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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. 


Farmers often ask where the data is stored with our digital labor and product tracking systems. Many people guess, “In the Cloud?” with a tone of uncertainty. It’s hard to tell if the uncertainty stems from not trusting the Cloud or from not understanding what the Cloud really is. Google has the answer ready to go from pcmag.com when you type in the question, “What exactly is the cloud?”:

“In the simplest terms, cloud computing means storing and accessing data and programs over the Internet instead of your computer's hard drive. The cloud is just a metaphor for the Internet. ... The cloud is also not about having a dedicated network attached storage (NAS) hardware or server in residence.”

It’s understandable to feel unsure about the safety and integrity of your farm data when you can’t visualize where that information is stored. There is a feeling of comfort that comes from knowing your harvest records and payroll reports are filed away in that cabinet in your office. Software jargon doesn’t provide comfort when we’re talking about years of information critical to the successful operation of your farm. That is why it is an important question to ask a farm management software provider where the data is stored, whether the data is backed up, how frequently data is backed up, and how data can be recovered when something goes wrong.

However, I would like to emphasize the many benefits of using the Cloud. The PrecisionAg article, “5 Key Advantages of Digitizing Your Farm Records” does a nice job outlining positive outcomes of electronic record-keeping.

1. Improve collaboration between farm team

I recently spoke with a Florida berry grower using a labor data collection system that was state-of-the-art when purchased back in 1999. However, it has a huge limitation in that the data is only stored locally on the devices that go out to the fields. Harvest data must be pulled off manually from each scanner which makes it a challenge for this farm because fields are spread out with multiple farm offices. Collaboration requires that everybody has access to the information that they need to do their jobs. Cloud storage is key to providing the entire team a way to view, analyze, and generate reports from collected data, no matter where the office is located.

2. Provide Timely Decisions

Having the right data hinges on having it at the right time. The ability to push real-time information from the field during harvest can be key to making better decisions about processing and shipping capabilities. Having timely information can also greatly affect worker productivity. The faster you can catch an under-performing employee, or somebody trying to cheat, the quicker the issue can be resolved which can result in payroll savings. Running reports with the click of a button is “software magic” that your old filing cabinet just can’t do.

3. Have an Accurate Picture of Your Farm

Making year to year comparisons of yield per location, labor costs per crop variety, etc. is simple when the data is in one place and being collected and stored in a specific, consistent way. Comparing “apples to apples” has never been easier with electronic records! We’re excited to see how growers start using all of the data they’ve collected with our systems. This year, some customers will be going into their fourth season with their FairPick scales.

4. Improved Access to Information

With some outdated systems, it is too complicated for the foreman or crew boss to access pickers’ piecework counts in the field. Workers want this feedback. It’s important, and becoming even more critical, to be transparent with employees. With today’s software, the ability to pull up a summary screen for instant feedback could make all the difference between a content and disgruntled employee. We go one step further with our systems and ensure that our apps have the ability to print in-field receipts to prevent disputes that could cause your field and office staff a lot of grief come payday.

5. Saving Hours Back in Administration Time

Minimizing record-keeping tasks can be a huge labor savings. It could mean one fewer seasonal office staff member to hire at harvest, or your office crew can spend time performing higher-level tasks instead of mundane activities like counting punch cards at the end of the day--jobs that humans aren’t very good at after an already long day of work. With the potential of overtime pay coming into play in Ag, keeping days short will be important to minimize labor costs.

It is important to ask the right questions because your data needs to be secure and accessible. Don't let fear of the internet "cloud" your decision to digitize your farm.

 


 


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