Digital technology has the potential to improve the speed and accuracy of back office systems, freeing resource in agricultural supply companies to spend more time with customers winning new business, says agribusiness systems house Proagrica.

RELX – formerly known as Reed Business Information – formed Proagrica in early 2016 to house its agricultural publishing and software businesses. It builds on the legacy F4F and DBT agribusiness systems brands in the UK, together with the subsequent acquisition of the US precision agriculture company SST Software.

Digital systems can help meet the challenges facing businesses in the agriculture supply chain, states Proagrica chief executive Graeme McCracken. For example, automated order processing has the potential to benefit many businesses in the sector.

Traditional manual data entry processes are both slow and risk the effects of human error, he notes. The standard process involves re-keying orders submitted via email into an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. On the customer side, this can result in delays and lost business, especially during peak season activity. But equally, on the business side, this can put staff under pressure and it also directs resources away from more valuable areas.

The solution, Mr McCracken advises, is a completely integrated system to remove the inefficiencies inherent in manual entry. Data is entered only once by the customer, usually via an ordering portal or electronic data interchange (EDI) connection. Orders can then be updated in real time, as the status of the orders changes. The resulting order process is more streamlined and valuable for the customer, and much more efficient for the supplier.

He illustrates this with a real life example – a mid-level US agricultural retailer which adopted Proagrica’s automated order processing for its annual 2,050 supply transactions.
Previously, these had been made through a combination of telephone, email and postal orders. Most of these orders took an average 38 minutes to process, although orders submitted by field sales staff via email to the sales administration team required an extra five minutes of processing time.

But switching to Proagrica’s fully automated ordering process saw these processing times and associated costs reduce greatly, with a resultant increase in revenue. After two years, the company’s total revenue had risen by 31%.

“No one business within the agriculture supply chain has the infrastructure – or neutral stance – necessary to support widespread digital integration for the industry” says Mr McCracken. “To meet this need, independent providers offer the network capabilities to deliver better transactions and business efficiency.

“More and more businesses in the supply chain are now taking advantage of the innovative solutions on offer to the agriculture industry, so the advantages of data connectivity will only continue to grow,” he concludes.

More information on Proagrica’s agribusiness data connectivity via the webpages.