is closer to 2 less position. I feel we will get closer to 4 as we fine tune the process with the system.’

‘Second, the space utilization is definitely better. Probably closer to 5% at this time, but this will be more in the future. The bay consolidation is now very easy and middle positions are easily filled or moved.’

‘Third, processing speed to pick from belt areas is awesome. Head Grower Rob O’Hara tell me what used to 12 hours is completed in 4 hours.’

‘A side benefit has been reduced congestion in the greenhouse growing areas.’

Would you like to recommend the SmartFlo system to other nurseries? 
‘Although shipment arrived behind schedule, WPS went above and beyond sending Installers and committed to assuring Rainbow was able to utilize the system in our busiest spring season. The installation went exceptionally smooth. I was also very impressed how seamless ‘bug free’ the initial operation of the system worked. The system has worked absolutely perfect from day one, impressive! The key advantages we see: increase work flow and productivity, and increasing turn time will reduce labour,’ Stan van der Waal explains.

Do you have any questions about our cultivation solutions? Or would you like to brainstorm about the different ways to improve your business? We would like to think with you about your business and the future improvements you could make. Please contact us for an enlightening logistics advise!


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10 April 2017

SmartFlo, Horticulture, Automation, Transport Systems