Working Smarter

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Working Smarter

 In greenhouse business software, a prevailing trend is enterprise resource planning. A suite of software products that handles everything from managing inputs to production schedules to invoicing produces lean, efficient workflows. As employees are major resources for any company, tracking labor is part of
the fabric of production forecasting.

“Forecasting requirements are done through manufacturing projections or scheduling software, like ours,” says Kevin Moser, president of the Corymb Group, formerly Plantware. “You can identify the number of people, when you’re going to need them and how long they’re going to take. That’s normally done through time studies. You count your cycle time and determine how long it’s going to take and how many people it’s going to take per unit of production.”

From this step, many companies allocate labor costs directly to a specific production process, so it is considered part of the cost of the product line.

Once it is determined how much labor will cost for a project, there’s always the equation of figuring out what to pay for that work. For companies that pay a piece rate, data collection keeps track of who does what. The Corymb Group’s Vericell Vision software labor tracking does include documentation for piece work, including activities like sticking cuttings or transplanting.

Quantity, But Also Quality

Lean manufacturing and labor tracking take the waste out of production and make it more efficient, but what does it do for the quality of the finished product? John Stallmer, president of Innovative Software Solutions, says the labor tracking in his software, PICAS, allows growers to try processes on for size. If they aren’t successful, the process can be changed and improved. The advantage of collecting data on a process is there’s no grey area as to whether or not a production flow is working.

“Data doesn’t lie,” he says. “A lot of customers benefit from looking at data and saying, ‘We’ve done this process in the past with four people. Why do we need six now?’” Raw data can answer the question. And since an employee’s badge number is electronically linked with each tray or product, there is incentive for good work. 

Standalone Package

Making the switch to electronic labor tracking is a bit less intimidating since the PICAS labor module can be used independently of the full PICAS package.

The system has two components. A basic time and attendance package can be tied to accounting software, and then that data can be used to track quantities and come up with cost per unit and quantities per hour, two of the key components of labor tracking.

Equipment includes a standard time clock and portable units employees carry with them. Three scans — a badge, task and product — and an employee is ready to go. The system can switch employees’ tasks and product individually or as a whole group.

“I don’t want to have to have that person get up away from their workstation and go to a clock,” Stallmer says. “With a portable unit, the supervisor can just switch that person. Team logic allows switching a whole group.”

While ISS sells a couple of full PICAS software packages a year, Stallmer expects the company could sell up to 10 of the standalone labor modules per year. The current ISS customer base has seen a 15 to 25 percent increase in productivity.

“They’re working that much better,” he says. “They’re working smarter. They’re able to quickly abandon processes that aren’t effective.”

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