From Order to Applicator: Closing the Data Loop

Posted March 1st, 2019 in Publications

This article originally appeared in the March 2019 issue of CropLife magazine.

By Robin Siktberg, Custom Content Editor, Meister Media Worldwide

With the acquisition of digital platform AgSync, Raven Industries — already the industry leader in machine connection technology — will close the data loop. From the initial order, to application, to finalizing the record keeping, the process is now seamless, reducing redundancy, risk of error, and manual paper handling. Because of efficiencies gained by better logistics management in the field and fewer administrative tasks taking place in the cab, applicators can cover more acres per hour, increasing revenue.

“Efficiency is the name of the game for ag retailers,” says Paul Welbig, Director of Slingshot Services & Logistics for Raven. “There’s a huge need to manage assets and people better. The process today is highly manual and paper-driven. There are the orders, tickets, mapping, billing, and record keeping. There’s a lot of chaos during peak season, and even with the technology that we’ve provided over the years, it’s still a highly manual system. We write things on paper, print maps, distribute them, send files to the machine or put them on a USB stick, and then try to wrangle everyone to the right spot to get an application done. By adding AgSync to our portfolio, we have a comprehensive logistics system that allows retailers to better plan the work, track the machines, and be more efficient at all of it.”

Bringing Disparate Technologies Together

Most retailers end up with technology “silos,” where separate software systems handle orders, agronomic prescriptions to the field, invoicing, record keeping and other functions. AgSync is the platform that takes those disparate systems and funnels them down to an operations function where they work together to create and process each work order from start to finish.

“AgSync combined with Slingshot gives operations the ability to manage of all these pieces in one spot,” says Clay Rassi, Sales Manager for Raven Slingshot. “You can view the order and schedule the personnel and machines, along with the blending order. When the job is complete, the information of what was actually applied and when is sent back to the ERP systems and the agronomy systems for more analysis. AgSync and Slingshot create a digital path all the way out to the field and then back to those systems. The orders never leave the system; they are always visible.”

Rassi says the coordination extends to the delivery trucks and drivers that service the machines in the field with product, fuel and other support functions.

Changes Made Easy

Because the order information never leaves the data system, changes — which are inevitable — are much easier to make on the fly. And because the various data silos are now working together, changes can be entered in one place.

“I don’t need to tell ag retailers the typical process for making a change the same day,” Rassi says. “It involves many steps, redoing tickets and making a lot of phone calls. With AgSync, the operations manager makes the manual edit in the system and it automatically updates the ERP system, the maps, and blend sheets. If you have Slingshot, as well, the file is automatically updated in the machine, so the operator gets that updated information. There’s no need to recreate paper or files or make urgent phone calls out to the field.”

Instant Communication with Customers

A notification system is built in as well. An email or text is sent to the operations manger and grower when the job is completed, which includes the acreage sprayed and what was applied. From a compliance standpoint, that’s a real benefit for growers who need to comply with state reporting regulations, Rassi says.

If you already have AgSync in your operation, and you don’t have Slingshot, you won’t notice a change. But if you add Slingshot, you will no longer need a separate device in the cab. And you will never lose visibility of the order or its status. The order will go directly to the cab. If you already have Slingshot and add AgSync, you will gain the operational efficiencies of AgSync, plus it will soon be integrated into the Viper® 4 display. This simplifies the operator’s interface, closes the data loop back to the ERP and inventory systems, and eliminates the need for a separate device in the cab. The orders will be linked from the system to the machine and back again.

Welbig says both systems are fully operational now, and the new functionality within the Viper 4 display will be available this summer.

AgSync + Slingshot: A Retailer’s View

Each of these technologies offer management efficiencies on their own. Together they are a powerhouse. Drew Spidahl, owner of Highland Chemical Inc. dba Ag-Tech in Stockton, IL, started using AgSync for aerial application in 2008 and for ground application in 2014.

“We’ve been able to cut overhead expenses and offer improved service to growers through the use of AgSync,” Spidahl says. “It’s increased our efficiency in the field and saved a great deal of office work from the initial order and communication with the applicator, to the office having the capability to bill immediately, since completion data is transferred as soon as the application is completed.

Spidahl says AgSync allows him to group jobs based on product mix and location, reducing redundancy and saving time.

“Our applicators have peace of mind knowing they are in the correct field and reduced chances for misapplication,”Spidahl says. “It also enhances communication with our growers with the automated completion notifications. AgSync has increased our efficiency since day one.”