In an age where producers face ever mounting complexities in running their business, the need for technology to keep up continues to increase. It takes a whole team to manage the data required to run a significant operation. From field to office data, as well as employee management, it's vital for a business to keep track of where they are at.
A Californian company has created a system whereby all this data is consolidated into one program. PickTrace was started a few years ago by the Steed brothers, when they saw the need for a tracing program for their San Diego family farm. Now they provide the service for companies across the Americas.
Harrison Steed said that the more complex the business, the better their system will fit. "A lot of our business is with large agricultural companies," he said. "This is because our system is designed to simplify complex operations with multiple facets. For example, companies with dozens of farms, in multiple locations, and those with many different products."
What does the system do?
The PickTrace system essentially collects data from grower operations, such as harvest data, machine performance, individual and team performance, as well as office based applications, like quality control and payroll functions. It then consolidates all this data into one application, which can be viewed as required by staff.
"There are two sides to the system - the collection and the interface," Steed said. "The collection aspect involves getting all the data in. It can involve data from the field, such as who is harvesting, what they're harvesting, and the rate at which they are doing that. Or it might be weighing data from the packing shed. This is sometimes accomplished by an Android app, where you can scan barcodes on the phone, etc. Then there is the other input data that includes employee hours and other functions for payroll, as well as quality data. The next step is the interface, which is where all that data can be viewed."
He also explained that the system can be setup to be permission-based. This means that a company can elect to compartmentalize the data according to aspects like location, department, and position. The intention is to keep the interface simple and relevant to the particular user.
How is it designed to help?
According to the creators, the PickTrace system is designed to minimize errors as well as provide accurate and real time data that can then be viewed and managed accordingly. The aim is to eliminate as much paperwork as possible as well as to ensure employee management is accurate.
"In a time when producers are facing increasing pressure to keep costs down, it's important to be as efficient as possible," Steed noted. "Our system is designed so that operational data can be viewed in real time and then subsequently acted upon. It can also function as a comparison tool where a manager could view data from another time period, or location, depending on what type of data they want to breakdown and compare. Employee management, too, is intended to ensure no errors arise in matters such as pay and to make it easier for payroll staff to do their job. It's all about being as cost-effective as possible."
"The system is constantly updated to reflect changes in legislation," he continued. "That way, growers don't need to stress about compliance and they can be confident they're meeting all the requirements in terms of food safety as well as employee pay and breaks, etc. We've seen a lot of 'regulation fatigue', whereby there is often too much information for businesses regarding things like food safety and employee conditions. This includes H2A compliance and we ensure all calculations around this is correct. So with our system, it takes the stress and time out of this aspect of business."
Installation and training
Steed also explained the process for acquiring the system. "Initially, if a company is interested, PickTrace will have a phone call with them, to establish the expectations of the company and to ensure the system will be compatible," he said. "Following this initial discussion, we move onto a demonstration, or walkthrough, of the product with the company, showing what the interface would look like for every department."
Once the company is satisfied with the product and the way it will fit with their business, fine tuning and contract discussions take place and then PickTrace would install the system. Steed gave a rundown as to what is involved in this step. "We will always send someone out to deploy the system," he said, "This person will stay on site anywhere between 2 days and 2 weeks, depending on the contract. They train the employees who would use the system and ensure a smooth transition. This can take a varying amount of time, depending on how the company already operates."
Once the system is up, Steed also pressed the importance PickTrace places on their follow up service. "Every company is assigned a project lead who they can contact any time. They also have access to 24/7 emergency support throughout the duration of their contract. Contracts are renewed every 12 months. We place a great deal of importance on our follow up service and ensure a focus on maintaining the system and making clients feel comfortable."
Positive 2018 ahead for the company
PickTrace currently have clients across North America as well as Central America. They also recently expanded into Peru and are looking to add more South American clients. Steed said PickTrace want to ensure clients have access to a local office before they fully expand into an area.
"We are looking to push into Chile soon, with other countries in South America to follow," he said. "Before we expand into another region, we make sure we have a local support office to serve our clients in those areas. The level of support is very important and we want to make sure we have offices that are in the same time zone."
This year, the company is planning on rolling out a few redesigned programs. They say that these improvements will reflect in the speed and function of the interface. "In February, we will be re-releasing our interface with more powerful tools as well as being faster," Steed explained. "Our Android app is also in the process of being redesigned. It will be faster, prettier, and have more features. We are looking at ways to minimize errors even further and to allow the foreman to make corrections in the field."
"We predict that, as technology plays more of a part in the everyday life of a producer, PickTrace's system will become an essential tool for data management. It's going to be an exciting future and we look forward to being in step with the latest trends to make sure growers are as cost-effective and efficient as possible."
For more information:
Tel: +1 (415) 295-1899