When it comes to your grain business, accuracy and timeliness are two of the most important challenges you’ll encounter. Both are essential to the success of your business, so ensuring you capture data as fast as possible – and that it’s unquestionably right – is non-negotiable. Even the simplest of automation can mean big improvement. Many elevators start with baseline automation of capturing weights, generating tickets and printing tickets. These processes save a tremendous amount of time, especially during harvest.
Accuracy in Tickets and Grading
Automation means your operators don’t have to re-enter data every time a repeat customer delivers grain. No more handwritten tickets and manual calculations determining load capacities or weights. You maximize efficiencies in freight costs and avoid overload penalties. You also avoid expensive pre-printed tickets. Tickets are instead created using a simple data-entry screen with user-defined required fields and default fields. Not only is this process faster, it also greatly reduces – if not eliminates – the potential for error.
When it comes to grading, most facilities have some type of meter that samples grain and displays the grading values (test weight, moisture, etc.). If the ticket is generated manually, the grain is sampled and the values are recorded on the ticket by hand. During harvest season it can be quite daunting to make sure the right information is recorded on the right ticket. You do not want to take any discount on grain that is below the discount tables that begin taking dockage.
When you use software to generate a ticket, grades feed automatically onto the ticket. A specific bit of information between the meter and software is used to match up and apply to the correct ticket. Automating this process can reduce the number of mistakes made when hand-recording the information. With this automated process, the ability to track which grades are being applied to which tickets is very important. Any adjustments that are made from within the software should have the ability to be tracked through an audit to find out why those changes were made. The software-generated ticket eliminates confusion and makes sure your growers get paid correctly.
Communication with Staff and Customers
Building on the basics, efficiency at the elevator increases dramatically when the left hand knows what the right hand is doing. Improving communication between the scale and the receiving pit is one big key to moving trucks through your grain facility faster.
A customer asked our oneWeigh product manager Steve Day whether there was a tool that would allow people at the pit to see what employees at the scale house see when they are actually weighing the trucks – without user involvement.
With Pit Monitor, load information is automatically transferred from the system at the scale house to a monitor in the receiving pit area – or another area in the facility where information is needed – in a clear, easy-to-read grid format. You can configure the system to display certain information such as vehicle ID, commodity description, pit number, grade and any comments. The simplified communication between the scale and pit saves time and boosts efficiency by reducing operator involvement. The customer likes that. “Once the truck is weighed, we get the information we need. Now it’s all automatic. We can just look through the window at the monitor, and there’s no more running around.”
Like many customers, they tried radios, but that didn’t work. “It was so hectic trying to keep track of information and remember everything with the radio,” the customer says. “With the Pit Monitor, there’s nothing to remember. The information is right there for you to see. You don’t have to try to keep in your head which truck is which or what truck is coming. They’re all in order.”
Message boards are another tool increasingly being added at grain businesses to improve communication between drivers and scale operators. They allow drivers to verify – at a glance – to whom grain is being sold or billed. Boards can also be a quick way to communicate to drivers when the load has been weighed, graded and assigned to a pit.
Message boards come in two sizes: a small 20-character-per-line board and a five-foot scrolling board. The size you choose depends on how you’ll be using it. Sometimes a driver or producer want to keep private which companies they are hauling for or doing business with. The small 20-character-per-line message boards would be most appropriate. Also some producers do not want to share grade information with other producers. That’s another case in which the smaller board is best.
Once a ticket is started and the grain sample is taken, the driver might have a short wait while grading is completed. For some, that’s an opportunity to talk on the phone, check out their iPads or review their notes. Using a large five-foot scrolling message board on the opposite side of the scale from the small one can be useful not only to communicate pit assignment information but also to get the driver’s attention. This communication keeps traffic flowing.
Radio Frequency IDentification (RFID) readers are extremely useful for moving trucks through grain businesses faster. RFID combined with the auto ID feature allows a card to be scanned and the essential information recorded automatically. This gives quick and easy identification and load tracking throughout the facility.
The RFID helps keep track of grain from start to finish – where it came from, where it went in the facility and where it shipped – for traceability and identity preservation. For instance, the information captured allows you to access reports to locate a load into or out of the facility based on any of several criteria. You can also verify shrink and grade factor differences more easily, and monitor grain for long-term storage management.
One of the most logical ways to keep traffic flowing is to keep drivers in their trucks. When an outdoor kiosk printer is installed at the scale where the truck stops for the second weight, a copy of the commodity ticket can be printed – right there at the scale – when that weight is taken. All the driver has to do is lean out of the truck and get it, then clear the scale. This process takes no more than a minute. Imagine 150 trucks a day come through during harvest and – conservatively speaking – it takes a couple of minutes to get a manual ticket. If it only takes one minute to grab the ticket from the kiosk and move on, that means a time savings of 150 minutes or 2.5 hours. On top of that, adding a printer allows the scale operator to focus on other responsibilities by not having to distribute scale tickets.
Most kiosk printers are not expensive, and any type of protective box can be used to house them. One elevator put its printers in mailboxes with 60-watt light bulbs for heat to keep the printers at operating temperature during the winter months.
A manager at a cooperative in North Dakota told us Cultura’s full automation software brings their business to the forefront of technology. She said it’s much more professional and appeals to a wider range of customers, especially younger ones. The efficiency of their elevator has allowed them to grow and add new customers. “People come to do business with us because we do business this way,” she said. A few folks have been thrown off because trucks aren’t stacked up like they used to be. “Some customers think we didn’t do nearly as much business, when actually we’ve done more!”
Our proven software allows you to serve your customers better, faster and with greater accuracy. What sets Cultura Technologies apart is the way we serve our customers. We know your business depends on our software doing its job. In case a glitch ever arises, our people know the products – and the industry – inside and out, and will get to the root of whatever issue you may be having. We also host conferences that bring customers together to network and learn about the tools that make their businesses run efficiently. Our experts are eager to help you make the most out of Cultura software. What you learn at the conference you can take back to your business. And as always, our experts are only a phone call away.
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