Usually when a business purchases goods, it decides in advance how much, what quality, and at what price. That is not how it works at harvest time when farmers deliver grain to the dealer. Almost the opposite in fact: You never know precisely how much will arrive – or when – just as quality, water content and many other parameters can only be determined when the goods are received.
It is a complex process involving many unknowns. The only thing you can know for sure is that it will be very busy.
Because once the weather is perfect, or as perfect as it is going to get that year, then you need to harvest. It is an intensive period in which farmers work from early morning till late at night, and you don’t want to keep them waiting at the terminal when a shipment is delivered. Things have to move quickly.
This places some unique pressures on business systems that have to handle receiving, pricing, contracts and many other factors. So it was quite an assignment when we were commissioned to design a solution that could automate the entire process for Vestjyllands Andel, whose old ERP system was no longer supported.
Much faster response to multiple questions
The end result was a solution based on Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance & Operations, which automates the entire process. Right from the moment the farmer weighs and delivers a load to settling accounts with individual operators.
For each and every load of grain, a sample is poured into an apparatus that analyzes water content, calculates shelling percentage and much more. This data is then sent to the Dynamics 365 solution which automatically tallies the amount, quality and other key parameters against the individual farmer’s contract and issues a receipt swiftly after. This provides Vestjyllands Andel with a continuous and accurate overview.
The solution integrates a finance model, quality measurement, tables, settlement, automated contract management, physical stores management and much more. It can even handle consignment agreements which – very roughly – means that the farmer can deliver a load of grain and have it analyzed and perhaps dried at Vestjyllands Andel. But the producer retains ownership and only formally sells it to Vestjyllands Andel at a later time, for example when the market price is more favorable.
Can be applied equally well in other branches
One other and quite significant detail is that the solution is very easy to configure. Whereas Vestjyllands Andel’s former solution required expensive and lengthy special development if they wished to add another crop or new quality parameter, the current solution can be easily configured.
It is even possible to use the solution for other purposes and in other raw material or production branches. Regardless whether you receive and analyze unprocessed timber from forestry or poultry or any other type of raw material. Fundamentally, it is just a question of defining key parameters and measuring points, processes and contract terms.
The solution combines a series of standard functions in Dynamics 365 but does not alter the underlying application. Which means that Vestjyllands Andel can apply regular updates from Microsoft with peace of mind.
I would be the first to admit that I am not entirely unbiased. But once in a while you develop a solution that resolves a number of headaches for a customer that also has the potential to help a range of other businesses. This is incredibly satisfying. Especially when, as with grain handling by Vestjyllands Andel, the solution has undergone its baptism by fire and performed virtually impeccably.
For this year’s harvest, the solution not only administered the receipt, analysis and settlement for 16,000 loads of grain in just 14 days, it also managed to do this with an error rate of under one percent, of which by far the largest part was manual errors (naturally, there are humans involved in some parts of the process and we are not infallible).
Not bad at all.