The cost of farming is increasing while farmers are put under pressure to feed a projected 9 billion people in upcoming decades. From drones to autonomous tractors, the farming industry is rapidly changing, and “data” is the biggest buzzword of all. To the multi-generation farmer it may seem that farming is not what it used to be, but that doesn’t stop us from asking:

What might farmers lose by not harnessing their data in this modern farming era?

 

The main purpose of information technology, of course, is to identify areas of inefficiency or instability within a company and use that information to streamline new solutions, hopefully saving money and reducing risk in the process.

 

The cost of farming is increasing while farmers are put under pressure to feed a projected 9 billion people in upcoming decades. From drones to autonomous tractors, the farming industry is rapidly changing, and “data” is the biggest buzzword of all. To the multi-generation farmer it may seem that farming is not what it used to be, but that doesn’t stop us from asking:

What might farmers lose by not harnessing their data in this modern farming era?

 

The main purpose of information technology, of course, is to identify areas of inefficiency or instability within a company and use that information to streamline new solutions, hopefully saving money and reducing risk in the process.

 

Agriculture isn’t the first industry to succumb to big data trends, some companies paying large sums of money for these insights. UPS, for example, spends over $1 billion annually for their new ORION (On Road Integrated Optimization and Navigation) system to optimize their driving routes (1). However, the rewards have been much larger. The ORION system collects over 250 million data points to deliver real-time route optimizations (1). With 55,000 drivers, if each driver optimizes their route by 1 mile then UPS sees a savings of $30 million each day (1, 2). A recent study by Frost and Sullivan documented similar results from a sample of 3,500 businesses worldwide (3). Their findings revealed that businesses who invested in new technology for team collaboration saw returns of 400% (3).

 

Would returns of this scale be possible on the farm?

Similar to these big data systems, small operational improvements can lead to considerable savings. Labor management, in particular, accounts for 40% of total variable farm costs for most specialty crops (4). The costs of wages are rising as are the challenges in finding an adequate workforce. Over the last few years limited labor has resulted in nearly a 10% decline of fruit and vegetable production, validating even the smallest efforts to increase worker productivity (5).

PickTrace workforce management tools were developed with the intention of meeting this need for medium to large size farming operations. In an effort to evaluate the value that our own company offers, we recently collaborated with several customers to update ROI estimates for our system. Using modest calculations and rounding down, our team was still pleasantly surprised by the scale of the results. We identified 5 major areas where our customers expressed the greatest hard dollar savings. See them listed below.

Agriculture isn’t the first industry to succumb to big data trends, some companies paying large sums of money for these insights. UPS, for example, spends over $1 billion annually for their new ORION (On Road Integrated Optimization and Navigation) system to optimize their driving routes (1). However, the rewards have been much larger. The ORION system collects over 250 million data points to deliver real-time route optimizations (1). With 55,000 drivers, if each driver optimizes their route by 1 mile then UPS sees a savings of $30 million each day (1, 2). A recent study by Frost and Sullivan documented similar results from a sample of 3,500 businesses worldwide (3). Their findings revealed that businesses who invested in new technology for team collaboration saw returns of 400% (3).

 

Would returns of this scale be possible on the farm?

Similar to these big data systems, small operational improvements can lead to considerable savings. Labor management, in particular, accounts for 40% of total variable farm costs for most specialty crops (4). The costs of wages are rising as are the challenges in finding an adequate workforce. Over the last few years limited labor has resulted in nearly a 10% decline of fruit and vegetable production, validating even the smallest efforts to increase worker productivity (5).

PickTrace workforce management tools were developed with the intention of meeting this need for medium to large size farming operations. In an effort to evaluate the value that our own company offers, we recently collaborated with several customers to update ROI estimates for our system. Using modest calculations and rounding down, our team was still pleasantly surprised by the scale of the results. We identified 5 major areas where our customers expressed the greatest hard dollar savings. See them listed below.

5 WAYS DATA CAN SAVE YOU MONEY

  1. Increase in worker productivity

 

Many would argue that having a system to track employees is enough motivation to increase productivity. Our customers would agree. Most workers appreciate that they are being noticed for their hard work, and our customers estimate that this translates into a 10-15% increase in productivity. To be safe in our estimates, we minimized this calculation to a 5% productivity increase, and we were still staggered by the thousands of dollars that would be saved.

% Productivity increase

  1. Reduction of minimum wage seekers

 

It was expressed to us that 15-20% of workers are often not engaged in their work, only seeking to secure minimum wage payment for minimal effort. This notion strongly correlates with findings from other industries. An article from In Bound Logistics expressed a similar phenomenon where 20% of their surveyed workforce described themselves as “actively disengaged” (6).

PickTrace offers real-time productivity insights so management can identify these employees while they are in the field. Our customers have used this tool to actively work with these individuals, boosting their performance by 20-40%.

% Increased productivity by min-wage seekers

  1. Data entry clerks & HR clerks removed

 

Electronic timecards and productivity tracking eliminates the need for manual data entry. PickTrace smart tools reduces the need for these positions altogether.

% Reduction in data entry hours

  1. Reduction in payroll calculation time

 

Electronic timesheets and automated wage calculations significantly decreases the amount of time invested into payroll. With PickTrace, payroll can be completed in less than 30 minutes, simply by downloading the report and uploading it to the payroll system.

% Reduction in payroll hours

  1. Streamlined field processes

­­

The PickTrace field application documents employee time entry with a simple scan, so every employee saves time checking-in to work, breaks, and lunch. Timing these procedures in the field, PickTrace tends to save 5 seconds or more for each time entry. It may not seem like much, but these small improvements lead to many hours of savings.

­­

% Time savings in field time entry

5 WAYS DATA CAN SAVE YOU MONEY

  1. Increase in worker productivity

 

Many would argue that having a system to track employees is enough motivation to increase productivity. Our customers would agree. Most workers appreciate that they are being noticed for their hard work, and our customers estimate that this translates into a 10-15% increase in productivity. To be safe in our estimates, we minimized this calculation to a 5% productivity increase, and we still staggered by the thousands of dollars that would be saved.

% Productivity increase

  1. Reduction of minimum wage seekers

 

It was expressed to us that 15-20% of workers are often not engaged in their work, only seeking to secure minimum wage payment for minimal effort. This notion strongly correlates with findings from other industries. An article from In Bound Logistics expressed a similar phenomenon where 20% of their surveyed workforce described themselves as “actively disengaged” (6).

PickTrace offers real-time productivity insights so management can identify these employees while they are in the field. Our customers have used this tool to actively work with these individuals, boosting their performance by 20-40%.

% Increased productivity by min-wage seekers

  1. Data entry clerks & HR clerks removed

 

Electronic timecards and productivity tracking eliminates the need for manual data entry. PickTrace smart tools reduces the need for these positions altogether.

% Reduction in data entry hours

  1. Reduction in payroll calculation time

 

Electronic timesheets and automated wage calculations significantly decreases the amount of time invested into payroll. With PickTrace, payroll can be completed in less than 30 minutes, simply by downloading the report and uploading it to the payroll system.

% Reduction in payroll hours

  1. Streamlined field processes

­­

The PickTrace field application documents employee time entry with a simple scan, so every employee saves time checking-in to work, breaks, and lunch. Timing these procedures in the field, PickTrace tends to save 5 seconds or more for each time entry. It may not seem like much, but these small improvements lead to many hours of savings.

­­

% Time savings in field time entry

­­Can scalable returns be generated by harnessing data on the farm?

Absolutely. Without accounting for increased access to information, generated analytics, and liability risk reduction, the hard costs savings listed above return more than the cost of the system within the first few weeks of harvest. Labor management is a significant cost to farms, especially for those relying on manual labor. Discovering new ways to increase productivity and reduce cost can have a monumental impact on farming operations. As quoted from McKinsey & Company, “Raising the productivity of employees whose jobs can’t be automated is the next great performance challenge” (3).

While “big data systems” may seem intimidating, intelligence technology is just another way to identify inefficiencies and develop solutions. At PickTrace, we are delighted to offer insights and solutions that help farms gain operational visibility, save money, and reduce risk.

Learn more about how PickTrace can streamline your operation.

Operations Manager Describes Using PickTrace as a Forecasting Tool

Bowerman Blueberries, a Michigan blueberry grower, began using PickTrace to track their operational efficiency during the harvest of 2016. Before using PickTrace, Bowerman Blueberries was relying on manual data entry to track operational progress, which requires hours...

5 Marketing Trends at United Fresh MKT 2017

The world is changing rapidly and successful businesses have to evolve with it. The 2017 United Fresh Expo was full of exciting discussion, new technology and the latest trends. Below are a few hot topics that we're likely to see more of in the future.  ...