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
Key Cooperative Marcus Construction Steel Building
Retail FacilitiesMarcus Construction Builds High-Speed Agronomy Center For Key Cooperative
July 7, 2016
Key Cooperative in Grinnell, IA, wanted a state-of-the-art Agronomy Center to better serve its customers. Marcus Construction delivered exactly that. Read More
Heritage Cooperative
Retail FacilitiesKahler Automation Designs State-Of-The-Art Facility For Heritage Cooperative
July 4, 2016
Heritage Cooperative in Marysville, OH, needed an efficient liquid, dry and grain facility to serve the many needs of their Read More
The Andersons Waterloo
ManagementFirst Indiana Facility Certified Under 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program
June 27, 2016
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program has announced that The Andersons, Inc.’s Waterloo, IN, facility has been added to its Read More
Food IT
Industry NewsCalifornia Event Will Mix Ag And Tech Professionals To Explore IT Solutions
June 20, 2016
Silicon Valley is hot on agriculture, and an upcoming event in California will bring together the food and tech industries Read More
Monsanto Luling Plant
Eric SfiligojWhat’s Next For Monsanto?
May 31, 2016
For the folks at Monsanto’s headquarters in St. Louis, MO, it has been an eventful few weeks. Back on May Read More
Soybean Plant closeup
Industry NewsMonsanto Rejects Bayer Bid; Open To More Talks
May 25, 2016
Monsanto Co, the world’s largest seed company, turned down Bayer AG’s $62 billion acquisition bid as “incomplete and financially inadequate” Read More
Latest News
Crop InputsDuPont Pioneer: Corn Belt P and K Levels Lagging
August 24, 2016
A new DuPont Pioneer study conducted across 12 Corn Belt states demonstrates that growers may be leaving profit potential in Read More
Monsanto sign
Crop InputsCould a Monsanto-Bayer Union Be 2 Weeks from Fruition?
August 24, 2016
Via STLToday.com (The St. Louis Post-Dispatch): Merger talks between Monsanto Co. and Bayer AG are advancing after a series of Read More
EquipmentCase IH Debuts Nutri-Tiller 955 Strip-Till Applicator
August 24, 2016
With strip-till continuing to expand across new acres, Case IH designed the new Nutri-Tiller 955 strip-till applicator to help producers Read More
EquipmentCase Launches Aim Command FLEX, 25th Anniversary Patrio…
August 24, 2016
Case IH announces new AIM Command FLEX advanced spray technology for greater application accuracy, as well as special 25th Anniversary 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
PrecisionAg Video Conference
Precision AgVideo: PrecisionAg Vision Conference
August 22, 2016
A Strategic Conference Focused on the Future of Farm Digitization and Precision Agriculture Visit precisionagvision.com and register today! Read More
Young Corn Plants
Industry NewsOABA Welcomes Nicole Wallace As Communication & Adm…
August 22, 2016
The Ohio AgriBusiness Association has hired Nicole Wallace as its communication and administrative coordinator. Wallace will help provide comprehensive communication Read More
Syngenta Sign
Crop InputsChemChina, Syngenta Receive Clearance From CFIUS
August 22, 2016
China National Chemical Corp. (ChemChina) and Syngenta have announced that the companies have received clearance on their proposed transaction from the Read More
ManagementAg Industry Shows and Rumors
August 18, 2016
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about the upcoming trade show schedule, crop protection merger updates, and content for Read More
MAGIE 2015
EquipmentMAGIE Takes The Pulse Of The Ag Retail Industry
August 18, 2016
Every year, one of the major highlights of my career as an ag journalist is attending the Midwest AG Industries Read More
MAGIE 2015 Overview
EquipmentPride In Professionalism On Display At MAGIE
August 18, 2016
The Illinois Fertilizer & Chemical Association (IFCA) is proud to partner with CropLife IRON and continue the tradition of bringing Read More
SprayersJenner Ag To Debut 25th Anniversary Edition Case IH Pat…
August 18, 2016
Visitors at the 2016 Midwest Ag Industries Exhibition (MAGIE) in Bloomington, IL, will have a unique photo opportunity, as Jenner Read More
Crop InputsEU Glyphosate Controversy Heating Up Yet Again
August 17, 2016
The battle over glyphosate rages on in Europe, creating a lot of question marks over whether the herbicide will continue Read More
Industry NewsNew Partnership Provides Improved Representation At Ohi…
August 16, 2016
The Ohio AgriBusiness Association (OABA) has retained Belinda Jones of Capitol Consulting Group, Inc. (CCG) for government relations work in Read More
Tissue testing
FertilizerMosaic: 6 Tips For Better Crop Nutrition In Corn
August 16, 2016
Late in the crop season is a good time to assess visual nutrient deficiencies and ensure early- and mid-season deficiencies Read More
WebinarsWebinar Schedule
August 14, 2016
Register for one of our upcoming Webinars or access our archive of past Webinars to view recordings of presentations that may be of interest to you. Read More
Dow DuPont
Crop InputsDowDuPont Update: EU Takes Closer Look at Merger
August 12, 2016
Dow Chemical Co. and DuPont Co. face months of haggling with European Union antitrust regulators who opened an in-depth probe Read More
ManagementNews from InfoAg 2016 and Weed Wands
August 11, 2016
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj review what happened at last week’s big Precision Ag event and a possible solution Read More