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

SoftwareBlending Software To Address Every Need Of Ag Retail
March 3, 2014
This year’s packages cover more facets of dealer businesses than ever. Read More
SoftwareNew Crop Scouting App Now Available For Ag Retailers
September 3, 2013
AgraScout is a data management and communications tool used by retailers, consultants, and others to track and report conditions in a particular farm location. Read More
SoftwareWinfield Launches New Mapping Capabilities For R7 Tool
August 29, 2013
Winfield has announced the addition of a Field Response Map and a Profitability Map for its R7 Tool at 2013 Farm Progress Show. Read More
SoftwareTrimble Launches Connected Farm Dashboard
August 29, 2013
The company claims its new dashboard enables better decision making by putting key data at growers’ fingertips. Read More

Trending Articles

FertilizerFall Fertility 2014: Forecasting Fertilizer Use
September 7, 2014
Great crops this year have tapped the soil, and fall work is definitely called for, but how challenging will that get? Read More
CropLife 100CHS To Build $3 Billion Fertilizer Plant In North Dakota
September 5, 2014
The fertilizer plant in Spiritwood will be the single largest investment in CHS history, as well as the single largest private investment project ever undertaken in North Dakota. Read More
EquipmentNew Holland Acquires Miller-St. Nazianz
September 3, 2014
The assets of Miller acquired as part of the transaction will become part of New Holland Agriculture, a CNH Industrial brand, building on a successful four-year partnership between the two companies. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Acquires East Kansas Chemical
September 2, 2014
Ranked 82nd on the CropLife 100, East Kansas Chemical will operate as part of Pinnacle's Performance Agriculture brand. Read More
MAGIE 2014 ShowStopper
EquipmentJohn Deere Again Wins MAGIE ShowStopper Award
August 25, 2014
For the second consecutive year, John Deere was honored at the Midwest AG Industries Exposition (MAGIE) for its new R4045 sprayer. Read More
ManagementExpert To Discuss Farmland Value, Rent At Farm Science Review
August 18, 2014
While cropland values in Ohio increased in the past two years, they have remained flat in 2014, declining in some cases, according to an Ohio State University agricultural economist. Read More

Latest News

Equipment2014 Product Of The Year Voting
September 19, 2014
Many new products were introduced to the ag retail marketplace this year. From this group, CropLife IRON and its consulting partners have selected five finalists for the Product of the Year award. Please cast your vote today to help us determine the winner. Read More
Equipment2014 Farm Science Review Crowd Tops 2013 Show
September 19, 2014
The 52nd annual Ohio State University Farm Science Review welcomed more than 130,000 farmers, industry professionals, FFA students and agricultural enthusiasts during the three-day event. Read More
Seed/BiotechUSDA Approves Enlist Following Rigorous Review
September 18, 2014
Dow AgroSciences now awaits EPA registration of Enlist Duo herbicide, the companion herbicide to the Enlist traits, which is expected in the near future. Read More
BlendersYargus Appoints New Plant Manager
September 18, 2014
Steve Shaffer will direct and coordinate daily operations at the company’s Marshall, IL, manufacturing plant, where the Layco line of material handling equipment is produced. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Acquires Kansas-Based Cedar Ridge Supply
September 16, 2014
Cedar Ridge Supply will operate as part of Pinnacle's Performance Agriculture brand. Read More
StewardshipSecretary Vilsack Highlights Innovative Conservation Ef…
September 15, 2014
Nearly $16 million in Conservation Innovation Grants (CIGs) will be awarded to 47 organizations to help develop cutting-edge ideas to accelerate innovation in private lands conservation. Read More
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Responds To Cargill Lawsuit
September 15, 2014
Syngenta believes that the lawsuit is without merit and strongly upholds the right of growers to have access to approved new technologies. Read More
Equipment2014 Farm Science Review Launches Mobile App
September 15, 2014
Smartphone and tablet users planning on attending the 2014 Farm Science Review can now download this year’s customized mobile application. Read More
CropLife 100Southern States Coop Grower Sets Georgia Soybean Yield …
September 15, 2014
Georgia farmer Randy Dowdy's soybeans yielded an astonishing 110.66 bushels per acre, crushing the previous record of 82 bushels-per-acre. Read More
NIMITZ Treated vs Untreated pepper plant
InsecticidesNIMITZ Nematicide Approved By EPA
September 12, 2014
NIMITZ is a novel, non-fumigant nematicide with simplified application features, user safety and an active ingredient with a unique mode of action. Read More
InsecticidesMarrone Bio Innovations Receives Patent For Chromobacte…
September 11, 2014
The patent is the first step for MBI in developing a commercially viable product to inhibit infestations of corn rootworm larvae across America and other regions. Read More
HerbicidesDow AgroSciences: Keeping The Pipeline Stocked
September 11, 2014
Dow AgroSciences is embracing product diversity to drive the company’s future. Read More
CropLife 100CHS Is Official Partner Of New St. Paul Ballpark
September 10, 2014
The new ballpark in St. Paul, MN, officially became CHS Field with Twin Cities-based CHS Inc. revealed as the naming rights partner. Read More
EquipmentHagie Honors Farming Stewardship Leaders
September 10, 2014
The Iowa Farm Environmental Leader award recognizes Iowa farmers as environmental leaders that are committed to healthy soils and improved water quality. Read More
Precision AgPlantBeat: Your Plants’ Pulse In The Palm Of Your Han…
September 10, 2014
A new agronomic monitoring and recommendation service from Phytech could rewrite the book on real-time plant health status monitoring. Read More
StewardshipCCAs Making Headway With 4R Program In Lake Erie Wester…
September 9, 2014
Certified Crop Advisers are implementing the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification program in Lake Erie's Western Basin to improve water quality. Read More
MicronutrientsMicronutrients Going Macro
September 9, 2014
Between 2014’s fantastic growing conditions and a heightened awareness on plant nutrition, the major players in micronutrients are gearing up for another big year. Read More
Crop InputsFMC Announces Cheminova Takeover
September 8, 2014
FMC Corporation today announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Cheminova, a wholly owned subsidiary of Auriga Industries. Read More