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

Trending Articles

ManagementExpert To Discuss Farmland Value, Rent At Farm Science Review
August 18, 2014
While cropland values in Ohio increased in the past two years, they have remained flat in 2014, declining in some cases, according to an Ohio State University agricultural economist. Read More
EquipmentAdvance Your Technology IQ At MAGIE
August 13, 2014
The Midwest AG Industries Exposition (August 20-21) is the place you need to be to see, study and evaluate how new advances in the equipment, operations, crop protection and fertility sectors can help your business prosper. Read More
HerbicidesScouting Key To Next Season’s Soybean Herbicide Program
August 12, 2014
When growing soybeans, growers need to think ahead to stay one step ahead of weeds. That means examining weed threats and evaluating which herbicides work best. Read More
StewardshipMichigan Agriculture Leaders On Toledo Water Ban: We Want To Be Part Of The Conversation
August 8, 2014
Leaders of Michigan agricultural organizations said Thursday that the government should not have a “knee-jerk reaction” based on last weekend’s water ban in Toledo due to fertilizer run-off in Lake Erie. Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Acquires Lemon Ag Services
August 4, 2014
The acquisition of Lemon Ag fits BRANDT’s aggressive corporate strategy of providing superior agronomic advice and services for customers in central Illinois. Read More
Eric SfiligojThe Resurgence Of Crop Protection
August 4, 2014
Plenty of new offerings over the next few years should see a rebirth for the crop protection products category in terms of market share. Read More

Latest News

Crop InputsBASF Is Betting On A Bright Agricultural Future
September 1, 2014
The crop protection products giant is gearing up for a busy time in agriculture by investing in both product production and development over the next couple of years. Read More
Eric SfiligojAn Erie Feeling For Ag
September 1, 2014
Plenty of water issues have been in the news lately, including the continuing drought in California. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Acquires California-Based Retailer
August 29, 2014
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings will acquire Kerman Ag Resources, Inc., which will operate under Pinnacle's Performance Agriculture brand. Read More
Allied Cooperative Grain Plant
ManagementArcadia Co-op To Merge With Allied Cooperative
August 28, 2014
Allied Cooperative has announced that members of Arcadia Co-op voted in favor of a merger with Allied Cooperative, paving the way for the consolidation which will be effective on December 1, 2014. Read More
InsecticidesBioinsecticide VENERATE Now Registered In California
August 27, 2014
Marrone Bio Innovations' VENERATE is a new tool to help California growers control crop-damaging insect pests, fight the development of insect resistance and reduce pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables. Read More
CropLife 100Two Iowa-Based Ag Co-ops To Merge
August 27, 2014
The Board of Directors and management of United Western Coop, Missouri Valley, IA has completed a merger with Heartland Co-op, West Des Moines, IA, effective September 1, 2014. Read More
FertilizerKoch Expands AGROTAIN Nitrogen Stabilizer Portfolio
August 26, 2014
Koch Agronomic Services, LLC has added two new innovative nitrogen stabilizers to the AGROTAIN product family – AGROTAIN ADVANCED and AGROTAIN DRI-­MAXX. Read More
Seed/BiotechDuPont To Build Two Seed Treatment Centers
August 26, 2014
DuPont has announced construction on two state-of-the-art centers dedicated to developing and testing seed treatment formulations, applications and seed handling techniques in an important step toward bringing new solutions to growers. Read More
Seed/BiotechLoveland Products Acquires A Controlling Interest In Ag…
August 26, 2014
Loveland Products, a subsidiary of Agrium , has announced the company has acquired a controlling interest in Agricen, a Dallas-area agricultural biotechnology company delivering biochemical-based products for efficient and sustainable plant nutrition. Read More
StewardshipUp Close Look At The 2014 Environmental Respect Award W…
August 25, 2014
The 2014 Environmental Respect Award winners were honored recently at the 24th annual event in Wilmington, DE. Read More
Eric SfiligojAg Science Rejection Carries Consequences
August 25, 2014
As innuendo and fear dog the regulatory process, agriculture can’t get the new tools it needs to combat world hunger. Read More
LegislationFarmers Dismayed As New Farm Bill Dumps Direct Payments
August 25, 2014
The threatened end of cash subsidies to the nation’s row crop farmers dates back through at least the last two iterations of national agriculture policy legislation. 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
CropLife 100GROWMARK CEO To Retire
August 22, 2014
GROWMARK chief executive officer Jeff Solberg has announced his retirement effective September 15, 2014. Read More
InsecticidesDuPont’s Prevathon Approved For Dry Beans
August 22, 2014
DuPont Prevathon insect control powered by Rynaxypyr has received EPA registration for foliar use on dry bean crops, including dried shelled peas and beans. Read More
ManagementNCGA DuPont New Leaders Program Enters Sophmore Season
August 20, 2014
The National Corn Growers Association and DuPont are pleased to announce the second year of the NCGA DuPont New Leaders Program. Read More
FungicidesVerdesian Links Up With Mitsui, Hokusan
August 20, 2014
Mitsui Chemicals Agro, Inc., and Hokusan Co., announced the signing of an exclusive licensing agreement allowing Verdesian Life Sciences global access to its patented technology for suppressing mycotoxin contamination in wheat and barley. Read More
SprayersUniversity Of Illinois Introduces New Spray App
August 18, 2014
University of Illinois Extension has released a new smartphone app for making sprayer-related calculations. Pesticide Spray Calculator, or Spray Calc, Read More