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Top reasons to digitize grain shipments [Podcast]

Managing bulk shipments digitally is faster, uses less man-hours and gives access to more carriers

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With more products coming in and an industry-wide employee shortage, grain elevators and grain facilities need every advantage.

Automating and digitizing will be key for grain handlers and feed manufacturers to continue to provide quality products in the future. This episode's guest, Jeff Schreiner, CEO of Roger, talks with Steven Kilger, managing editor of Feed & Grain, about digitizing shipper contracts.


Steven Kilger: Hello, everyone. My name is Steven Kilger. I'm a managing editor for Feed & Grain. You're listening to the Feed & Grain Podcast. Thank you so much for listening with us today. I am sitting down with Jeff Schreiner. He's the chief executive officer for Roger. We talked about the advantages of digitizing your shipment paperwork workflow along with other aspects of your facility to make both your life easier and be less reliant on having people in the office and staff to take care of that kind of thing โ€” all the while making your entire facility run more efficiently. So thank you so much to Jeff for stopping by, and let's jump right into it.

Hi, everyone. Thanks for listening to the Feed & Grain podcast. My name's Steven Kilger. I'm sitting here with Jeff from Roger today. Jeff, why don't you tell the industry a little bit about yourself?

Jeff Schreiner: Hi, everyone. My name is Jeff Schreiner. I'm the president and CEO of Roger. Roger is a digital-free ecosystem app.

I grew up on a farm 60 miles straight south of Omaha, Nebraska, in a little town called Douglas. Our whole family grew up on the farm. We had a farming operation and a bit of a trucking business, which is ironic going back into technology and trucking all these years later.

Kilger: That is fascinating how that tends to work. Isn't it all circular in the end? But always nice to have a Cornhusker on the podcast. Can you tell me a little bit about Roger itself? What was the problem that it was made to fix in the grain handling industry?

Schreiner:  Roger is the transformation of what is now paper, email and texts around the logistics of moving bulk products in trucks to a digital format. Where we are like our name says, we're the electronic version of converting all things that were once paper and inefficient, at times, to digital, which is all real-time, all up in the cloud and a great way to do business. In the modern day, the goal is to get better and more effective at doing business.

Kilger: It's really fascinating the things that you guys have come up with so far. Can you tell me about the Roger system?

Schreiner: Roger has a kind of end-to-end -- think about it in terms of a digital ecosystem. We're solving problems for both the shippers, in the grain and other bulk product industries and carriers.

Our goal is to make everything from the introduction of those two groups very seamless and very easy. To qualify those relationships to get them to a point where they can do business together faster. We introduce them, and we do all the compliance requirements and make sure that everybody's up to snuff. We have everyone's insurance and all that taken care of so that you can do business. Then we get to a point where we're plugged together.

The things that are moving in the back of a truck, like all of the commodities that are coming out of an elevator to where it needs to go. The commodity is intricately linked to the logistics move. We make the connection of what commodities are going to move, when they move, how they want it done, and when's going to show up. Ultimately, the final point would be when all these things happen, and they work well, of course.

There are payments at the bank at the back end of that process. Our goal was to make that completely effective through automation. What used to be somewhere between 17 and 35 days to get paid on some of these things, for our carrier, we're down in many cases to below three days.

We have some that are actually same-day payments because things get tied up with contracting stuff. Exceptionally better condition than it was when 50 years ago when we were carrying around clipboards and sending things through the mail and waiting for things to happen.If there were any questions, you didn't know it. You have a lot of phone calls and things involved in that whole process. It's changing the whole dynamic of how that environment works.

Kilger: I once had a conversation with an automated scaling company, and they said that we're doing all this deleting and managing all these contracts and things. It seems like it's crazy this day and age, especially since so many still write physical checks and send them out and things like that. So Roger is on the cloud. It's also an app. It's quite a few things, right?

Schreiner: For shippers and carriers, there's a cloud version. So if you're sitting in an elevator, you get a web GUI, and you get a webpage that you can see where all your trucks are coming inbound and going out. You can see all the paperwork coming in at you. There's a component where if you're at a site, a shipper can see everything that's happening in front of them and really understand how to manage their facilities much better. If you're a carrier. You're seeing the same view where your carriers know where all the trucks are, where they're gonna go, if they're going to be on time, and if they're going to be late.

Then there's an app that goes along with all of this. So carriers can be mobile, and shippers can be mobile. A driver is another role underneath a carrier, and the drivers have their own app, and they get routed in the best way possible from where they need to start. Even if it's a very defined place in a farmer's field somewhere, it will most efficiently direct them all the way to where they need to go and give them expectations all the way. A driver doesn't have to take a phone call. That app actually tells everyone downstream what's happening and when it's going to happen. It sets some expectations about when things are going to get delivered. And so, all of that really takes the burden of a lot of administrative stuff out of some of the way things work today. It lets the system take those things so our drivers can focus on drivers, and our shippers can focus on selling and making that product go where it needs to go.

Kilger: We've driven to farms, those confusing back country roads that, if you're not intimately familiar with it, it's the way of the past, right? A farmer, he's got such large farms producing so much grain he can't drive the grain there himself, right? And elevators no longer have giant fleets that are doing it. So it seems like this is a great way to connect those drivers to an industry that, quite frankly, has better things to do, stuff they need to get done. So can you tell me ... say I'm Feed & Grain elevator, and I'm on board, I'm ready to do this. What are my first steps? What's my experience, like when I reach out to others and tell them I want to get involved?

Schreiner: It's a pretty straightforward process. There's no software to install. It's all online. If we want to give it a run and start converting your facility and all your carriers to do business this way. It can be up and running in a day. Now a lot of elevators have already made investments in technologies. Sometimes they have already invested in planning systems, or they operate with their commodity trading risk management systems. And if you want to get really sophisticated, we can integrate with all of those states. So there's no dual entry. You just put it in normally, the way you do business, and it just kind of flows downstream. And Roger does its thing and gets your truck moving on time. And then it flows upstream and says, "Hey, your paperwork said ... let's get it integrated with your systems that pay people."

So there's a similar experience on the shipper side on the carrier side, basically, the same start, they download their apps, and they get they get an account and start using the parts and pieces of the ecosystem. We give them nice videos and things to understand it, generally is pretty easy to we make it, so it's pretty easy to jump into and understand how to get around. It's kind of like a modern-day app. And we want you to be able to get in and start using it almost immediately. That's the whole point of getting people converted and comfortable with it.

Kilger: This might be an unfair comparison. But I remember last year, and I remember thinking of it as kind of the rideshare for grains because you don't need to have a direct contract as a shipper or an elevator right with each other. You just have to both be involved with Roger, is that correct?

Schreiner: There is still the obligation, so shippers have the general terms that they want. And they do need to have that applied to the way the carrier operates. So there is some direct interaction, we don't perform as a broker between the two, and we don't take a position with that. We just basically help them facilitate the whole movement digitally. And that's the best thing; it doesn't massively reach and redesign your processes. It just allows you to go from paper, phone calls, texts, and all that stuff to electronic. Then let the system do things, through that learn, and then coach you how to do that job even better than you were doing it when it was all man.

Kilger: It must make making those integrations between shippers and elevators a lot easier, right? You no longer have to tell them all the stuff, exactly where you can deliver and where you can do all this and that. That's all kind of handled by the app, right? So that's got to be a huge time saver.

Schreiner: It may expose you to new opportunities you may not know exist. If there was a carrier that pulls in your space, and they're all rock or something else. And you didn't really have an introduction to that person. Well, now, you might have an opportunity to do business with that carrier. Or secondarily, maybe the carrier has the same problem, which is for a long, long time, they just have a certain set of businesses and calls they do, and they just never knew that they could fill out their dance card in a different way. This is really the advantage of things moving down the digital path.

I think this also has to apply to the constraints around finding people to do jobs. This is an extension to get to more audiences of people. And if you think of it over the course of time, this is the way a lot of people run lots of parts of their life, online banking, shopping; you name it. They kind of have learned that this is an effective way to get things done. This is just an extension into this industry, the way that all those other industries kind of took off and started transforming. We're in that space now. And it's happening very fast, as you can imagine.

Kilger: I mean, let's face it, rural America has a labor shortage, and agriculture has a labor shortage. And anytime you can take people from having to do this kind of work. Automation is going to save an industry because, let's face it, there's not going to be a huge boom in rural towns, at least no time in the near future. So this is how we kind of adapt and keep those grain elevators working is adopting technology, which seems like you guys have a great, great product for that kind of thing.

Schreiner: We love the story where a grain elevator that's been in town for many years, you know, jumps in, and now they're the most sophisticated technology-looking business out there. We love those stories because it shows that our rural American businesses have every ability to compete like they never have in the past. And then maybe a few years ago, you would have had a conversation about, well, the infrastructure or the internet doesn't support it. We're finding that that's a very rare situation. Almost everywhere, in every part of the country, has the ability to do this kind of work now. And I think it extends the range, the radius of your business, which is a great story. There could be case studies on how this all occurred, where rural America has seen a blossoming of new work and new opportunities just because people can work wherever they want to work these days.

Kilger: We all have phones now, right? There are parts of the country, but most of us, at least in town and stuff, have some kind of cell phone signal. And that's what you really need to work with Roger, right?

Schreiner: A fundamental breakthrough that we're leveraging.

Kilger: What do people do if they are interested in finding out more about Roger? You're on the Feed & Grain Buyers Guide. Your website is going to be listed in the show notes, anything else? Any videos, you suggest watching on your site?

Schreiner: We have a whole host of videos. The first thing that you do when you visit the site is there's a really short video if you want to run it through its paces and see what it does and how it works. And in a short time, you can watch a video and just basically understand how the environment works and what it takes to get there. And it's not much to get up and running pretty quickly.

Secondarily, I think there's a pathway that kind of helps us decide what the best go-forward plan is. Ecosystems have, like ours, lots of parts and pieces to them. Everything from that introduction, which is let's just get you introduced and get your compliance program handled, to how do we plug into existing systems, if you want to just give it a shot. You can try it without going through the integration. That's very easy to do. And we give you a pretty nice way to just give it a trial run and see how it looks and see how you can make it part of your business.

That's what I think your Feed & Grain audience would find it very easy to jump into that model and just get to a point where they start to understand what it is in under 15 minutes. People would mostly understand, okay, this is how it will work. And you know what it can do, the power of that. Also, as you get into it, you get to leverage more and more, and you'll understand more about how you understand to work that data.

Kilger: What also fascinates me about this kind of technology, it gets better the more people are involved in it, right? Because the bigger your local network is, the more opportunities, you have. So that's also kind of a cool thing as people learn about it.

Schreiner: There are two sides to that equation. One is you have to be very confident that the data is yours and yours alone and that Roger is secure and protects your private data. We don't sell data. We don't do advertising with that data. So that's one side if you're thinking about it.

Side number two is it learns over the course of time. The company and the system teach you how to do that job in the most effective way. You can see on a dashboard what your business driver metrics are, and you can say what situations have really worked well for me. We call that Roger IQ and Roger IQ does everything from just being able to view your business, pointing out where you may be on trend to do better as a business, or where you may need to refine things, and that's the benefit. And the more people that use the product, the smarter it gets. So the smarter it starts to say, "Oh, I know, generally speaking, what a good situation looks like. And I can start to coach you on that."

Kilger: That's another huge thing about how the industry is going to continue and be profitable. That low-hanging fruit is data analytics. And if Roger can help with that because, let's face it, we need all the help we can get. It's a big technical, logical issue that not every elevator is going to be able to do. So if Roger assists in that, that's fantastic. I would be remiss if I didn't ask about your newer product. Roger onRamp. Can you tell me a little bit about onRamp?

Schreiner: Roger is a product geared for the streamlining of relationship requirements. So when you set up a relationship between six shippers and a carrier, there are basic premises that have to happen.

One, there's usually a hauling contract in that mix. So every shipper that you do business with, you want them to sign that hauling contract so they can do the business. Of course, we have it all electronic, so they can do it in seconds. It's all online, no prayers, no paper. It's just you can click that thing and go. You may have other requirements, specific things that I want to have happen at my facility.

I want to see a certain training characteristic or a safety qualification. Maybe I have certain requirements for insurance that I require of my carriers. Roger goes through and checks. It actually works with the system. And our people ensure that it works with the insurance carrier, the carrier's insurance agent. And so their certificates of insurance, we read, and we compare, and we contrast them with what that shipper's requirements are, and we say, "hey, this one looks great, it's good to go." Where in the past, I think people had to manually do those, they manually did those things.

And then lastly, the benefit of this is, let's say the carrier already did this for somebody else down the road, and they want to haul for you too. Well, a portion of that might already be completed.

Carriers are doing that in a fraction of the time compared to what they used to do, which is to compile all this paperwork and submit it over and over and over every time they wanted to do it. The shipper gets that qualified in a fraction of the time that they used to. And then they're off and running. And they have their loads for the week all filled out. Because they are now dealing with paperwork, they didn't carry what they wanted to bring on.

Roger is specifically designed to take all of that administrative stuff out of the manual processes that it's in today between shipper and carrier. And just let the system do all of that and keep you up to date throughout the course of the year.

Kilger: I can see why that comparison isn't fair at all, because you guys do quite a bit of the background and comparison and legwork of what they need for that and just being able to connect it to the insurance part alone is just a huge time saver and convenience for everybody.

Schreiner: It's not something that I think most people want to do all that often. They they don't want to have to deal with all of that stuff. carriers, I'm sure don't want to be asked for their insurance certificates over and over and over or their driver's license or their W nines. They didn't ask that all the time. And almost every carrier does business with more than one shipper, so they duplicate that over and over.

We take all of that out of there, out of the equation, the carriers and shippers basically approached us and said, 'Can you do this for us, because we we really struggle at times keeping on top of it and our business moves so fast that we might be opening up some risks, if we don't get somebody to help us methodically get through this and maybe help us, by systematic way means just get it done.' I think that's what we that's what onramp is all about

Kilger: Keeping the data to there and updating it throughout the year. I mean, that's, that's big. We all pray that the big thing doesn't happen or an accident doesn't happen. But what's even worse than that is having an accident happened and then realizing you don't have any documents to back it up and you don't know where anything is.

Schreiner: Even you think about the risks of that if that happened. The immediate thing is your insurance agents have to get involved, they have to ensure that your insurance agents both on the shipper carriers side, they have to get involved if it's all taken care of. And it's in a program that you've started way down the right path. We're in in comparison today. That's you. We're not there as an industry, we've got to get to that point. And I wouldn't, I would believe it's important time, insurance folks are going to start to maybe push towards I want to see this more actively managed. I want to see it. I think we're kind of helping our shippers and carriers get ahead of that curve, so that it never becomes the insurance agent demanding it and we're just gonna say we are doing a good program for the industry. And we're a little bit in a new space in this area. We're taking all of the feedback that we're getting when it's rolling with these shippers. From carriers and just building the right product in real time,

Kilger: It is amazing. If your green elevator manager, I mean, you got it, you're probably in that position because you love green science, you're good at that part of the job. And then so many people get thrown into this other part, which is also you have to manage a bunch of paperwork, which always seemed very unfair to me. So it's great that technology is stepping up help with that. And it's great for the industry overall. So thank you for what you're doing. And hopefully more people check out what you're doing. Because it's, like I said, it seems like it gets stronger, the more people involved,

Schreiner: I appreciate that. We, again, are super appreciative of the folks that helped us to drive, how to make it better. And that feedback, isn't it that the best part of the job is to hear directly from the source and say, how do we constantly get this better and make it more effective so you can do what you want to do, rather than the things you don't?

Kilger: Exactly. Well, thank you so much for talking with us today. Jeff. Hopefully, you can come back soon and we could talk about phone, portable, digital technology, whatever it's called. Thank you again, so much for being a guest. Have a great day everyone, and thanks for listening.

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