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means that management must decide to move forward using one of the existing co-ops’ software systems — one that may be outdated and limited — or to transition to new, more comprehensive software that can unify all the disparate elements of a larger organization.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

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

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
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

Latest News

MicronutrientsVerdesian Acquires Micronutrient Supplier
September 30, 2014
Verdesian Life Sciences has acquired QC Corp., a producer and supplier of granular and dry micronutrients and ferrous sulfate products. Read More
Eric SfiligojHearing From Young Ag Voices
September 30, 2014
Potential future leaders in ag retail had the chance to shine at the recent Mid America CropLife Association meeting. Read More
Crop InputsSyngenta Appoints New Chief Operating Officer
September 29, 2014
Jon Parr will succeed retiring COO John Atkin at the end of the year. Read More
CropLife 100South Dakota Wheat Growers To Add Grain-Agronomy Facili…
September 26, 2014
Planned to be constructed in Kennebec, the facility will be located along the soon-to-be rehabilitated line of heavy-rail service from Chamberlain to Presho. Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK Announces Vice President Appointments
September 25, 2014
Two individuals have been appointed Vice President positions on the GROWMARK executive team. Read More
FertilizerFertilizer Industry Organizations Join Global Alliance …
September 25, 2014
The Fertilizer Institute, the International Plant Nutrition Institute and the International Fertilizer Industry Association are encouraging the industry to promote the proper use of fertilizer products to minimize their environmental impact. Read More
Precision AgARA Organized Precision Forum Hits Capitol Hill
September 24, 2014
The Coalition for the Advancement of Precision Agriculture (CAPA) hosted its inaugural Precision Ag Forum, Sept. 18, in Washington, D.C. Read More
FertilizerFactors To Consider When Placing Fertilizer With Seed
September 24, 2014
The type of crop, fertilizer source, row spacing and soil environment all affect how much fertilizer can be safely applied with seed. Read More
FertilizerSidedressing Manure Into Corn Has Promising Results
September 24, 2014
Applying manure to growing crops can boost yields, reduce nutrient losses and give livestock producers another window of time to apply manure to farm fields. Read More
FertilizerWhen To Sample Manure For Analysis
September 24, 2014
Because the goal is to collect a sample that represents the manure actually being applied, the best time to sample is during loading or field application. Here's why. Read More
Syngenta
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Faces Second Lawsuit Over Agrisure Viptera Cor…
September 23, 2014
A second company has sued Syngenta AG over sales of genetically modified corn seed not approved by China. Read More
StewardshipCover Crops Field Guide For Farmers Expanded
September 23, 2014
Farmers interested in planting cover crops to improve soil health now have an updated and expanded resource in the second edition of the Midwest Cover Crops Field Guide. Read More
HerbicidesArysta LifeScience Launches Contest For Wheat Growers
September 23, 2014
The Flush after Flush Photo Finish contest encourages farmers across the U.S. to participate through Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #FlushAfterFlush. Read More
FertilizerCF Industries Confirms Merger Of Equals Discussions Wit…
September 23, 2014
CF Industries Holdings, Inc. has confirmed that it is in preliminary discussions with Yara International regarding a potential merger of equals transaction. Read More
StewardshipProgram To Examine Ag-Related Practices, Policies To Pr…
September 22, 2014
A panel discussion on October 14 will include a significant discussion on key issues and solutions related to all aspects of harmful algal blooms. Read More
Eric SfiligojIt’s Product Of The Year Voting Season
September 22, 2014
Readers of CropLife IRON will choose 2014’s best new product over the next month. Read More
Palmer pigweed in soybean stubble
HerbicidesValent To Discontinue Gangster Herbicide
September 22, 2014
Valent will discontinue Gangster Herbicide after the 2015 growing season as growers can now deploy Fierce XLT herbicide in soybeans. Read More
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