Digital agriculture does not always occur in the paddock. A business can save both time and money when they use the tools of digital agriculture to improve their business process. This case study explains how AGContext founder, Carl Sudholz improved the bottom line for PBSeeds by using the tools of digital agriculture to streamline business processes.
“AGContext enabled us to make transforming change in our business to organise and supply our national customer orders more easily and efficiently.”
Janine Sounness, Commercialisation Manager – PBSeeds, 2017
PBSEEDS – WHERE EVERY SEED COUNTS
PBSeeds are leaders in the production of fine quality seed and grains. The business is based near Horsham, the prime seed and grain growing region of Western Victoria, Australia.
PBSeeds is a vertically integrated business. The business includes the production of seed and grain in addition to processing and packaging of products. Furthermore, PBSeeds manage the marketing and distribution of their produce domestically and internationally. Therefore, the tools of digital agriculture are a foundation of everyday operations.
PBSeeds’ production processes and export markets require a high degree of efficiency and transparency. This is because of the need for HACCP accreditation which also creates its challenges for business process and information management.
Previously, PBSeeds were operating their seed focused business in a highly manual way. This meant they ran their nationwide business using a mix of paper documents, Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and software platforms.
Changeover in staff and a growing demand for their products caused issues. There was a large degree of manual duplication and rework in their customer and order management. Basic tasks to much longer that people expected, and this created frustration within the team.
People could not access timely information about current operations, customer demand and stock status.
Newly available wireless services of the National Broadband Network presented a great opportunity for PBSeeds to take advantage of digital agriculture tools to streamline their client management and information management.
AGContext led PBSeeds through a change-management program of digitizing their systems. Customer and order management became integrated for their daily operations.
Practically, this was a six-month digital transformation of PBSeeds’ business processes. This involved migrating top level operations of the business including customer management, emails and documents onto Microsoft Office 365. AGContext also developed a custom and fit for purpose, Client Management System using Microsoft Sharepoint.
THE PROCESS OF CHANGE
The project began with an examination of how PBSeeds was currently managing it’s information and digital agriculture tools. This involved an initial team workshop and series of individual employee interviews and also document analysis, system analysis and process mapping.
The discovery review was an important step for AGContext to gain an understanding of the business. In addition, the team at PBSeeds also uncovered many insights. As a result of this work, everyone involved developed a deep understanding of the current state of business process and employee capability. Importantly, this informed the creation of a list of recommended priorities and immediate opportunities.
AGContext guided the migration of the business process onto Microsoft Office 365 including all email and document management. Through the project, the existing operational processes where also redesigned to align with the new digital tools. Finally, Carl supported the PBSeeds team to use the new digital agriculture tools .
AGContext identified that PBSeeds also had a number of unique requirements for customer management. This lead into a build-vs-buy assessment that subsequently resulted in a decision to custom build a simplified Client Management System on the Microsoft Sharepoint platform. The initial version of the CRM was in use within about three months. AGContext continues to review, refine and improve the system in order to further enable PBSeeds growth.
“I enjoyed working with Carl and the project was delivered on time, on budget within scope. He was great at the change management side and resulted in immediate positive system & process change. I picked up the phone to get Carl involved as we needed expertise, it was the best move I made.”
Andrew Brown, Operations Manager – PBSeeds, 2015.
DIGITAL AGRICULTURE DELIVERS BETTER BUSINESS
The digitization of key processes has allowed PBSeeds to focus on growing sales in new markets. As a result of the new systems, staff at PBSeed where able to manage increased sales volume in three times less time. Consequently, the number of processing errors also reduced significantly, which had the added impact of saving ever more time, of busy office staff.
Reduced errors and induction time of new staff
The improvements reduced the number of process-created customer facing errors. Additionally, induction of new office staff has reduced from weeks to days.
AGContext improved business administration by replacing a large number of manual based systems with new online and digital versions. Eliminating the manual movement of data consequently halved administrative duplication and rework. As a result, the team increased their ability for proactive and responsive customer service.
Access to data from anywhere
Employees can also access company information securely and remotely. In summary, the work has mitigated many business risks by increasing operational transparency and accountability.