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means that management must decide to move forward using one of the existing co-ops’ software systems — one that may be outdated and limited — or to transition to new, more comprehensive software that can unify all the disparate elements of a larger organization.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

SoftwareHD Precision Analytics Launches New Mobile App For Agriculture Market
October 11, 2016
AGSentry from HD Precision Analytics is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform that offers simple data service and actionable analytics tool. It focuses Read More
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
Trending Articles
AGCO RG700 cab
OpinionRoadblocks To Precision Ag Innovation
October 5, 2016
On August 29, I got to preside over the PrecisionAg Innovation Series event, “Game-Changing Advances in Precision Farming Technology,” developed Read More
J.C. Ramsdell containment system
EquipmentClear Opportunity In The Tank Market
October 4, 2016
Crop prices may be down, but steel prices are too — and that’s good news for retailers looking to add some Read More
WinField booth Farm Progress
Special ReportsTalking Weed Management Strategies At Farm Progress 2016
October 2, 2016
The annual Farm Progress Show — this year staged in Boone, IA — is always a great place to catch Read More
Corn Field
Eric SfiligojFacing Ag Industry Challenges
September 26, 2016
At the 2016 annual Mid America CropLife Association (MACA) meeting in September, a pair of crop protection company representatives discussed Read More
Bayer Monsanto
Crop InputsBayer-Monsanto Mega-Merger: 6 Things You Need To Know
September 14, 2016
Mega mergers have become almost routine in the agricultural industry. Right on the heels of Monday’s news that fertilizer giants Potash Read More
Potash Corp Agrium
Crop InputsAgrium, Potash Corp To Merge To Create $36 Billion Company
September 12, 2016
Canada’s Agrium Inc. and Potash Corp of Saskatchewan Inc. have agreed to combine in a deal that would create a Read More
Latest News
Kennebec Grain terminal
CropLife 100Wheat Growers Kennebec Facility Loads First Rail Cars
October 21, 2016
In a season of firsts for Wheat Growers’ Kennebec Grain Terminal, the first 115-car unit train was loaded with soybeans Read More
ManagementThe Latest Dow-DuPont Rumor, Product of the Year Voting…
October 20, 2016
CropLife Editor Eric Sfiligoj shares a new rumor about the Dow-DuPont merger and updates on two CropLife-driven programs, the CropLife Read More
Soybean Closeup
FungicidesFMC Begins Registration Process For New Fungicide Activ…
October 19, 2016
FMC Agricultural Solutions has begun the joint U.S. EPA and Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency registration process for bixafen, a new Read More
Soil Young Corn
Industry NewsAgribusiness Search Firm Appoints New Managing Partner
October 18, 2016
Morris Bixby Group, a leading agribusiness search firm providing the highest quality professional recruiting and career advancement services since 2000, Read More
Wheat Field North Dakota
FertilizerUnited Suppliers Acquires Kansas Fertilizer Business
October 17, 2016
United Suppliers, Inc. has purchased the assets of Evans Enterprises, LLC, an ammonium chloride fertilizer business based in Olathe, KS. Read More
Corn Field
Industry NewsFMC Launches New Operations In Argentina, Exits Joint V…
October 17, 2016
FMC Corp. has exited its joint venture with Ruralco Soluciones S.A. FMC has launched new commercial operations, FMC Quimica S.A., Read More
Dow AgroSciences
InsecticidesRenewed Registration Issued For Products Containing Sul…
October 17, 2016
On October 14, 2016, the U.S. EPA re-established the registration of products containing sulfoxaflor (Isoclast Active), including Transform WG, Closer Read More
Eric SfiligojThe Whys Of Agriculture
October 17, 2016
During 2016, there have been myriad challenges facing the whole agricultural industry. Such wide ranging issues as water protection, sustainable Read More
Young Corn Field
FertilizerImproved Phosphorus Management Essential To Feeding Wor…
October 14, 2016
With a global population expected to reach 9 billion people by 2050, improved management of key essential nutrients such as Read More
ManagementHarvest and Crop Price Updates; EPA and Crop Protection…
October 13, 2016
Glyphosate and atrazine get public comment support from ARA as each is reviewed by EPA, and the latest on the Read More
Matt Hopkins15 Twitter Accounts Every Ag Professional Must Follow
October 13, 2016
What do singer Katy Perry and the President of the United States have in common? They are two of the Read More
Corn Field
Industry NewsArysta LifeScience Adds Two Key Account Managers
October 13, 2016
Arysta LifeScience North America recently announced the addition of two key account managers: Doug Hoberty and Rob Wier. Hoberty and Read More
EquipmentDeere Announces Development Deal with Scherer Design
October 12, 2016
Deere & Co. announces a joint development agreement with Scherer Design Engineering, Inc. to develop and commercialize kernel processing solutions Read More
Crop InputsMarrone Bio Innovations Celebrates 10 Years Of Innovati…
October 12, 2016
Richard Rominger, former Deputy Secretary of the USDA and former agricultural secretary of California, emceed a 10th anniversary luncheon celebration on Read More
Photo credit: The United Soybean Board/The Soybean Checkoff.
Industry NewsVive Crop Protection Closes Financing To Support Corpor…
October 11, 2016
Vive Crop Protection has announced the closing of growth financing to support 2017 commercial expansion. The financing was led by Read More
SoftwareHD Precision Analytics Launches New Mobile App For Agri…
October 11, 2016
AGSentry from HD Precision Analytics is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform that offers simple data service and actionable analytics tool. It focuses Read More
HerbicidesWeed Control And Soil Health Go Hand-in-Hand
October 10, 2016
Although many landowners may not give much thought to weed control as a soil health measure, Gared Shaffer, South Dakota Read More
Students Soybean Field
Eric Sfiligoj2016 Young Leaders Speak
October 10, 2016
One of the consistent cries in agriculture today is the need to try and connect with the younger generations, attempting Read More