Southern States Cooperative Inc. has won the 2012 Information Technology Innovation Award for integrating the use of mobile handheld technology into its existing Benchmate Systems' Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS). Ridley, Inc. is the runner-up for its “Beef Cow Body Condition Score” application. Sponsored by AFIA, AgGateway and Feed & Grain, this is only the second award for the annual program, which began in 2011.
Caption for photo: (From left to right) Rod Connor, AgGateway, and Joel Newman, AFIA, present Jim Moore and Bill Monroe, Southern States, with the IT Innovation Award.
Southern States utilizes mobile technology corporate-wide, where all eight of its feed mills use the Janam XM65 handheld. Using the Janem devices, employees immediately saw the return on investment by the time saved from manual data entry, which could sometimes take up to three weeks. The delay and increasing backlog became a problem for Southern States. Another concern was the tracking of equipment maintenance. With the introduction of barcoding and tracking functionality the handheld afforded, the technology essentially guaranteed efficiency and streamlined processing for the company.
“With the limited number of personnel a new way of collecting and processing the information was needed. The Benchmate/Janam combination has proved its value to our business,” explained Bill Monroe, Southern States manager of feed mill operations.
According to Monroe, recorded maintenance activity has increased by 25%, while planned activity has increased to over 80%. This in part is due to maintenance supervisors no longer entering data or tracking equipment repairs manually.
In addition to its integration with Benchmate Systems, Janam was selected for its “ruggedized” mobile computing device that was safe and could withstand the harsh conditions of a feed mill, where the climate can range from extremely hot to below freezing. Since mill employees began using the Janam XM65, equipment and maintenance is now easily tracked. Barcodes on the mill process equipment can be quickly scanned by the mobile device and data is exported to the CMMS database daily, eliminating the lengthy delay experienced when employees input data manually.
“This is an initial step in working our complete approach in maintenance to one of prediction versus the historical methods of just prevention,” Monroe explained. “Staying ahead of unplanned downtime enables our production processes to perform as designed while meeting our customer expectations for feed delivery and service.”
Southern States Cooperative, one of the nation’s largest, began in 1923 as the Virginia Feed Service, after 150 farmers pooled their resources and banded together to buy seed guaranteed to grow in Virginia. The member-owned company expanded to provide feed, fertilizer, farm supplies and petroleum products in a number of neighboring states. Today, Southern States encompasses 300,000 farmers and over 1,200 retail locations in 23 states. Southern States Cooperative’s Winchester Mill in Winchester, Ky., was selected as runner-up for the 2011 Feed Mill of the Year award.
The runner-up for the 2012 IT Innovation Award is Ridley, Inc. for its “Beef Cow Body Condition Score” (Beef Cow BCS) application (app) from its CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements. The app helps producers evaluate the nutrition status of Beef cow herds. Ridley incorporated the app, which is available for free download from the IOS (iPhone/iPad) and the Android platforms, into its practices in January 2012.
Dan Dhuyvetter, Ridley’s director of research and nutrition services, explained how the app assists livestock producers in managing the nutrition program of their herd by assigning and storing body condition scores on individual cows. Based on individual cow BCS recordings, producers can track the success of forage growing conditions and nutrition programs, and adjust the nutrition plan accordingly for increased success.
“Condition score records for individual cows are kept indefinitely, so condition score influencers such as pasture growing conditions, forage quality and availability can correlate to cow performance and help optimize herd management that results in greater profitability,” Dhuyvetter explained.
Beef Cow BCS also allows producers to take photos of their cows for comparison to the reference photos representing the body condition scores that are provided. The application also possesses the functionality to arrange individual cows by pasture. Images can be stored for future reference.
The Information Technology Innovation Award celebrates technological advancements in the feed and food industry, which is rapidly changing in today’s world. As exemplified by Southern States Cooperative and Ridley, Inc., the integration of innovative technology has become standard for the agriculture industry.