"Total quality management research guides postharvest quality success"

Flower losses of 20 – 30% are reported as flowers move from growers to retail outlets and consumers. High-quality, long-lasting flowers are among the highest priorities when consumers make floral purchases. Care and handling research in the U.S., Europe, Israel, and other countries has provided guidelines for maintaining long-lasting flowers.

Some years ago, an American engineer who focused on business practices and management established ‘Total Quality Management (TQM). This approach transformed industrial processes and reduced shrink significantly in the automobile and electronics industries. If these industries can benefit from TQM, so can the flower industry. TQM is a management system that:

  • is customer-focused
  • involves every employee in a quality improvement culture
  • quantifies success
  • leads to continual improvement

Establish a Routine Employee Training Program for Total Quality Management
A complete set of care and handling guidelines should be developed for your company. The care and handling guidelines below can be the basis for the training and maintenance of best practices.

The focus should be on producing a high-quality product and reducing waste. Your company should have a way of monitoring success by having employees perform the key steps and maintain compliance records.

The University of Florida flower postharvest program evaluated and refined these practices over 15 years.

Purchase The Longest-Lasting Varieties
As consumers, we may purchase automobiles, electronics, kitchen appliances, and clothing/shoes based on appearance and brand rather than considering the facts about the performance and life of these products. The same is true with flowers. Longevity, quality, and performance are the criteria used to select flower varieties. Not every red rose, yellow chrysanthemum or pink alstroemeria lasts the same number of days. Some may last but have leaves that turn yellow, buds that drop, or flowers that fail to open. Assign someone to track these qualities. If you see consistent problems with a variety, cross that one off your list and choose another variety that performs better.

Sanitation and Flower Processing
Once flowers arrive, a TQM care and handling program must be directed toward cleanliness and keeping flowers hydrated with the proper solutions. Ideally, one person will be responsible for processing, and this responsibility should be recognized and respected by all other employees. The individual should be responsible for:

  • Receiving and inspecting flowers for insects and diseases.
  • Washing buckets before use with an anti-bacterial product such as FloraLife D.C.D. Cleaner.
  • Use clean water, not recycled water.
  • Cutting stems with a clean, sharp knife (or not cutting if using FloraLife® Express Technology solutions).
  • Selecting the correct hydration and flower food solution and dosing & mixing it properly. Growers and wholesalers should use commercial hydration solutions, and retail outlets should use flower foods.
  • Place flowers in the cooler and maintain temperature at 34 – 38 F (1-3C) and 80% humidity. Keep a written record of these measurements three times daily.

Cleanliness of floors, workspaces, and cooler
Assign a person to monitor cleanliness practices. Tables should be disinfected after every arrangement is completed. Although a single person assumes the responsibility for monitoring, each employee should be responsible for his/her work area. Diseases can remain on unclean surfaces for days, if not longer.

Floors of coolers should be swept daily. Shelving and tables in coolers should be disinfected every two weeks and recorded with the date and initials of the person responsible. Cooler walls should be wiped down monthly with an anti-fungal disinfectant. Again, record-keeping assures accountability.

Floral Designers Responsibilities
New employees should understand the importance of sanitation and commit to routine application of practices to minimize contamination:

  • Use an antifungal dip to sanitize knives and clippers between each floral design.
  • Wiping table down after each design.
  • Coordinating with flower processing staff to have properly mixed flower food for arrangements. Including flower food packets with arrangements or bouquets.

Widely accepted care and handling practices have been proven to reduce flower losses significantly. TQM is a tool you can use in your business to ensure that these practices are being consistently applied.

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