Ag retailers’ powerful testimony: Switching from paper to electronic boosts efficiency and quickly pays off

AgGateway

Washington, D.C. — Agricultural retailers and manufacturers recently offered powerful testimonials on how moving from paper-based tracking systems into electronic connectivity – through standardized transactions, barcoding and other systems – has dramatically improved their efficiency, accuracy and customer service; and they called on others to embrace eConnectivity to better streamline the supply chain. Moreover, they said their investments in electronic data transfer quickly paid off, saving their companies time and money, and boosting customer service. The presentations took place this month in Altoona, Iowa, as part of the Mid-Year Meeting for AgGateway, a non-profit organization focused on promoting eBusiness in agriculture.

“We have seen a return-on-investment as high as 50 to 1 annually, just due to reducing shrink,” said Randy Fry, Data Process and Information Systems Manager at Ceres Solutions, an Indiana ag retail supply cooperative. “It only takes about 10 to 12 bags of seed corn lost in a year to pay for the technology.”

Some of the testimonials also appear in a new brief video featuring ag retailers Co-Alliance, The Equity and Ceres Solutions, as well as Monsanto, WinField United and Mycogen, which shows eConnectivity in action in the warehouse. The video and other eConnectivity resources can be found at www.AgGateway.org.

Fry says that by going electronic Ceres has reduced annual shrink by 2 percent, which has improved its margins by over $5 per unit on corn and $2 per unit on soybeans. “Seed department profitability is now contributing significantly to our company’s bottom line,” he added.

Jeff Griffeth, Innovative Business Solutions Manager at Co-Alliance, LLP, concurs, noting, “When you don’t track efficiently, it’s the equivalent of a significant hit to sales and profitability. It can take additional sales of 7 times or more just to make up for the number of units lost. On the flip side, going electronic gives your profitability a shot in the arm almost immediately – for us it has been very positive.”

While Ceres and Co-Alliance have implemented barcoding, there are other ways to adopt eConnectivity that have a significant impact, such as moving from paper to seamless electronic exchange throughout the order-to-invoice process.

“By implementing AgGateway standards and going electronic, we’ve cut entry time by two-thirds in our business processes – push a button and it’s there accurately,” said Ann Vande Lune, Agronomy Administrator at Key Cooperative in Iowa. “Inventory control has doubled. The price sheet has eliminated mistakes. Sales people and management have confidence that they have the right price. Invoices are automatically entered into the system and prices are populated.”

Retailers also report that using AgGateway electronic standards and resources improves accuracy in reporting and in manufacturers’ payments. And having easily accessible information on real-time inventory boosts inventory management and order management.

“We now know instantly what our true warehouse inventory is. We have transparency between locations so any hub manager can see where he can find needed seed,” Fry said.

Fry, Griffeth, Vande Lune and others are urging other manufacturers and supply chain partners to come on board, because paper is still bogging down the supply chain and affecting their own efficiency.

“There are still trading partners who rely on paper orders and re-typing data into systems. That slows us down and just doesn’t make much sense in this day and age,” said Griffeth. “We’re working with AgGateway to encourage everyone to get on the eConnectivity train so that we can all operate more efficiently.”

AgGateway has numerous resources to help agri-businesses of all sizes to adopt eConnectivity in their operations. That’s making the move to eConnectivity much easier than it used to be.

“As we started to move to eConnectivity it looked like it was going to be a huge effort, but it just wasn’t,” said Natasha Lilly, Information Services Director at The Equity, an independent ag cooperative in Effingham, Ill. “It was so easy. Now our biggest challenge is that not all the suppliers are there. We need everyone to take advantage of these systems to really maximize their impact on our workflow and management.”

For ideas on how to take advantage of electronic connectivity, as well as to see the new video sponsored by AgGateway, Barcoding Inc., Agvance (SSI), and AgVantage Software, go to www.AgGateway.org and use the link on the home page, or under “eConnectivity Activities – Implementation”. You can also contact AgGateway at [email protected]