Resource Center

Don't get caught!

The phrase “don’t get caught” often creates the idea that someone is breaking a rule or law. Chances are, you’ve heard this a time or two in your life.  

The old saying can mean other things, though. While working in the mulch and soil industry for 35 years, I’ve developed a simplistic view of the business. It comes down to: 

  • procurement of raw materials  
  • processing it into mulch  
  • coloring 
  • bagging (if that’s how you sell it)  
  • distribution to the customer.  

Easy, right? Well, that’s where we can get caught.  

Those four or five key steps are interrelated. Producers know mulch can’t be processed if it’s not procured. It also can’t be colored if it’s not processed. And, if it’s not colored, it can’t be bagged or delivered. While each is a separate function, it all must work together.  

There are ways to stockpile and plan raw materials for the season with solid procurement. And, there are ways to grind/process mulch into piles that support high season demand. Vendors can also bring in extra grinders if they get behind or procure pre-ground mulch if needed. But the bottle neck in the production cycle often occurs with coloring mulch and estimating the right split between different colors as demand varies. 

A season typically starts out with a plan to color what the customers need and stay ahead of the curve. We’ve done this long enough to know that, at least.  

What fouls up that plan is if you happen to go into high season ill prepared for the demand and volume. In high season, the colorizer should be producing at peak performance to deliver the most yards per hour possible. Going into the season with worn paddles, missing arms, thin liner walls and tired pumps is guaranteed to reduce volume, inconsistent coloring accuracy (unless you have a GEM Studio) and possibly contribute to a major business failure that impacts your bottom line.  

Catastrophic failures such as a liner peeling back, lost paddles and arms or improper center bearing support can all take a colorizer down for weeks. Delaying routine maintenance and updates for your machines leads to “getting caught” with unwanted downtime in machine operations and sales, usually during your busiest time of year.   

The demand cycles of mulch are well known and fairly predictable, but the wild card variable that can protect your business operations and sales is preparation for the season. The GEM  Studio and the real-time data it provides is perfect for determining the life cycle of your coloring machine with your raw materials. It’s worth the time to develop a plan to have high season demand met with fresh components, delivering reliable, consistent output when you need it. And, when you’re in the  off season, partially worn paddles can be ran out with little impact to the business and or costs.  

In the mulch business, “don’t get caught” has implications across the board. From pre-season maintenance and prep to high season production cycles that meet customer demand, it’s easy to see that all operations will go much easier with less downtime, equating to lower costs, less overtime and a better bottom line.  

Don Dugger spent more than 34 years in the mulch industry from plant manager to regional director.