Arena Flowers supports seasonal uplift with Kern install

Hackett: "We needed to find a way to introduce new levels of automation"
Hackett: "We needed to find a way to introduce new levels of automation"

Ethical florist Arena Flowers has been helped through another busy period by a new bespoke Kern inserting system.

The London-headquartered business delivers more than two million bouquets of fresh flowers every year, embellished with personalisation including a greetings card with a message, while customers can also create highly customised orders by adding other products to their bouquet selection such as wine, beauty products, or confectionery.

Its flowers are sourced from ethical suppliers and Fairtrade-certified farms, earning it a perfect 100 score in 2018, 2019, and 2020 on the Ethical Company Index.

While every order is arranged and hand-tied by one of its florists to create a unique bouquet, the business wanted to find a way to automate the labour-intensive card inserting, sorting, addressing and courier label creation process, to increase its capacity.

It installed the new system last year and in the run up to Christmas the company was processing just over 1,000 orders per hour on the Kern device. Even this was way behind its upcoming peak periods – Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day – where the business is expecting the machine to handle 15,000 orders per hour at peak times, with many orders coming in during the last few days and final hours leading up to each event.

The company said the Kern system has boosted its current capacity and will enable it to cope with increasing demand over the next five to 10 years.

Arena Flowers CEO John Hackett said: “We wanted to reduce the reliance on manual labour involved in inserting cards into envelopes, scanning bar codes, creating address labels and the subsequent sorting into batches, according to date, courier, product type and gift add-ons.

“We needed to find a way to introduce new levels of automation so looked at other industries to see what we could learn. A critical factor was that a new system would not compromise our personalised offer and be able to handle 15,000 orders per hour at peak times.

“High-speed mail and sortation technologies were an obvious solution and Kern’s in-depth approach impressed us the most. The determination of the team to understand our challenge and then tailor a system to futureproof our operations was impressive.”

The bespoke Kern system includes an inserter that places greetings cards in envelopes, and a sortation machine with barcode readers to sort cards into different batches and be matched with the correct bouquet of flowers.

The installation of the kit enabled 46 members of staff to be redeployed elsewhere in the business, representing a major saving in labour costs on the sorting, batching, and mailing process.

“The new solution had to increase efficiency and capacity and that’s exactly what Kern delivered. The bottleneck in the business was the speed of the gift card process – how long it took to insert, batch, and then match them to individual bouquets,” said Hackett.

“Previously, we could achieve 4,000-5,000 orders an hour but not for any sustained period without elevating the risk of human error and mispicks. The new system has increased this capacity by 300% but can also maintain it comfortably for hours on end.

“Now we have the confidence to cope with large spikes in orders and can easily handle 125,000 orders a day – incredibly rare for this type of precise and highly customised product offering. This confidence is also invaluable when we engage with new business partners, to add more products to our offering.”