Big Idea; Logistics

I have to admit it … I’ve never really been the idea guy. Being the “idea guy” is a dangerous place to live. To “boldly go where no man has gone before,” as Captain James T. Kirk famously proclaimed, is usually a frustrating, painful, and expensive proposition. Some people can’t help themselves — they get an idea and off they go, occasionally to tremendous success but more often than not, something far less.

Personally, I prefer to be the “idea after the idea” guy. I don’t necessarily need to invent anything. I’m most interested in taking a good idea and making it work for me. It’s generally not any less work to take this approach, but often it cuts down on the mistakes made along the way.

Which brings me to the idea that, if I were you, I’d be finding a way to steal this idea this off-season — electronic vehicle tracking and logistics.

When I came over to this magazine in 1998, I remember people talking about this concept. The overnight delivery companies were driving it first, then Wal-Mart really took it to another level. Through the magic of bar codes and a sophisticated tracking software system, packages, boxes, and shipments move anywhere and everywhere, with negligible levels of error.

Of course, all this was outlandishly expensive. So most of agriculture took a pass on this technology — but now, there are some applications coming online that should have you taking notice and, at the very least, have you exploring the possibilities in the near future.

One of them is profiled in this issue. A company called Intelleflex is providing a system using radio frequency identification, or RFID, technology to provide a way for retailers to monitor the comings and goings of equipment at the plant. RFID got attention about five years ago as the tracking technology of the future, and it has been implemented in some industries, but has been cost prohibitive until now.

The retailer using this technology, Bear River Supply, has RFID “tags” attached to the equipment that’s delivered to growers in the field. When it leaves the yard, the tag triggers an RFID reader, which records what is leaving the yard and when.

Other technologies coming online are taking advantage of the proliferation of more reliable high-speed Internet and cellular service in rural America, along with dropping hardware prices. Two of these technologies now available emerged at the Midwest AG Industries Exposition in Bloomington, IL.

GVM Telematics from GVM is a new equipment tracking system that utilizes the Internet and cellular technology to track the movements of machinery in the field. John Deere announced the soon-to-be-available AgLogic system that will have similar tracking capabilities. Both systems have additional capabilities for collecting data as well.

Next month, our cover story will focus­ on a retailer that is using a new program from Software Solutions In­tegrated called Dispatch, yet another fleet management program that provides tracking of vehicles. For this retailer, Dispatch is the icing on his efforts to analyze and rethink his entire operation’s efficiency.

With so much investment in fuel and inputs, these technologies are shaping up just in time. Give these ideas a spin this winter.

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