For those of you that have experience taking inventory counts in a past or present job, you can appreciate the tedium of the task, as well as the time that it takes. Now imagine that the product you are counting constantly changes in size. This is the challenge of taking inventory in a field of trees. Unlike counting containers in a retail nursery (which remain the same size until someone physically “replants” them in a larger container), the only real way to measure a tree in the ground is by either its height or caliper (essentially, its diameter). Since the tree is obviously growing, it becomes a challenge to keep a real time up-to-date inventory.
Here at Urban Forest Nursery, Inc. we have recently started our first comprehensive inventory count. We are initially doing it in stages, where we will count about 1/3 of the field and then start using the resulting information in our day-to-day sales and invoicing management, to ensure that we are headed down the right path. This way we can “play” with the data for a bit before investing the time to count the entire property, which is about 30,000 trees over 32 acres.
We have discovered that it takes approximately1 hour to inventory 1000 trees. This is done with two people, where one person is measuring and counting the trees, while the other is entering data into a handheld computer. Once complete for the day, the handheld is then synced with an inventory program on the office computer. In our initial run, we have estimated a savings of about 2/3 time over a manual inventory count. Most of that extra time was spent entering the data once back in the office.
We will spend the majority of this spring/summer continuing the initial inventory count in stages, while experimenting with the various uses of the data in between counts. We will be sure to post more results and ideas as we learn along the way!