Perhaps the most difficult part of managing feed products is making sure you are contracting prices at profitable levels. Because so many transactions are locking in rates at notoriously fluid prices, this is also where companies can most benefit from managing their big data correctly. If you are just keeping a manual record of your contracts or using a system that doesn’t process data in a timely manner, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to take quick action quick enough to benefit from the data.
This means you could be stuck selling at an unprofitable level for some time before you realize a mistake. If you forget that just one ingredient jumped in price yesterday, for example, you’re losing money every day your rate doesn’t catch up. Today’s technology allows you to proactively track pricing issues rather than react to a cost change after it is too late.
You can even set your margins in advance and prices will automatically go up or down in the system as your cost base fluctuates. After all, timeliness is key in proper pricing. It all comes down to properly managing your risk. And when you are doing that, having the most up-to-date information is essential.
The ability to track and trace ingredients and products is becoming essential in the feed & grain industry. New regulations, particular those included in the Food Safety Modernization Act, are requiring companies to provide better information on the quality of their ingredients throughout their production. Because there are so many steps before your ingredients arrive at the plant, manually keeping track of each product’s origin and quality is a near impossibility – particularly when you source from international growers.
But today’s software is bringing accurate production tracking just a few clicks away. By tracing every ingredient, every process and every transport of a product, companies can provide more accurate audit reports and better respond to quality issues. Barcodes or RFID tags can be especially useful in tracking all this data. Today’s technology allows manufacturers to choose which barcode information they need most. Data like production date, shipping data, ingredients used, and expiration dates can all be baked into the barcode and pulled from a container with one simple scan.
While it may seem irrational, the fact is that many companies don’t even have full access to their data. Those running on someone else proprietary systems often don’t have the ability to view their own data at any time. Waiting on reports from a third party is no way to manage your company. Those numbers are your assets, your business; you deserve to have 24/7 access.
With so many companies focused on internal data management, one issue that’s often overlooked is the ability to provide customers access to their own data on the backend of your system. If customers can go online to check their own contracts, invoices and orders, it saves you time on the phone or going back and forth on e-mail. New software even allows customers to submit orders through the web. That information is then automatically updated in your system, meaning you have the most up-to-date sales and inventory data at all times.
The simple fact is that you need to be getting the most from your data. Just as you wouldn’t drive a car without a dashboard, you shouldn’t run a business without having quantitative insights into your operation. Today’s technology has come too far to rely on manual processes. Trust in the software and you can save time, save money and eventually, save your bottom line.
Pete Schmidt is the agriculture business unit leader at iRely LLC. He is an innovative information technology professional with more than 22 years experience. He has a proven track record of successfully managing change and multi functional teams. While working as the Director of Data Management and Shared Services he was responsible for Strategic Planning, Budget Planning, P&L Management, Vendor Management, Staff Management, Application Development and Production Control.