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Many of our best feature ideas come from our customers. At the end of the year, we call up every grower to check in on how the system worked and ask about how the system could work better. When we hear the same feedback, we consider how to implement a new feature so that many growers can benefit. It is no surprise that every farm has its own way of doing things, so If a farm wants a very specific or unique addition to the software, our engineering team quotes the custom feature or report work. Many of our customers even benefit from the implementation of these commissioned features.

In this post, I want to highlight some of the innovative ways that growers are using our labor tracking systems to improve their operations and how they are adapting technology to meet their current needs.

Auto-Print Weigh Receipts
A Georgia grower uses the FairPick Lite for his blueberry harvest. Most of his pickers want individual weigh tickets. Pickers always have an option to manually print a receipt after they weigh. However, as soon as the next person puts a bucket or lug on the scale, the picker cannot print the last weigh transaction. Pickers would get frustrated when they forgot to print their weigh ticket. Now there is an option in settings that enables auto-printing. Eliminating one button push continues to prevent a lot of frustration. Every grower knows that maintaining a happy workforce is key to getting all the fruit out of the fields.

ABC Select
This feature was originally requested by a commercial nursery using the InstaCaliper to measure field inventory. It is a tool that allows the user to quickly grade a tree without having to open multiple screens. “A”, “B”, and “C” buttons are available right on the measure screen for fast and easy grading. This season, we “spun off” the ABC Select feature for a blueberry grower using the FairTrak app to log blueberry buckets. This farm is strict about quality and minimizing “green” berries sent to the packing house. The farm management team implemented a “three strikes” policy. If a picker brings up green berries three times, he or she is sent home. This new way of using the ABC Select feature allows the grower to set parameters and associated messages so that checkers can easily flag workers picking bad fruit and track the number of “strikes”. The message “Send Home” will pop-up when the worker has picked too many buckets of bad quality fruit. In the office, it is also easy to filter on this data to identify which employee may not be welcomed back to pick.

Batch Mode with Crew Filtering
Many large farm operations run multiple crews and these crews need to be treated as one unit and kept separate from each other. Once an employee is clocked in to the FairTrak, QuickPick, or FairPick Lite apps, the Batch Mode feature allows crew leaders to clock multiple employees in and out of other tasks or breaks without individual employee badge scans. This can be helpful when an entire crew stops for a rest or lunch break or moves to a different field. Crew Filtering allows the crew leader to quickly sort workers by crew, making it even easier to utilize the Batch Mode feature to manage crews out in the field.

Auto-Trigger Container Barcodes
Container tracking can improve crop traceability. The Ruggedized Handheld Computers that run our labor tracking apps have a built-in 1D and 2D barcode scanner. This feature automatically turns on the barcode reader when the picker is prompted to scan the container tag. This will allow the grower to set up a station where one person will grab cherry lugs from a bin trailer, place the lug on the scale, scan the pre-printed barcode attached to the lug, and slide the lug off the scale onto a conveyor that is loading a truck. All of this will happen in about five to seven seconds. Eliminating bottlenecks with a new software feature can greatly increase efficiency and productivity while decreasing labor costs.

Reports that Pinpoint Costs
Knowing your costs is important, especially when times are tough. 2nd Sight farm labor tracking systems can collect the information you need to evaluate labor costs. Many growers have commissioned custom reports that display their labor data in a way that helps them better know their costs. Knowing your labor expenses per employee, cost center, task, variety, and field location is valuable information that can help a grower make better, more-informed decisions for the operation.


It is always a guessing game at 2nd Sight in December. How many FairPick harvest scales will we sell next year? It is hard for farmers to commit to a purchase for harvest more than a month or two (or even a week or two) before that first day of picking. We can forecast based on past sales, the economy, what we heard about crop prices, what we hear about the upcoming season, weather events, availability of labor…. but it is still only an educated guess. Unfortunately, this does pose a challenge in terms of carrying enough inventory without overstocking our shelves. The lead time is several months for the custom, rugged, NTEP-certified Mettler-Toledo scales used with the FairPick Pro and Lite weighing systems.

Did we consider a pandemic when making our guess last December? No. Would we have projected an increase in demand for our employee tracking systems knowing that the world would be hit with a pandemic in 2020? No. Are there benefits to using electronic labor tracking systems with strict social distancing requirements? Yes. I wish I could say I was the first to realize this, but many growers beat us to it, and scales are flying off the shelves!

Our systems are more “hands-off”, requiring little to no exchange of paper or punch cards between workers. With the FairPick and QuickPick, you also have the benefit of keeping employees farther apart. Each employee has his or her own RFID badge and scans this badge to log produce weight or register buckets while a checker remains a safe six feet away. Pickers still have the option to take home a record at the end of the day. Printing clock out receipts is a great way to provide employees with important feedback and a record of the day’s work with minimal interaction between people.

Another benefit of 2nd Sight’s electronic labor tracking systems is speed. It only takes a few seconds to log clock in or clock out times, weights, barcodes, or piece counts. This could greatly reduce lines that may typically form of employees waiting for a checker or puncher.

The MobileClock, a time-tracking app that can be downloaded on an employee’s personal cell phone, can also limit the need for year-round workers to report to the office. There is even a “Notes” section that allows a worker to send a message directly to the farm’s online Portal account for review.

As we are all learning to adapt to new circumstances, it is interesting to see how creative we can get to play the hand we have been dealt. New uses of, or new reasons to use, existing technology is proof that farmers' ingenuity will keep feeding us even during the toughest times.


“The bigger the challenge, the bigger the opportunity for growth.” --- Anonymous

We are constantly faced with new challenges as individuals, friends, family members, members of our communities, in our jobs, and in the many other roles we play in life. Recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our world in significant ways. Although there has been suffering, stress, anxiety, and inconveniences because of the virus, we can still approach this challenge as an opportunity for growth. 2nd Sight is a small business and we have had to adjust during the past few weeks to a changing environment. Here are some ways that Coronavirus has helped us improve as a business as we continue to provide quality, reliable, and innovative products to our customers in the specialty crop industry around the world.

Improving Documentation and Records

In a small organization, every employee is critical to the success of the business and wears multiple hats. Often, smaller companies have fewer formal processes documented and in place and the “know-how” is not stored somewhere but filed away in the mind of someone. Over the last few weeks, many of our engineering and office staff have started working from home. This situation has shed light on some of the processes and systems that need refinement and documentation. 

Forcing somebody to do a new task that is typically performed by another can be a painful way to improve but can be an important exercise for any company. It can lead to better records and even a new perspective that could improve how something is accomplished. Whether we are facing pandemic or not, knowing who does what, when, and how while maintaining digital records that can be accessed by others when needed is important whether an employee is out sick, taking personal time off, or on vacation (employees will appreciate not being bothered on their vacations now too).

Let’s Put Some Eggs in Another Basket (Easter is Around the Corner)

Mitigate risk by having alternatives or contingency plans. For example, building a strong line-up of suppliers may make the difference between a successful project or failing to meet an important deadline. Start securing replacements. Keep that contractor or vendor in your back pocket. Continue building and maintaining those relationships and seek more opportunities so you can better absorb a changing environment and be prepared for that rainy April day.

Communication

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place” --- George Bernard Shaw

If you had not heard of Zoom video conferencing a month ago, you probably know what it is now. With many remote workers, keeping in touch daily is more important than ever. However, daily meetings should be a standard even if everyone is working in the same office just a few feet from one another. Ensuring that everybody is aware and understands the daily, weekly, monthly, and bigger picture goals requires constant communication. Keep up the daily check-in's even when you switch back to normal office life. 


Assistance

You are not alone. There are many resources, support networks, and low-interest loans available to keep your business going through this crisis. Reach out (virtually of course) to your neighbors, your Ag network, and your industry leaders to take advantage of the financial and operational assistance programs. 

I will leave you with one more quote that I hope will motivate you to not only keep moving forward, but inspire you to improve:


“When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change.” --- Paulo Coelho

At 2nd Sight, we are ready to help you grow your farm, greenhouse, or nursery operation through improved hourly and piecework labor tracking, product management systems, and automation as you continue to feed the world. 


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