This article is part of AgGateway’s case study series on digital agriculture, a partnership with Farm Journal Media. AgGateway is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and enabling the industry's transition to digital agriculture.
Key Cooperative decided it needed to pursue eConnectivity and joined the AgGateway Seed Connectivity Project in 2012. This gave the coop a seat at the table to help set the standards that it would be utilizing electronically.
“For example, reporting on seed sales is done in a matter of minutes instead of weeks,” says Ann Vande Lune, Key Agronomy Administrator.
Across its 15 locations across central Iowa Key worked with its accounting software provider and with a third-party software company to help the coop with the connections between the suppliers, and to create the order-to-booking process.
Vande Lune explains more in this interview with Chip Flory on AgriTalk:
“Our accounting software provider helped us get the inventory into our system with the electronic ship notice and invoice process. We also worked with them to get the sales data out of our system and upload it into the manufacturers’ system,” said Vande Lune. “The other provider helped us pull in exactly what we have on order with our suppliers and match it up with what we have on order, to provide us a multi-supplier long-short for our sellers.”
Key implemented its first eConnectivity initiatives in 2012, including establishing electronic connections for electronic ship notices, price sheets and product movement reports (PMR). In 2015, Key also implemented electronic seed ordering.
By using standard identifiers within AgGateway’s Ag Industry Identification System (AGIIS), Key was able to create a cross-reference between its products and the manufacturers it works with, which helped to bring its seed shipments in accurately.
“We went electronic with all processes, with all locations, at the same time,” said Vande Lune. “We knew there was a lot of value in eConnectivity so we wanted to make it an across-the-board change, so we didn’t have different processes for different locations. With the smoothness of eConnectivity none of our locations missed a beat and we have been able to reap the benefits of the faster information from the word ‘go’.”
As the agronomy administrator, Vande Lune is now able to process all customer orders through the order-to-booking process. Key can process thousands of units of seed by actual grower orders in a matter of seconds to the manufacturers’ systems, where before it would have taken hours to key them in by grower.
“By implementing AgGateway standards and going electronic, we’ve cut entry time by two-thirds in our business processes – push a button and it’s there accurately,” she says. “Before electronic seed reporting we would spend a week entering data from our system into the manufacturer’s portal. Now we do it in a matter of minutes.”
Moreover, inventory control has doubled, and shrink has dropped, Vande Lune said.
“We know the right product is on inventory in the warehouse. The price sheet has eliminated mistakes. Sales people and management have confidence that they have the right price. We no longer spend days trying to get all the crop zones, seed sizes, treatment and package types. The manufacturer’s price sheet is synced directly into our system efficiently and accurately,” she said.
The electronic connections also allow Key to give better ordering information to its suppliers. Whereas before the coop organized its orders under only a few customers because of the time commitment to enter them, it now can give its suppliers true visibility to the orders in a matter of seconds. Going electronic also helped eliminate a pesky unit-of-measure (UOM) problem with Key’s largest chemical supplier.
“Before we would struggle with correct conversions of what we sell the product in versus what they sell it in (ounces versus pounds). With the help of a third-party software company we were able to implement a behind-the-scenes conversion process so that every one of our chemical items now comes into our system in the correct UOM. Before, we were constantly adjusting the inventory to account for inaccurate or missed conversions.”
“We would love to implement eConnectivity with all of our chemical, fertilizer and seed manufacturers,” Vande Lune said. “Currently not all of them offer this functionality, but as soon as they do we are waiting to accept it. We have seen and felt the value of eConnectivity, so anything that we can do electronically with our suppliers, we are willing to have that conversation.”