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

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

Syngenta
Crop InputsSyngenta Launches Plant Breeding Academy
October 1, 2014
Syngenta announces the release of its Breeding Academy, a global initiative designed to enable the continued development of scientists at Syngenta and beyond. Read More
FertilizerFertilizer Outlook And Technology Conference Set For No…
September 30, 2014
Conference participants can expect to gain perspective on the outlook for agriculture and major fertilizer materials and inputs from industry experts. Read More
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
WebinarsUpcoming Webinars
September 30, 2014
Register for one of our upcoming Webinars or access our archive of past Webinars to view recordings of presentations that may be of interest to you. 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