When we last looked at lentil farm, PB Seeds, we focused on how mobile connectivity allows them to get in touch with suppliers and get stuff done. But by introducing cloud connectivity, the farm has experienced significant benefits: Minimising time wasted, more scalability for its operations and allowing its operations manager to work a day or two from home.
For the business – which has operations spanning multiple sites, states and countries – information matters. Whether it’s pricing, traceability, stock levels or quality reports, having the right information when it matters can be the difference between uptime and downtime, or sales and missed opportunities.
Three months ago, PB Seeds engaged an IT contractor to come into the business and help modernise their technology infrastructure. The solution, which includes Microsoft Office 365 and Sharepoint on Telstra’s Cloud Services is now up and running.
“We knew we needed to improve the efficiency in our information,” says operations manager Andrew Brown. We had information in different areas, and [we were] trying to share that information to make better decisions.
“The business is now one where we [can] get information, and [operations manager] Janine can get the reports she wants. And everyone’s on – you can have four people working on the system. It was previously cumbersome, and lumpy and not in sync.”
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Of the benefits delivered by the cloud, going paperless was the most visible to the various levels of the business. For PB Seeds, the paper-trail meant that people who should be focusing on strategic direction were getting bogged down by paperwork.
“I was shocked by the amount of donkey work that people would be doing,” says Andrew. “Repeating the same delivery docket, and just rewriting – it was just amazing.
“[There were] people who should be thinking about what’s a value-adding task they should be doing, or what’s some communication they should be conducting with staff, but instead they were bunkered down on their desks writing dockets out.
“[Cloud] allowed us to move away from the carbonised delivery docket books, where we would hand write the delivery dockets.
“So, the productivity has improved.”
In a business like agriculture, where three or four months of the year provide a significant proportion of the business revenue, making the most of every minute and increasing productivity is integral to maximising growth potential.
At a more senior level, cloud has enabled visibility across what phase each section of the business is in, giving Peter Blair (the PB in PB Seeds) the ability to understand how staff are performing and where his attention is most needed.
“We have full visibility [now]”, says Andrew.
“Peter Blair, the owner, can see a) this person’s actioning this promptly, or b) the person’s not, and whether it’s been dealt with. So he’s got that clear mind that we’re on top of things and we can all see that. And that’s powerful.”
For commercial manager, Janine Sounness, managing commercial agreements and customer orders is of integral importance, and having up to date information allows her to make the right decisions and communicate with suppliers and customers effectively.
“The thing for me is having up to date information,” she says. “[If] there’s suddenly been a certain time change in orders of this week, you know that daily, as things come in.
“I would argue that we’ve got the scalability now, so if our business was to double we’ve got a platform to enable us to do that. And all these ways we’re currently using the [cloud] system, we’ll be able to improve,” says Andrew.
Their belief in cloud comes through in the conversation – and you can see that, while the system has only been implemented for three months, it’s just the beginning of constant evolution and ongoing innovation for PB Seeds.
“We’ve gone into it as an initial way that [the implementation plan] was written, and now we need to sit down and say ‘well is there a better way of doing that?’ or ‘why do we have to go through steps one to eight when one to five still give us what we need?’”