Asmark Institute: Special E-Delivery

Amber Duke and Dustin Warder, Asmark Institute

One of the most common problems in today’s world is information management. Thanks to the growth of the Internet, an avalanche of data is constantly circling the globe 24/7. Still, this sheer amount of information has sometimes made it difficult to separate necessary, needed data sets from unneeded ones. Spam filters and security firewalls have further complicated the picture.

For an organization such as The Asmark Institute, Owensboro, KY, this state of the world has made for an especially challenging situation, particularly when it came to sharing information with its clients. Charged with checking and storing huge amounts of security and regulatory information, including driver qualification files, the Asmark Institute needed to get this important and timely data to its customers without having any of it “fall through the cracks” of today’s electronic security net.

“The number one request we get from clients is to provide a list of what they have to do to be in compliance with all the regulations required to do business in agriculture,” says Allen Summers, president. “Everybody wants electronic reports, but nobody wants to use standardized e-mails to make it happen. If you mail a letter using the postage service, chances are it will get to its destination 99% of the time. With e-mails, however, you get bounce backs because of security filters or have bad addresses pop up, meaning your percentage of successful deliveries is much, much lower. For our service to work efficiently and effectively, we had to find a way to increase our successful delivery rate somehow.”

An Informational History

As Summers explains, much of this provided information is critical to ag retailers doing their jobs and running their businesses. Although the Asmark Institute was formed in 2005 as a nonprofit resource center, its history stretches back to 1990. The institute acts as a national center for compliance materials and services to help retailers comply with Department of Transportation (DOT), Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and EPA requirements.

For instance, at any given time, the Asmark Institute will have 14,000 driver files in its electronic database, along with hard copies of these forms in concrete vaults and fireproof cabinets. Monthly status reports on these files — such as reminders that physicals and licenses are about to expire and need to be renewed — are sent out to participating facilities on the 15th of each month. The institute also performs annual reviews and obtains all state driving records for its files. “We even keep terminated driver records for three years, per DOT requirements and in case these individuals end up rehired as active workers in the near future,” he adds.

To solve this problem, Summers asked Asmark Institute associates Amber Duke, Dustin Warder, and Dena Rhodes to come up with a solution. “I wanted them to figure out a way our clients could access our databases as if they were in our offices themselves, which meant using the Worldwide Web and our Web site as an access platform,” he says. “To do that effectively, we needed to determine three things: what databases we had available; how these could be accessed in an all-encompassing way; and come up with a design that accomplished this.”

Duke, Warder, and Rhodes started working on this project in January 2007. By September of that year, the trio presented a working concept for an electronic dashboard called Snapshots to the Asmark Institute board and both prospective and existing clients. From this feedback, a few final refinements were made. The final version of Snapshots became available for client use in mid-2008.

In Operation

As Summers describes it, Snapshots is designed to serve as an electronic dashboard, providing users with access to real-time data in a colorful, visual, and organized fashion. Using Snapshots, clients can quickly glance at such information regarding their facilities as workplace injury summaries, which of their drivers are qualified under DOT regulations, and how long before their current, filed fire prevention plan expires, among other details. Best of all, Snapshots is available to customers continuously, regardless of day or time.

“All this information is consequently being updated as our people enter new data into our existing databases,” says Summers. “For example, if you look at the entry for training participation at 10 a.m., it might show that 12 employees at that facility had completed their training for the month. But if the manager checked back at 3 p.m. that same day, the number could be updated to show that two additional employees had completed the training program in the five hours since the first check took place.”

Since it needs to be available 24/7 to customers, the Asmark Institute has gone to great lengths to ensure Snapshots is always accessible. “Since it’s a Web site that’s being used by someone all the time, we don’t have the luxury of being down for any reason,” says Randy Lawrence, vice president.

For this reason, the Institute has a catastrophic backup building at the back of its offices located in a bunker. Every 15 minutes, the data kept in the Asmark Institute’s main databases is automatically sent to the backup server, providing an exact duplicate of all the precious information. “This way, even if our building was destroyed in a tornado or other disaster, our data would be current, up to 15 minutes before the destruction took place,” says Summers.

Besides ensuring data is safe, the Asmark Institute has also gone to great pains to protect the data kept on Snapshots from unauthorized eyes. To access their individual information, customers are provided with user names and passwords, which will only allow them to look at the data for their particular facility. “For further protection of our customer, we never post Social Security numbers on our Web site, and only print them when we are providing new hire kits to clients,” says Summers.

In the coming year, the Asmark Institute hopes to further expand the usefulness of Snapshots. According to Summers, an Environmental, Safety, Security, Health, and Insurance Index is in the works. “This would be a method of scoring each individual facility based on everything we have in our databases, looking at levels of risk associated with that outlet,” he says. “This information could then be used by insurance underwriters, showing them the track record of compliance for that facility and ultimately lowering their insurance premiums.”

Leave a Reply

2 comments on “Asmark Institute: Special E-Delivery

Employees Stories

EmployeesAsmark Institute Dedicates New Training Center To Ford West
August 6, 2014
The Asmark Institute plans to recognize the retired industry leader's years of service to the fertilizer industry at the new state-of-the-art facility in Owensboro, KY. Read More
EmployeesSyngenta: ‘Take Charge’ Of Farm Safety
June 4, 2014
Syngenta and health officials warn of four health-related challenges in agriculture and how they can be managed. Read More
EmployeesHead Start Program Prepares The Next Generation Of Ag Retailers
April 7, 2014
Illinois Fertilizer & Chemical Association, in partnership with the Asmark Institute, are offering the Head Start Program to prepare students for work at ag retail facilities. Read More
EmployeesThree Keys To Employee Success
March 3, 2014
Increasing employee performance becomes much easier when managers follow these three simple things. Read More

Top 100 Articles

CropLife 100CHS: Driving Momentum To Help Farmer-Owners Grow
December 11, 2014
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading farmer-owned cooperative and a global energy, grains and foods company, must capture new opportunities to Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT, Verdesian Ink Distribution Agreement
December 9, 2014
The agreement grants BRANDT the exclusive right to sell and market Verdesian’s patented Steric chemistry in the Turf and Ornamental and eastern U.S. ag markets under the BRANDT Reaction product line name. Read More
CropLife 100CropLife 100: The Colors Of Custom Application
December 5, 2014
Although many color spray rigs are in the yards of the nation’s top ag retailers, the majority of them still come in only a few shades. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Invests In Meridian Agriculture Distribution
December 4, 2014
Meridian will provide retailers with supplier-branded products and numerous opportunities to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Read More
CropLife 100CropLife 100: Entering A New Seed Era
December 4, 2014
The seed category has been re-vitalized during the past few years, and more good news (and varieties) are headed the industry’s way in 2015. Read More
CropLife 100CropLife 100: The Depressed State Of Fertilizer
December 3, 2014
Following downright giddy growth earlier this decade, fertilizer sales have fallen back down to earth the past two years. Read More

Latest News

Crop InputsNufarm Fills Regulatory VP Position
December 18, 2014
Nufarm announced today that Rob Schwehr has been promoted to the position of Vice President of Innovation & Regulatory Affairs for Nufarm Americas. Read More
Seed/BiotechReport: China Approves Viptera Corn, U.S. Officials Awa…
December 17, 2014
Chinese authorities have informed some agriculture industry officials the government has approved U.S. imports of a type of genetically modified corn developed by Syngenta. Read More
FertilizerMonty’s Plant Food Brings In New Sales Rep
December 16, 2014
Monty's Plant Food Company has hired Warren Kearns as its newest Sales Representative for the South Carolina area. Read More
EquipmentHagie Wins 2014 CropLife IRON Product Of The Year Award
December 15, 2014
The self-propelled sprayer maker has a hit on its hands with the new STS Series model. Read More
Syngenta
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Sees China Approving Contentious GMO Corn Soon
December 15, 2014
Syngenta will make an announcement when it receives official documentation from China that Agrisure Viptera corn, known as MIR 162, has been cleared for import. Read More
Crop InputsVerdesian Life Sciences Names Vice President Of Communi…
December 15, 2014
Amy Bugg will oversee the execution of all promotional strategies for the corporate brand and the complete product portfolio. Read More
StewardshipFarmers, Retailers Attend 4R Certification 4U Workshop
December 15, 2014
More than 160 farmers and ag retailer attended the “4R Certification 4U” workshop December 12 to learn more about the 4Rs of nutrient stewardship, water quality research in the area and cost-sharing opportunities. Read More
Matt Hopkins10 Best New Agriculture Apps For 2015
December 15, 2014
These new agriculture apps are certain to help ag professionals do their jobs more efficiently in 2015 and beyond. Read More
ManagementARA Learnings, Retail Buying Intentions: Welcome To Cro…
December 12, 2014
This informal video program puts news and events effecting retailers into context, and features Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj. Read More
Seed/BiotechMonsanto Herbicide-Tolerant Technology Closer To Commer…
December 12, 2014
The final EIS moves Monsanto one step closer to the introduction of Bollgard II XtendFlex cotton and Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans, paving the way to provide access to dicamba-tolerant soybeans and cotton. Read More
Seed/BiotechUSDA Issues Final Environmental Impact Statement On Her…
December 12, 2014
The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is issuing a final environmental impact statement on varieties of cotton and soybeans that have been genetically engineered for resistance to several herbicides, including the one known as dicamba. Read More
CropLife 100CHS: Driving Momentum To Help Farmer-Owners Grow
December 11, 2014
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading farmer-owned cooperative and a global energy, grains and foods company, must capture new opportunities to Read More
LegislationARA Applauds CFATS Passage Prior To Holiday Adjournment
December 11, 2014
The streamlined bill provides a four-year authorization of the CFATS program and guidance to DHS on key issues of chemical facility security Read More
Seed/BiotechBayer CropScience’s ILeVO Approved By EPA
December 11, 2014
EPA has approved ILeVO, the only seed treatment that protects the root system against infections caused by the Sudden Death Syndrome fungus and has activity against dangerous nematodes. Read More
Biologicals in Emerging Markets Map.
Crop InputsBiocontrols Could Quadruple By 2025; Will Regulators Pl…
December 11, 2014
The European experience with GMOs offers caution — and a promise — for biologicals. Read More
Crop InputsBASF Donates $75,000 To Feeding America
December 10, 2014
The donation will support Feeding America’s National Produce Program, an initiative that helps with planning, transportation and logistics to ensure fresh produce deliveries to the 200 member food banks around the country. Read More
InsecticidesHow To Avoid Aphid Infestation In Winter Wheat
December 10, 2014
The best strategy for managing aphid infestations in winter wheat — and the potential yellow dwarf diseases that they transmit — is prevention, according to a South Dakota State University Plant Pathology field specialist. Read More
LegislationDufault Installed As New ARA Chair
December 10, 2014
Dave Dufault, Vice President and General Manager of J.R. Simplot Company's Retail Business, was installed as the 2015 Chairman of the Board for ARA on December 4. Read More