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

EquipmentDTN Launches Ag Retailer Focused Data Management Program
April 5, 2016
As farm data multiplies exponentially, ag retailers need help leveraging the power of big data to better serve their customers Read More
Junge Control Panels
SoftwarePlant Automation Takes Traceability To The Next Level
March 8, 2016
What began as a way to simply vary differing fertility products at different rates to create custom fertilizer blends — Read More
Tiger Sul Crop Nutrient Calculator
FertilizerH.J. Baker Launches New Nutrient Calculator App
November 12, 2015
H.J. Baker, a global agriculture firm, has launched a new agronomic nutrient calculator app. This innovative and powerful tool will Read More
Precision AgXS Inc. Expanding Ag Retail Reach With AgVeritas
November 5, 2015
AgVeritas, the patented cloud-based yield analysis application launched by XS Inc for the 2015 season, is making a significant impact Read More
Trending Articles
Corn Field
Eric SfiligojFacing Ag Industry Challenges
September 26, 2016
At the 2016 annual Mid America CropLife Association (MACA) meeting in September, a pair of crop protection company representatives discussed Read More
Bayer Monsanto
Crop InputsBayer-Monsanto Mega-Merger: 6 Things You Need To Know
September 14, 2016
Mega mergers have become almost routine in the agricultural industry. Right on the heels of Monday’s news that fertilizer giants Potash Read More
Potash Corp Agrium
Crop InputsAgrium, Potash Corp To Merge To Create $36 Billion Company
September 12, 2016
Canada’s Agrium Inc. and Potash Corp of Saskatchewan Inc. have agreed to combine in a deal that would create a Read More
Osage Co-op Elevator Osage, IA Finished Building
OpinionAre We Crazy?
September 8, 2016
At some point in the first few months of my employment here at CropLife® magazine, I started getting curious about Read More
ManagementMAGIE 2016 Highlights and Deere Anti-Trust
September 1, 2016
CropLife Editor Eric Sfiligoj discusses the recent Midwest AG Industries Exposition and the Department of Justice’s objection to John Deere Read More
ASMARK 2016 Retailers Live! Tour - CPS
CropLife 100CPS Acquires Texas Retail Operation
August 23, 2016
Crop Production Services (CPS) has acquired the assets of Larry’s Chemical and Spray, Inc., for an undisclosed amount in an Read More
Latest News
EmployeesOABA Program Develops Future Generation Of Agribusiness…
September 29, 2016
The Ohio AgriBusiness Association will select up to 25 promising leaders to participate in a leadership enhancement program early next Read More
ManagementThoughts on CropLife America and the PSM Appeal
September 29, 2016
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about the recent CropLife America annual meeting and the successful appeal of the Read More
Corn Field
Industry NewsMarrone Bio Innovations’ SVP And Chief Sustainability O…
September 29, 2016
Marrone Bio Innovations, Inc., a leading provider of effective and environmentally responsible pest management and plant health products, announced today Read More
Young Corn Field
StewardshipStudy: Ohio Farmers Doing ‘A Good Job Of Managing…
September 27, 2016
Leaders from Ohio’s largest grain farming organizations announced today that Ohio farmers are doing their part in effectively managing phosphorus Read More
Growmark FS Outlet
Industry NewsGROWMARK To Purchase Suncor’s Share Of UPI
September 26, 2016
GROWMARK and Suncor have reached an agreement in which GROWMARK will purchase Suncor’s 50% interest in UPI, Inc. in Ontario, Read More
Corn Field
Eric SfiligojFacing Ag Industry Challenges
September 26, 2016
At the 2016 annual Mid America CropLife Association (MACA) meeting in September, a pair of crop protection company representatives discussed Read More
Syngenta Seedcare Institute
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Opens New North America Seedcare Institute In …
September 23, 2016
Syngenta unveiled its new Seedcare Institute in Stanton, MN, during a recent grand opening celebration. More than 150 industry leaders, Read More
StewardshipMonsanto Invests $1.6 Million In System To Quantify Gre…
September 23, 2016
The USDA – Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) recently awarded the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) and its Soil Health Read More
Pipe rack
LegislationCourt Sides With Ag Retailers On PSM
September 23, 2016
The D.C. Court of Appeals has ruled the Occupational Safety and Health Administration violated the Occupational Safety and Health Act when Read More
ManagementPacific Coast Fertilizer Announces Interest In Longview…
September 22, 2016
Pacific Coast Fertilizer LP (PCF) announced at the Cowlitz Economic Development Council board of directors meeting its interest in developing Read More
Young corn plants in soil
UncategorizedCool Planet Raises Additional $9 Million To Commerciali…
September 22, 2016
Cool Planet has announced the first close of a new financing round to commercialize the company’s Cool Terra Engineered Biocarbon Read More
Crop InputsJim Loar Promoted To President And CEO Of Cool Planet
September 22, 2016
In a move that reflects and reinforces the company’s commitment to the agricultural market, the Cool Planet board of directors Read More
BlendersNorth Dakota Coop Debuts Dry Fertilizer Plant
September 22, 2016
North Central Grain Cooperative has begun operations at a new dry fertilizer plant at its Rolla, ND, site. It is Read More
Crop InputsMonsanto, Bayer Officials Defend Proposed $66 Billion M…
September 21, 2016
Top officials for Monsanto and Bayer defended their proposed $66 billion merger before skeptical senators on Tuesday, insisting that the Read More
ManagementUpcoming Shows & Recent Events
September 19, 2016
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about upcoming trade shows and events and review the Mid America CropLife Association Read More
Industry NewsVerdesian Life Sciences Appoints New CEO
September 19, 2016
Verdesian Life Sciences, a plant health and nutrition company, today announced that its board of directors has named Kenneth M. Avery Read More
Corn
Crop InputsEPA Settles With Syngenta For Alleged Multi-Regional Pe…
September 19, 2016
The U.S. EPA has announced a multi-region settlement with Syngenta Crop Protection, LLC (Syngenta) in Greensboro, NC, for alleged violations of Read More
ManagementMerger Mania
September 16, 2016
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss this week’s mega-ag mergers of Bayer and Monsanto and Potash and Agrium. Read More