How horticultural inventory software can improve your packhouse operations

Many packhouses are still run via a labyrinth of spreadsheets, often with a liberal sprinkling of handwritten notes. Nothing wrong with that, you might think.

And there’s not. Until a person with oodles of institutional knowledge leaves. Until one blunder creates a catastrophe. Until the demands of customers or compliance mean you lose sales. And if that’s not enough to induce a cold sweat, there’s the cost of doing nothing about it. The cost of lack of visibility. The cost of insufficient traceability. The cost of inefficiency.

ABC Software is one provider of horticultural inventory software. Headquartered in Hawkes’ Bay, the fruit bowl of New Zealand, they live and breathe both software and horticulture, not to mention they also enjoy eating the local bounty! With clients across Australasia (and further afield) across more than a dozen produce types, they see firsthand how good produce inventory management can transform operations.

The benefits of fresh produce inventory management

Fresh Produce Group’s Tumut Grove packhouse were not running on spreadsheets when they chose ABC Software as their packhouse software partner, as they had already made the move to a software system a few years prior.

Management Accountant Tom Hamblin says the existing system was “proving hard to effectively reconcile both operationally and fiscally.” Hamblin explains the business “needed a product or system that had traceability through all supply chain areas of our business and one that was simple to use for all internal stakeholders.”

Hamblin hits the nail on the head identifying two key elements for any business evaluating whether to introduce a new system. Fresh produce inventory management is important for food safety and biosecurity compliance. Good inventory management also delivers accuracy and visibility, which in turn allows increased efficiency and therefore profitability.

Fresh Produce Group’s Business Assistant Tayla Cordier says of ABC Software’ packhouse solution ABCpacker, “I can follow exactly where fruit went and the split of each grower’s fruit on a sales order. It makes it much easier to track when jobs are fully invoiced and ready to be paid back.”

How fresh produce inventory management can transform your business

Traceability is a key requirement across all aspects of Fresh Produce Group’s business, and ABCpacker provides the vital links Tumut Grove requires, from bins off the farm through packing batches to cartons sold.

With ABCpacker, Tumut Grove has more accurate stock information and better traceability throughout the packing process. “ABCpacker is beneficial for both Food Safety and Biosecurity compliance,” says Technical Compliance Manager Sally McKay. “ABC packer was particularly helpful during audits to demonstrate full traceability from the block to the final pack” McKay explains.

Reduce your workload with produce inventory management

Ease of use is vital. Manual systems are frustrating and can result in higher staff turnover. The ABBYY COVID-19 Technology Survey identified a quarter of employees wanted to quit their jobs due to bad business processes.

Furthermore, robust efficient systems allow your staff to put their energy into the areas of expertise you hired then for, rather than dealing with the inefficiencies of a manual system like double-handling data and resolving problems caused by not having a “single source of truth”.

Entering information once into a robust software system avoids double-handling (or more!), reduces mistakes from poor handwriting and lost pieces of paper, and allows consistent application of your business rules throughout your packhouse process. One system from ‘produce in’ to ‘produce out’ means increased automation and less admin.

A smarter, more efficient way forward

Engaging a new system takes a committed effort from both the business and the provider. Tumut’s Commercial Director Lloyd Foss acknowledges “the biggest challenges are always change management as generally users always refer back to what was good in the past.”

A packhouse software provider worth their salt understands software and understands horticulture. They must understand your pressures, your sector, your seasonality constraints, your costs, and your challenges. Furthermore, their system must be robust enough and flexible enough to fit your current, and future, circumstances.

ABC Software knows packaging is a significant cost to your business and offers a packaging inventory management module. Transform the way you do business and increase your efficiency with a horticulture inventory management system from ABC. For more information on their innovative range, get in touch with the team today.

Labour tracking software transformative for Smart Berries operation

Moving to ABCgrower software has transformed data recording for Smart Berries, one of Australia’s largest berry growers.

There’s no longer any need to double handle 16,000+ data entries every day, which means staff are freed up to be more productive and real time information has resulted in greater efficiency all round.

Smart Berries’ is a 100ha berry farm in Mundubbera, Queensland, which grows multiple berry varieties and at peak season, employs around 400 pickers.

Sally Jolly, Smart Berries’ Agronomist and Assistant Farm Manager, said her life changed when the horticultural specialist software was introduced to the business in July 2018.

“I’d been looking for an alternative to the system we were running that essentially wasn’t working for us. I was keen to work with ABC Software to trial the system to see if it would be better. I could see the benefit before we even officially got started. We got real time data that very quickly showed us how fast people were working. It made day-to-day forecasting much much easier.”

Some of her initial concerns were all dealt with effectively and during the first year of use, operational hiccups were fixed speedily:

  • dead spots on the farm with no internet access,
  • the best type of scanner,
  • ease of use by pickers.

“There were some initial growing pains as we got more confident in what we needed to do to make it work best for us. For instance, we needed to choose the right people to operate the scanners because everything was sped up and people needed to keep up.

“It didn’t take long for the pickers to get the hang of the system. They could see the benefit too, there was reduced miscounting of buckets and disputes over pick rates as each picker has their own barcode that is scanned.

“Being able to see how fast individuals are picking in real time means we can design teams to be more uniform in their picking rates. We can add in team members with better skills to show others how to improve and bring up the team if need be. And it’s fairer for the piece rate pickers, as the faster teams had to be moved to new blocks and lost  that time, so keeping teams working through a block at an even rate is now feasible.

“It’s made our harvest management of blocks so much more effective. And to be honest, I didn’t anticipate how important the team dynamic is in harvest management. Being able to really understand how individuals contribute to team productivity.”

It’s not just in the field that the ABC’s software is proving its worth.

“It’s made things heaps easier in the office,” says Sally. “A life saver is how it’s been described.”

With the previous manual system, time sheets were inputted manually and pay rates calculated laboriously, a two-person process that is no longer necessary. Instead, payroll information is sent to head office or to contractors at the click of a button.

“We now have time to crunch the numbers and do some analytical scrutiny. It’s made us far more efficient in what we do. We can filter out information every possible way now. ABC understood exactly what we needed to do.”

Smart Berries also utilises ABCgrower for its non-picking activities – Capex, Opex, general management, for the driving, pruning, planting, and spray teams’ activities.

“We’re able to group together multiple work crews, it’s saving a lot of time. ABCgrower has been a worthwhile investment absolutely, no doubt about it.”
Sally Jolly, Agronomist and assistant farm manager