Great Gains In Plant Software

Kahler Automation Control Panel

Managing and mixing fertilizer offerings is more challenging than ever these days thanks in part to volatile fertilizer prices and newer, more complex blends. But plant systems and software makers continue to develop solutions for handling inventories, blend functions and data.

Steve Swift of Kahler Automation Corp. says dealers are constantly asking for accuracy, efficiency, documentation capabilities, and inventory control in blender systems. The amount of automation today — in many cases guided by more complex computerization  — is simply huge. “We’ve had to stay very, very up to date with all the different blender manufacturers because they all have their own method of designing it,” says Swift.    

Also huge: The size of today’s wholesale and retail plants and the number that continue to be built, he says. “We have standard keypad-type equipment, but the plants are so big, they want to computerize.”

Focus On Inventory

One vital facet of today’s plant software is the ability to track inventory. “The need for live access of inventory availability and product costs is more critical than ever in today’s market,” says Judy Warf, communications director with SSI.

Indeed, demands of newer sales and inventory practices continue to give software more to do, including “the capability to manage combined inventories such as company-owned, vendor-consigned, customer-booked, along with the disposition of each as product gets ordered, delivered, and received,” she says.

Swift has found that some retailers don’t even own product until it goes out of the dispensing system — and they want reports daily for billing for what’s consumed. Then, too, wholesalers want to know inventory levels in buildings for replenishing. Automation not just in dispensing or measuring of the products, but in generating these reports, has become common. And this documentation can now be accessed on the Internet, say, via a BlackBerry, Swift says.

In plant, SSI’s Warf says dealers want full-circle integration with their automated blending systems plus the ability to capture sale ticket information from electronic scales. Also in demand are tools that enable multi-site retailers to centralize blend operations for improved logistical efficiencies.

Tim Roberts, senior product manager for the AgroGuide system from Cultura Technologies, says one of the cornerstones of the software  — when coupled with the AGRIS agribusiness management system  — has been the interconnectivity of blending software with accounting and inventory. “More companies are realizing how important it is to manage prepays and risk positions based on what they are doing in their fertilizer business,” he says. They’re actually looking for more opportunities to connect their fertilizer operations to inventory management.

Kahler is also working on a software package called Streamline that ties all businesses within a multi-faceted operation together  — everything from grain through to chemicals, seed and fertilizers  — liquid and dry, says Swift. Kahler added a grain facility project manager to its team several months ago to perfect “the last piece of the puzzle” of the package. Streamline makes information on all parts “available at your fingertips,” he says.

Enhancements Complicate Blends

Software packages are now also able to handle additives such as micronutrients, stabilizers, enhancers, and adjuvants throughout the planning and formulation processes, says Warf. Such is the case with SSI’s Agvance system. In addition, with the purchase of Form-U-Share (FUS) in 2010, the company was able to incorporate FUS liquid technologies into the software.

Because of add-on ingredients, staging of blending is much more complex than it used to be, says Swift. For instance, after treating urea with a product such as Nutri­Sphere, the resulting mix needs to dry for a time afterward, then the rest of the blend is brought in. “Our company takes care of those items literally seamlessly for dealers,” he says. “All they have to do is go to the computer and create the blend, then the computer does all the work. They don’t have to sit and think about the procedure.”

Cultura’s Roberts notes that as blender equipment has become more sophisticated in handling more complex blends, so programmers have enhanced AgroGuide’s ability to transmit this kind of special product information. Looking ahead, he sees more ongoing cooperation between equipment manufacturers, micronutrient/stabilizer makers and software companies to make sure all related information is properly managed within the software. “We are working with manufacturers to improve the efficiency of the hand-off of information to the equipment as well as the return of the actual weights from the equipment to the software,” he explains.

Beyond Buildings

Internet communication is widely used at 24/7 liquid terminals  — building projects that continue to be “real hot” for Kahler. Products coming off ships and going into railcars can be tracked on the Internet. “How much we’ve dispensed and what dealer it’s going to is being recorded,” Swift says.

Inventory tracking capability is the primary reason why it makes sense to use technology to manage a business, says Greg Duhachek, president of AgWorks. “But that only gets a software company in the door at a retailer,” he says. “As companies continue to increase in size and look for ways to gain efficiencies, connectivity  — whether it be a blend plant controller, an in-cab controller or another piece of software  — is often the ‘deciding’ factor.”

Duhachek says connectivity allows ag businesses to “connect all the dots” and makes their lives easier. Buyers need to make sure a software vendor is working for them, making their lives easier by connecting to other critical business partners/software vendors that are core to their business, he says.

Software capabilities are extending all the way to customers’ fields. Warf says blend jobs are being sent directly to the applicator in the field via wireless technologies. SSI is currently working with Raven’s Slingshot system to transmit this kind of information, and SSI will continue to expand its use of wireless and cloud technologies to bring more efficiency to the process, Warf adds.

Marti Kirsch, director of marketing with E-markets, says dealers are asking about software solutions that are available where the agronomist is. “As long as there is Internet connectivity, cloud-based solutions can provide information to the user that is current and relevant to help customers make timely decisions,” she says.

Kirsch says cloud-based solutions offer companies a number of benefits. For instance, retail staff can make changes quickly, whether that’s adding or changing products, prices, employees or locations.

Leave a Reply

Software Stories

Growmark FS Outlet
SoftwareKnoa Software Solution Helps GROWMARK Boost System Performance
April 19, 2017
Knoa Software, a leading provider of user experience management (UEM) software, has announced that GROWMARK, Inc., a regional agricultural cooperative Read More
Agrible Pocket Spray Smart App
EquipmentNew Agrible Pocket Spray Smart App Alleviates Spraying Concerns
March 10, 2017
There’s a new app to help farmers decide when to spray their fields. Pocket Spray Smart is a free iOS Read More
Junge Innovation Center
EquipmentAg Retail Plants Adapt Designs, Software
March 2, 2017
A host of factors could be cited for “the rise of the machines” in ag retail plants — and the Read More
Junge Control Panels
SoftwareJunge Control Adds Distribution Supply Chain
November 4, 2016
Junge Control began automating agricultural blending systems in 1979. They soon invented the “Junge Weigh” system, an extremely accurate and Read More
Trending Articles
Crop InputsFlying Under the Radar No More, FMC Goes Big
April 13, 2017
Describing FMC as “under the radar,” admittedly, is probably a stretch. But in a snap of the fingers, FMC upped Read More
Young Corn Plants
Crop NutritionStill Hunting Yields
April 1, 2017
There’s no denying it — the agricultural marketplace today is undergoing a fundamental shift in fortunes. Not too many years Read More
Nutrients for Life Foundation Teacher
FertilizerNutrients For Life Foundation Celebrates 10 Years Teaching Fertilizer Education
March 23, 2017
Those in agriculture know fertilizer is a vital ingredient to grow strong, productive crops. In fact, fertilizer is responsible for Read More
AdjuvantsA New Weed-Control Era Begins: But First, One Last Obstacle
March 4, 2017
There is trepidation, there is reluctance, and there is excitement. Ag retailers feel it all about the new dicamba and Read More
LIFT Academy video screenshot
Crop InputsLIFT Agriculture Academy: A Q&A With West Central Distribution’s Dean Hendrickson
March 1, 2017
West Central Distribution recently launched its LIFT Agriculture Academy, a new, premiere training and professional development resource for West Central’s ag Read More
Farmer and aptop
Matt Hopkins10 Warning Signs Your Website Is Grossly Outdated
February 8, 2017
Your Website is often a visitor’s first impression of your ag retail business. A positive first impression can set the Read More
Latest News
ManagementWashington Update, Dow-DuPont Earnings, and the Passing…
April 27, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about the latest Beltway news, crop protection company 1st quarter numbers, and the Read More
BRANDT
CropLife 100Former PotashCorp COO Joins BRANDT Board
April 27, 2017
BRANDT has announced the appointment of another industry veteran to its board of directors. David Delaney, most recently EVP and Read More
Syngenta headquarters in Basel, Switzerland
Crop InputsFortune: Inside China’s $43 Billion Bid for Food …
April 26, 2017
(Via Fortune.com) The worst famine in human history occurred in China from 1959 to 1961. An estimated 34 million people Read More
Syngenta Sign
Crop InputsSyngenta Announces Changes in Board of Directors
April 26, 2017
ChemChina and Syngenta announced changes relating to the new Board of Directors of Syngenta following the closing of the ChemChina Read More
Crop InputsBioSafe Systems Introduces PerCarb Broad-Spectrum Bacte…
April 26, 2017
BioSafe Systems announces PerCarb (Sodium Carbonate Peroxyhydrate), a new alternative to potassium bicarbonate and lime sulfur products for use in Read More
Deere Twitter
EquipmentTop 10 Twitter Pics for #Plant17
April 26, 2017
Despite some wet weather in parts of the Midwest, growers and ag retailers are working feverishly to plant this year’s Read More
Donald Trump
Crop InputsTrump Targets Agriculture with Latest Executive Order
April 26, 2017
(Via UPI.com) President Donald Trump on Tuesday took executive action in an effort to help grow the domestic agriculture industry Read More
AGCO Ratliff featured
EquipmentAGCO Mourns Passing of Company Founder, Industry Vision…
April 25, 2017
AGCO Corp., a worldwide manufacturer and distributor of agricultural equipment and solutions, mourns the passing of founder and former President, Read More
Engenia soybeans
Crop InputsINNVICTIS CROP CARE Introduces VANDAL MOC Soybean Herbi…
April 25, 2017
INNVICTIS CROP CARE, LLC has announced the U.S. EPA registration for VANDAL MOC, a combination of sulfentrazone plus metolachlor. VANDAL Read More
Kochia
HerbicidesINNVICTIS CROP CARE Launches STAVE Post-Emerge Broadlea…
April 25, 2017
INNVICTIS CROP CARE, LLC has introduced STAVE as the newest addition to­ its expanding portfolio. STAVE will be a great Read More
Sonny Perdue
LegislationSonny Perdue Confirmed by Senate as Next Agriculture Se…
April 25, 2017
After months without a secretary of agriculture, the Senate voted Monday evening to confirm former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue to Read More
BPIA logo
Seed/BiotechBPIA Files Comments with USDA
April 24, 2017
The Biological Products Industry Alliance (BPIA) has filed comments with the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Plant Read More
Eric SfiligojHope for Application Equipment Sales
April 24, 2017
The old saying goes that a “rising tide lifts all boats.” If this is indeed the case, then things may Read More
Stewardship video screenshot
ManagementNew Video Raises Awareness of 2,4-D Stewardship
April 24, 2017
A new public service video developed and produced by the 2,4-D Research Task Force, in conjunction with the American Soybean Read More
ManagementAn Inside Look at Award Winning Ag Retailer Gar Tooteli…
April 20, 2017
CropLife Editor Eric Sfiligoj discusses An Inside Look at Award Winning Ag Retailer Gar Tootelian Read More
Students Soybean Field
Industry NewsMACA Announces 2017 Young Leader Scholarship Recipients
April 19, 2017
The Mid America CropLife Association (MACA) Board of Directors selected 11 college students to receive the MACA Young Leader Scholarship Read More
Growmark FS Outlet
SoftwareKnoa Software Solution Helps GROWMARK Boost System Perf…
April 19, 2017
Knoa Software, a leading provider of user experience management (UEM) software, has announced that GROWMARK, Inc., a regional agricultural cooperative Read More
Crop InputsFBN Publishes ‘Voice of the Farmer’ Agricul…
April 17, 2017
Farmer’s Business Network (FBN) released today its “The Voice of the Farmer”, which the company is describing as “a special Read More