Unifying Software

As co-ops merge they often bring together agribusiness, petroleum and even retail convenience store operations under a single banner. In doing so, each co-op not only brings with it assets, inventory and staff, but also existing enterprise software that is often proprietary, sometimes aging, and designed to meet the specific needs of a smaller, simpler organization. Typically, this means that management must decide to move forward using one of the existing co-ops’ software systems — one that may be outdated and limited — or to transition to new, more comprehensive software that can unify all the disparate elements of a larger organization.

Ideally, if existing software options will not meet the needs of the new, larger entity, it should be changed prior to a merge. In doing so, the new co-op can facilitate and reduce the cost of the transition, hit the ground running on the new platform and start the return on investment right away.

Town & Country Co-op, Inc., Ash­land, OH, took such an approach when it put all six companies onto Summit Software (now under its new brandname iRely). Town & Country Co-op resulted from the 2003 merger of four agricultural co-ops and two grain elevator LLCs co-owned by three of the co-ops. The four organizations served different customers in the same general area, which led to inefficiencies and higher costs.

“We were competing for the same customers and had overlapping facilities,” says Brian Amstutz, the company’s chief financial officer. “Some of the co-ops weren’t paying any patronage.”

The six merging co-ops were utilizing one of two different software packages. While all users were loyal to their current vendors, neither of the existing software packages met the expanded needs of the operation. One of them, for example, could only run on expensive proprietary hardware.

Considering Compatibility

One of the biggest challenges involved with merging co-ops is that they have all been keeping data — account information, GL codes, member information and product codes — in a wide variety of generally incompatible formats. To avoid the nightmare of having to manually re-enter all data in order to achieve a common format for the unified system, iRely has developed a toolbox of utilities to automate the conversion process.

In this case, the iRely software was installed on a single server at the new headquarters for the combined co-op. One-by-one, the co-ops began the process of converting their systems over, which spanned several months. iRely sent personnel to train staff both at headquarters and at each co-op and to assist with the migration.

“The conversion and deployment process went well,” says Amstutz. “We avoided any major snafus that could have occurred if we tried to convert all six companies in one day.”

Following the successful combination of all systems and the creation of the new organization, Town & Country now has about 200 employees in seven divisions at 18 locations and close to $200 million in annual sales. The co-ops are now paying regular patronage, growing from $165,000 in 2004 to $3.53 million from operations in 2010.

Amstutz attributes part of the increase to the greater buying power of the combined membership as well as the money saved by closing redundant facilities. But there are also the efficiencies gained by using the new systems to automate formerly manual tasks such as retail inventories and grain scale operations, as well as improving customer service by accepting electronic payments and allowing customers to view their account information on line.

Amstutz believes the biggest factor in merger success was proper planning which included a thorough evaluation of software needs and then putting in place the right package before merging operations. That created a platform which could support the new, more streamlined organizational structure.

“We wanted to get the co-op off to a smooth start and changing software isn’t easy,” says Amstutz. “By getting all the conversions done in advance, working out all the bugs and getting everyone familiar with the software, there was one less thing that members or customers could blame on a merger.”

Leave a Reply

Software Stories

Agworld Apple Watch Farm Management
EquipmentAussie Data Management Software Company Making Its Mark Stateside
July 4, 2015
Western-Australia-based Agworld — having fully launched its data management software system stateside last year after a 2013 soft launch — Read More
SoftwareSyngenta Expands AgriEdge Excelsior Nationwide For 2015
April 22, 2015
Growers across the country can now take the guesswork out of improving their farm’s production, land value, farm stewardship and Read More
Junge Control Panels
SoftwareMaximizing Plant Information, Automation
March 10, 2015
Blending and operations systems/software aim to seamlessly pull together the many facets of retail. Read More
Training
SoftwareFulfilling A Training Need
March 6, 2015
Tri Ag and CSE Software hope to introduce a new hands-on simulator for custom applicator tutoring. Read More
Top 100 Articles
Crop InputsLand ‘O Lakes, United Suppliers Finalize Merger
August 24, 2015
According to a press release on August 24, owners of United Suppliers, Inc. and members of Land O’Lakes, Inc. “have Read More
West Central Cooperative, Jefferson, IA
CropLife 100Iowa Cooperatives To Explore Unification
August 19, 2015
The boards of directors at two of Iowa’s leading farmer-owned cooperatives yesterday signed a letter of intent to study the Read More
CropLife 100Southern States Coop Hosting Drone Flight This Friday
August 3, 2015
Southern States Cooperative — No. 9 on the CropLife 100 — is hosting an FAA-approved drone demonstration at Grandview Farms Read More
CropLife 100Aligned Ag Distributors Adds Four New Owners
July 30, 2015
Aligned Ag Distributors LLC has announced the addition of four new customer/owners to Franklin Holding Co. LLC. They are: The Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Purchases California-Based Specialty Crops Retailer
July 20, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings has successfully acquired California-based NH3 Service Co.  Operating as part of Pinnacle’s Performance Agriculture brand, the new locations Read More
Asmus Farm Supply liquid fertilizer facility features 20,000 square feet
CropLife 100Slideshow: Asmus Farm Supply Shows Off Its New Liquid Fertilizer Facility
July 15, 2015
Asmus Farm Supply, Rake, IA, recently added a new liquid fertilizer facility to its company operations. The new liquid fertilizer Read More
Latest News
Crop InputsMonsanto, FMC Expand Roundup Ready PLUS Platform
August 31, 2015
FMC Corp. and Monsanto Co. announced today an expanded agreement to continue their participation in the Roundup Ready PLUS Crop Read More
Deere Nutrient Applicator
Eric SfiligojThe Good & Bad News From MAGIE
August 31, 2015
As I write this column, I’ve just returned from the annual Midwest AG Industries (MAGIE) trade show in Bloomington, IL. Read More
CPS Morenci receiving its 4R certification
StewardshipCPS Morenci Becomes First Michigan Facility Certified I…
August 31, 2015
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program has announced that Crop Production Services, Inc.’s facility located in Morenci, MI, has been Read More
EquipmentDeere Announces Soucy Track Distribution Alliance
August 28, 2015
John Deere announces an alliance with Soucy Track to sell and distribute products through the John Deere dealer channel. “This Read More
FertilizerFall-Applied Phosphorus: A Rooted Investment
August 28, 2015
As commodity prices decrease and input prices continue to rise, farmers are seeking more efficient strategies for meeting a high Read More
Monsanto Sign
Crop InputsWhat’s Next For Monsanto, Syngenta?
August 28, 2015
After dropping its $47 billion bid to take over Swiss agribusiness firm Syngenta, Monsanto may be turning its focus to Read More
Golden Harvest Corn stalks
Crop InputsMonsanto: Syngenta Not The Only Horse In Crop Protectio…
August 28, 2015
Monsanto Co, having ditched an audacious $46 billion (£30 billion) offer for Syngenta AG, may downshift to a humbler strategy Read More
ManagementConsolidation hits and a miss; And a look at China’s ch…
August 28, 2015
As Monsanto suspends its pursuit of Syngenta, consolidation news at the retail and distribution level heats up. CropLife magazine’s Executive Read More
Corn Field
MicronutrientsHuma Gro Introduces New Boron Liquid Nutrient Formulati…
August 28, 2015
BORO-MAX, a new boron (B) 10% liquid nutrient formulation, has been added to the Huma Gro product line. This new Read More
Crop InputsNFU: Monsanto Decision To Withdraw Syngenta Bid ‘…
August 26, 2015
National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson said the organization was very pleased by the news that Monsanto has withdrawn Read More
Crop InputsMonsanto Withdraws Bid For Syngenta
August 26, 2015
Monsanto Co. abandoned its latest effort to acquire Syngenta AG, the world’s top maker of pesticides, after a sweetened bid Read More
Syngenta Sign
Crop InputsSyngenta Comments On Monsanto Announcement
August 26, 2015
The Board of Syngenta confirms that it received a verbal proposal from Monsanto to acquire the company at a price Read More
Case IH Patriot 2250 Sprayer
EquipmentHigh-powered Case IH Patriot 2250 Sprayer Pushes Throug…
August 26, 2015
Engineered with more muscle, the new 660-gallon-capacity Patriot 2250 sprayer features best-in-class horsepower, along with the fuel efficiency that comes Read More
Crop InputsLand ‘O Lakes, United Suppliers Finalize Merger
August 24, 2015
According to a press release on August 24, owners of United Suppliers, Inc. and members of Land O’Lakes, Inc. “have Read More
TMX-2050 In-Cab Display Launch Run Screen
Eric SfiligojPrecision Ag Could Shine In Increased Spotlight On Agri…
August 24, 2015
By any measure, 2015 is turning into one of the most challenging years agriculture has ever experienced. All throughout good Read More
ManagementCrop Conditions In Minnesota and Traveling Time
August 21, 2015
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiilgoj discuss the crop outlook from a field trip to Minnesota and upcoming travel plans. Read More
HerbicidesREUTERS: Anti-GMO ‘Scientist’ Calls For New…
August 20, 2015
EDITORS NOTE: We feel that it is important to note that there are those that believe one of the lead Read More
Rendering of Syngenta Seedcare Institute expansion
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Announces Seedcare Application And Resource Ce…
August 19, 2015
Syngenta recently announced the Seedcare Application and Resource Center, a collaborative new website designed exclusively for Syngenta Seedcare customers to Read More