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Labour tracking software transformative for berry operation

Moving to ABCgrower software has transformed data recording for Smart Berries, one of Australia’s largest berry growers.

There’s no longer any need to double handle 16,000+ data entries every day, which means staff are freed up to be more productive and real time information has resulted in greater efficiency all round.

Smart Berries’ is a 100ha berry farm in Mundubbera, Queensland, which grows multiple berry varieties and at peak season, employs around 400 pickers.

Sally Jolly, Smart Berries’ Agronomist and Assistant Farm Manager, said her life changed when the horticultural specialist software was introduced to the business in July 2018.

“I’d been looking for an alternative to the system we were running that essentially wasn’t working for us. I was keen to work with ABC Software to trial the system to see if it would be better. I could see the benefit before we even officially got started. We got real time data that very quickly showed us how fast people were working. It made day-to-day forecasting much much easier.”

Some of her initial concerns were all dealt with effectively and during the first year of use, operational hiccups were fixed speedily:

  • dead spots on the farm with no internet access,
  • the best type of scanner,
  • ease of use by pickers.

“There were some initial growing pains as we got more confident in what we needed to do to make it work best for us. For instance, we needed to choose the right people to operate the scanners because everything was sped up and people needed to keep up.

“It didn’t take long for the pickers to get the hang of the system. They could see the benefit too, there was reduced miscounting of buckets and disputes over pick rates as each picker has their own barcode that is scanned.

“Being able to see how fast individuals are picking in real time means we can design teams to be more uniform in their picking rates. We can add in team members with better skills to show others how to improve and bring up the team if need be. And it’s fairer for the piece rate pickers, as the faster teams had to be moved to new blocks and lost  that time, so keeping teams working through a block at an even rate is now feasible.

“It’s made our harvest management of blocks so much more effective. And to be honest, I didn’t anticipate how important the team dynamic is in harvest management. Being able to really understand how individuals contribute to team productivity.”

It’s not just in the field that the ABC’s software is proving its worth.

“It’s made things heaps easier in the office,” says Sally. “A life saver is how it’s been described.”

With the previous manual system, time sheets were inputted manually and pay rates calculated laboriously, a two-person process that is no longer necessary. Instead, payroll information is sent to head office or to contractors at the click of a button.

“We now have time to crunch the numbers and do some analytical scrutiny. It’s made us far more efficient in what we do. We can filter out information every possible way now. ABC understood exactly what we needed to do.”

Smart Berries also utilises ABCgrower for its non-picking activities – Capex, Opex, general management, for the driving, pruning, planting, and spray teams’ activities.

“We’re able to group together multiple work crews, it’s saving a lot of time. ABCgrower has been a worthwhile investment absolutely, no doubt about it.”
Sally Jolly, Agronomist and assistant farm manager

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