Software: Getting The Big Picture

Summit Software Driver

Cooperatives are complex organizations. They typically span dozens of locations while managing a potpourri of functions and services while dealing with volatile markets. To maintain the trust of the growers they serve, they must keep accurate track of commodity and fuel price fluctuations — all against a tangle of city, county, state and federal taxation regulations.

Behind the scenes, a multitude of software systems are used to ease the burden by automating these disparate elements and simplifying the recordkeeping task. Unfortunately, serious issues arise when these systems can’t interface or must be band-aided together. Even with software in place, the most critical management function of all — risk management — is often relegated to a series of spreadsheets where futures positions are maintained separately from the physical positions they are supposed to be hedging.

Helping To Expand

As a result, a growing trend among ag co-ops is the adoption of a unifying single-vendor software system. Take the case of North Central Co-op, a $300 million a year organization that serves a farming community in Northern Indiana and Lower Michigan. Its 40 locations include liquid/motor fuels and propane gas, full-service retail agronomy operations and grain and feed manufacturing. However, the company’s aging software systems weren’t meeting organizational needs.

“We were looking for a better accounts receivable system and greater control over inventory,” says Doug Bible, chief financial officer at North Central Co-op. “We lacked integration of accounting and agronomy functions.”

North Central Co-op management assembled a team of executives, line of business heads and internal users to compile a list of features required of a new system. They compared that checklist against products on the market. Bible says the specs consisted of modules for billing, inventory, accounts payable, general ledger and various farm functions. The most important spec, though, was that it had to be one single unifying system rather than a series of best-of-breed tools.

“We didn’t want to have to deal with a bunch of individual applications and figure out how to get them to work together,” says Bible. “Even when you set up interfaces, things never seem to work as well as you hoped.”

The co-op set out to find the right match. That led them to Summit Software, the maker of an integrated accounting and inventory management system for agribusinesses including cooperatives and dealers of grain, feed, seed, fertilizer, crop protection products, petroleum distribution and retail farm stores.

“We wanted everything integrated within the same package,” says Bible. “The benefits of a unifying system show up in efficiency. For example, we no longer have to enter the same data in several places.” 

North Central Co-op has also had to cope with a series of mergers and acquisitions. Despite this, all co-op locations are run by one server. “Our record keeping personnel are the same as before our mergers yet we are dealing with double the sales volume,” says Bible.

The Pitfalls Of Multiple Applications

Another user of unified systems is Ag Plus, a cooperative based in Northeast Indiana. It markets grain and farm inputs such as fertilizer, crop protection products, seed and fuel.

The company previously operated a green-screen system for accounting and grain management as well as additional software for agronomy, LP and liquid fuels. Due to running so many different programs, end of month reporting was a chore. Staff stayed up late manually tallying data and adding it into spreadsheets to generate reports.

Jeff Scher, controller at Ag Plus, was finding it increasingly difficult to locate needed information when it resided in multiple locations. “This made it difficult to respond to market changes,” explains Scher. “But real time risk reporting solved all that — the physical position of each commodity is updated in real-time and shown on one page with the corresponding hedges.”

The company was very thorough and looked at all viable solutions before choosing Summit Software. “We didn’t want to have the integration hassles associated with buying best-of-breed tools,” says Scher. “We wanted one integrated package that was aligned to the special needs of farming.”

According to Scher, Ag Plus saved approximately 24 man hours a month compared the previous system as a result of the system’s automated reporting, information availability and the elimination of data transfer.

North Central Co-op’s Bible says the biggest impact was in billing records. Statements are much easier to read and far less prone to errors.

“Accounting personnel spend a tiny fraction of the time dealing with queries compared to before,” he says. “The customers benefit by having their account information so much more readily available.”

North Central has 10,000 propane customers that depend upon those records to ensure they don’t run out of fuel during the winter. The old systems didn’t do a good job of correlating winter temperatures with expected consumption rates and this caused inefficiency. Emergency deliveries prevented drivers from delivering to one neighborhood at a time. Drivers kept their own records in the truck as they couldn’t rely on headquarters to accurately map their daily routes.

“With the unified Summit system, drivers are given precise routes and customers no longer have to worry about running out of fuel,” says Bible. He points out that far fewer miles driven helps keep prices lower for customers.

On the grain side, growers expressed their approval of the touchscreen for the grain scale.

Leave a Reply

Software Stories

Farmer and aptop
EquipmentCultura Technologies Launches Solentra Software Business
May 31, 2017
Cultura Technologies, an industry leader in agribusiness technology solutions, has just launched their newest company, Solentra. Cultura provides agribusiness software solutions Read More
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
Trending Articles
PrecisionAg Vision Conference
Precision AgPrecisionAg® Vision Conference: Focused on the Future
June 13, 2017
PrecisionAg® is pleased to announce the return of its PrecisionAg Vision Conference, October 10-12, 2017. Based on overwhelmingly positive response Read More
Redbanded-stinkbug-on-soybean-Photo-credit-Thomas-County-Ag
Crop InputsExperts: Mild Winter, Early Planting Will Increase Soybean Insect Threat
June 12, 2017
Higher than average temperatures this past winter affected much of the nation, especially the South and Midwest. The National Centers Read More
Eric SfiligojMonsanto ‘Picks Its Battles’ by Nixing Deere Deal
May 23, 2017
Having been in the trade journalism game since the mid-1980s, I remember several watershed moments during my career. One of Read More
Migrant farm workers
LegislationTrump: Immigration Crackdown Won’t Impact U.S. Agriculture
May 16, 2017
President Donald Trump said he would seek to keep his tough immigration enforcement policies from harming the U.S. farm industry Read More
AGCO Ratliff featured
Eric SfiligojRemembering Robert Ratliff
May 15, 2017
With all the fast-paced happenings in agriculture this spring, with multiple mergers in the works and planting season in full Read More
Case sprayer nozzle closeup
EquipmentSpray Application: A Nozzle Renaissance
May 2, 2017
If you had asked four-decade ag veteran Mark Bartel, President of Wilger Inc., just a few years ago what lay Read More
Latest News
Corn Field
Seed/BiotechCorn Insect Bt Technologies Offer Cost-effective, Proac…
June 26, 2017
When farm economics are challenging, farmers look for ways to bolster profit margins, including reducing input costs. Some may think Read More
Crop InputsArkansas Plant Board Votes to Ban Dicamba — Now W…
June 23, 2017
The Arkansas State Plant Board has voted to pass a proposed emergency rule to ban the use of in-crop dicamba, Read More
Engenia soybeans
Crop InputsBASF: ‘Closely Monitoring’ Dicamba Situatio…
June 22, 2017
BASF, whose Engenia herbicide is the target of more than 200 drift complaints in Arkansas, emailed the following statement to Read More
ManagementConsolidation Update
June 22, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss progress on manufacturer consolidation, and another big move for Midwest cooperative Central Valley Read More
Palmer pigweed seedhead in cotton
Crop InputsThreat of Dicamba Ban Looms in Arkansas
June 22, 2017
The Arkansas State Plant Board has rejected a proposed ban on the use of dicamba herbicide, but a procedural error Read More
Potash Agrium
Crop InputsAgrium-PotashCorp to become Nutrien upon Merger Complet…
June 21, 2017
Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan Inc. and Agrium Inc. have announced today that once the anticipated merger transaction closes, the new Read More
Crop InputsMidwestern BioAg Hosts TerraNu Fertilizer Plant Opening…
June 20, 2017
Last Friday, Midwestern BioAg was joined by over 80 local farmers, media and staff to celebrate the grand opening of Read More
Soybean Field
Industry NewsAligned Ag Distributors Names New President
June 19, 2017
Aligned Ag Distributors LLC announced this morning the appointment of Mary Tolke to the position of President/CEO, effective July 1. Read More
ManagementPlotting Corn, AGCO/Asmark’s Applicator Training Center…
June 15, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about their recent visits to Columbus, OH, and Bloomington, IL, along with an Read More
Seed/BiotechDow AgroSciences Announces Launch of Enlist Corn for 20…
June 14, 2017
Enlist corn will be commercially available in the U.S. for the 2018 growing season. Dow AgroSciences announced the launch today Read More
ASMARK AGCO Applicator Training Center
EmployeesAsmark, AGCO Open Training Center for Beginning Applica…
June 13, 2017
AGCO Corp. and the Asmark Institute have opened a new Applicator Training Center, created in a collaboration between the two Read More
Power to Do More Contest Winners
HerbicidesDow AgroSciences Announces Three Winners in Power to Do…
June 13, 2017
Thousands of votes have been cast and three farmers have been awarded the power to do more with a $10,000 Read More
Frogeye leaf spot
FungicidesStrobilurin-resistant Frogeye Leaf Spot Threat Looms wi…
June 13, 2017
Heavy spring rainfall throughout the South and Midwest delayed planting and created the perfect environment for diseases like frogeye leaf Read More
PrecisionAg Vision Conference
Precision AgPrecisionAg® Vision Conference: Focused on the Future
June 13, 2017
PrecisionAg® is pleased to announce the return of its PrecisionAg Vision Conference, October 10-12, 2017. Based on overwhelmingly positive response Read More
CHS St. Paul, MN fertilizer terminal
LegislationICGA Praises President Trump’s Remarks on Waterwa…
June 12, 2017
Illinois Corn Growers Association President Justin Durdan, a farmer from Utica, issued the following statement regarding President Donald Trump’s comments Read More
Wheat Growers
UncategorizedWheat Growers Names Tracy Linbo as Senior Vice Presiden…
June 12, 2017
Wheat Growers has hired Tracy Linbo as Senior Vice President of Agronomy. Linbo joins Wheat Growers after having served 10 Read More
EquipmentAgTech Summit Aiming High for Modern Farming Solutions
June 12, 2017
THRIVE AgTech, in partnership with SVG Partners and Forbes, is hosting the third annual Forbes AgTech Summit June 28-29 in Read More
Central Valley Ag Randolph, NE
Precision AgLand O’Lakes Invests in EFC Systems
June 12, 2017
Land O’Lakes, Inc. has made a minority equity investment in EFC Systems, Inc., an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and precision Read More