This article originally appeared in the September 2021 issue of CropLife magazine.
Raven Connected Workflow™ speeds processes and eliminates redundancies, bringing significant efficiency improvements.
By Robin Siktberg, Senior Custom Content Editor, Meister Media Worldwide
Improving efficiency is the name of the game in ag retail. With so many moving parts involved in executing custom application plans for multiple customers, streamlining processes can play a major role in improving efficiency in your operation. Even small improvements can boost your bottom line and provide a better customer experience. But a 20% increase? While that sounds a bit unrealistic, it is actually achievable. Raven Industries has partnered with multiple digital platform providers to deliver a single solution that streamlines steps in the workflow. By eliminating redundancies and reducing errors, users of the new customizable solution, called Connected Workflow™, are reporting up 20% improvement in efficiency and far less headache.
Paul Welbig, Director of Sales for Slingshot and Strategic Accounts at Raven, explains that the workflow in most retail operations involves eight steps: plan, order, dispatch, apply, track, notify, report, and invoice.
“These are the general steps that happen, whether you are doing them manually on paper or by using various software systems,” Welbig says. “Our approach as we developed Connected Workflow was to build tools with capabilities that reduce the number of steps by automating them— eliminating double entries and reducing the opportunity for errors. It ensures a simple process from planning and work order generation to field application and invoice creation. And, it provides the opportunity to make decisions that improve your operation.”
"MFA is excited about the efficiency improvements we are seeing when using Raven's Connected Workflow. We are getting more done with fewer mistakes. The addition of connection to our ERP system is going to save us even more time by eliminating double entry."— Thad Becker, MFA, Inc.
Connected Workflow is Customizable
Depending upon a client’s needs, Raven’s Slingshot connectivity software is paired with other software systems to provide a single solution that manages the entire workflow through planning, application and invoicing. Sometimes the software system is a tool the retailer is already using; other times it may be one that is recommended after consultation between Raven specialists and the client. Raven has a large list of integration partners that continues to expand.
Welbig outlines one example of how the Connected Workflow system worked for MFA Incorporated, a Midwest-based regional farm supply and marketing coop. MFA was already using the Slingshot system, which includes the AgSync connectivity platform and DispatchPro™, which tracks multiple operators and equipment and sends and syncs orders directly to the cab.
“The MFA team liked the efficiency gains they were achieving with the tools they were already using,” Welbig says. “But they wanted to make it even better. They wanted a very simple, seamless solution all the way through their organization and through the entire workflow.”
In this case, Raven partnered with EFC systems, whose enterprise resource planning (ERP) system is MerchantAg, to fill in the missing links. The order is created within AgSync, Welbig explains. All of the information in the order is consistent with the ERP system – grower farm field information, the retailer’s products, boundaries, rates per acre, etc. The Slingshot system handles the dispatching, the application information and all the reporting. Once the field is complete, the as-applied map and the data is validated and can go right into MerchantAg, which handles the record keeping and billing.
“There’s no duplicative work on the order,” Welbig says. “It goes seamlessly between systems, to the Viper® 4+ field computer and back again, making everybody’s life easier. With no need for an additional tablet or mobile device. The result of that is increased efficiency.”
Because Raven already partners with multiple software platforms, including many of the most widely used in the market, it’s not necessary to start over if you already use a variety of tools. The Connected Workflow can include software you have in place and creates the ability for the platforms to seamlessly work together. In addition, a connected workflow allows you to quickly identify and analyze three key figures – work time, idle time and transit time – and better manage your efficiency.
“In a nutshell, our product, our process and our solutions make your life easier,” Welbig says. “They help improve your work time, reduce your idle time and your idle transit time. And by working with you to synchronizing the workflow across platforms, we can really help you to manage the chaos of the season and do it in a way that increases your bottom line significantly.”