Systems Offer Cradle to Grave Container Tracking
If you aren’t tracking returnable and refillable containers, you should, and not just because the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation require it. In fact, government regulations on containers may have unintended benefits, including improved quality control, inventory management and customer convenience. Although the regulations were issued in 2011, enforcement has been delayed. When it does begin, full-service ag retailers may find benefits outweigh costs.
“Every retailer will benefit if they embrace and move toward container tracking, and the sooner the better,” said Gary Halvorson, general manager, CHS Ag Services, Warren, Minn. “When the DOT walks in and asks for documentation, you better have it. However, it’s important simply from a management perspective as well. If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”
Halvorson knows about measuring and managing. He works with 20 CHS agronomy locations serving 1,300 growers in 16 counties in western Minnesota and eastern North Dakota and a fleet of 4,400 containers varying from 15 gallons to 275 gallons in size. The CHS tracking system was adapted for the company’s needs by Agris. It gives Halvorson and other employees ready access to complete records on each container, including who has it and how long, what was in it and when it is expected back. If one is recovered after being lost or stolen, the barcode ID quickly accounts for its history.
“It is essential for asset utilization. We can track how many times a container has been turned in a given season and where it is at the end of the season. If a container isn’t returned, we can call and arrange a pickup,” said Halvorson.
“Tracking containers also lets you track accessory equipment like pumps and valves,” noted Logan Kahler, Kahler Automation that offers its own tracking system. “With a tracking system, you know what’s been in the unit, was it rinsed, when it was last inspected, what tests were run and where it is.”
Container Systems Evolving
Aqumix Vegetation Management Services’ customers have been enjoying tracking benefits since the late 1990s. What began in 1994 as a 15-gallon, closed-loop container system has evolved with chemical and container management software, a variety of container sizes and two regional blending/fill plants. Recently acquired by Crop Production Services (CPS), Aqumix now services CPS Timberland Division customers. Aqumix containers are proprietary units, designed specifically for its system, but the system can also utilize standard commercial containers.