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Dear Contractors,

As requested, please find attached an unwrapped tree cost estimate tool for your use and/ or adaptation. It was put together in collaboration by a small working group of staff from several contractors to assist in thinking about the impact on operations of managing loose trees in boxes as opposed to the traditional ‘wrapped’ bundles.

We are told many contracts in 2024, particularly BCTS or government-funded, will have at least some unwrapped bundles. It is not clear yet how those will be identified in the tender documents or delineated on bid sheets. As with all things new, it is fair to expect some inconsistency in how this is handled. If you think this will impact your operations in any way, we encourage you to ask questions and ensure you know what you are bidding on. We expect that over time, efficiencies around unwrapped bundles will be created and everyone will find ways to minimize or eliminate the impact. However, the initial reports shared by planting contractors who have tried them in trials point to the below factors as being relevant, and significant. If the cost increase proves to be enduring, clarity on the math will help inform those purchasing trees and potentially drive needed innovation at the packaging stage to come up with alternatives.

Disclaimer:

  • Do your own math, check the formulas, and use them at your own risk.
  • The WFCA and creators of this workbook tool make no claim on the accuracy of its design or calculations and are not liable for its use or misuse. It is merely a starting point to aid in thinking about how to estimate the impact of operating with unwrapped trees.
  • Every situation will be different, and there is no attempt here at anticipating an ‘average price’ or any specific cost change. Like the calculators that were shared around to assist in COVID cost estimating, everyone is responsible for creating their own final estimates based on their unique conditions.

How it is designed to work:

  1. Enter the averages/ assumptions for the project into the green-shaded cells. Presumably, these costs would apply only to the trees affected (unwrapped) and not to the entire project if there is a mix.
  2. Using these averages, the spreadsheet calculates 3 different factors:
  1. Loss of Production: This works purely off the difference in total daily ‘bagup’ time for loose trees (counting single trees) vs bundled trees and increases the total tree price accordingly to balance against lost time and therefore productivity.
  2. Overcount/ Overclaim: Multiplies the increase in ‘overcount’ X the payout per tree. Puts a cost estimate on the assumed increase in trees claimed by planters above and beyond what the contractor is able to bill for, working on the assumption that loose trees will mean less accurate counts and that planters will naturally ‘round up’.
  3. Management Time: The increase in staff time counting/ handling trees for each unit is to ensure accurate billing, densities, and reporting and also monitor overcount (above). Works off the ‘increased management time’ percentage of the total tree price originally allocated for wrapped bundles.

The second tab is a summary of the totals for use in communicating the changed conditions.

Some additional factors not considered in this model:

  1. Impact on minimum wage top-up – with lost productivity, will minimum wage top-up be greater? Or is that factored into an overall increase in the tree price for lost productivity?
  2. Increased training costs – will more inexperienced planters need to be trained to hit the same deadlines due to lower productivity? Will the overall training time and rise in productivity take longer than normal?
  3. Loss of appeal due to a perceived loss of productivity + increased frustration – will planters be less willing to take a chance on being ‘made whole’ working on contracts with lots of unwrapped trees?
  4. Stock handling and transportation – will the contractor and planters have a higher burden of care for trees that are more prone to damage during transportation, bagging up, and planting?
  5. Increased stock handling costs to manage botrytis or other tree health issues?
  6. What else is missing?

We hope you find this useful, feedback is appreciated. If you have ideas on how this could be improved, or what might be missing or otherwise misrepresented, please reply and share ideas for improvements or updated versions.

With kind consideration, your co-presidents,
Scott Overland & Timo Scheiber

Unwrapped Seedling Cost Calculator