If your standard, off-the-shelf accounting software program and Excel inventory sheets just aren’t cutting it anymore, maybe it’s time to look at a computer software program developed for commercial growers. Here are some software programs designed to handle the variables and intricacies that are unique to commercial growers’ businesses.
Starcom Computer Corp.
Starcom Computer Corp. released the first version of its software package for growers in the mid-1980s. Company president Sharon Nuss, says growers in Washington were running into challenges with the complexity of inventory management that off-the-shelf accounting packages couldn’t handle.
“Initially it was internal management, internal processes needing efficiency,” Nuss says. “At that time, the big box stores weren’t the big players that they are now. But as the chain stores became a more important part of the industry, being able to keep up with their requirements became mission critical.”
Nuss says her company’s software program has evolved to become a fully comprehensive enterprise resource planning (ERP) package that can tie everything together.
“That’s a fancy term for it handles everything,” she says. “If you were to look at a flow chart with some sort of departmental integration diagram it would support all information management in each specific department. It is able to integrate all of the departments together to mimic the flow necessary from production through planting, spacing, materials management, purchasing, inventory control, sales, shipping, accounting and costing.
“Most growers are growing a mix of product so they have to have a system that is flexible enough to line up with what they need to do in each product sector. Everything feeds off of a schedule that changes a lot. Growers don’t plan what they are going to produce just once and they’re done with it. It’s an ever moving target.”
The New Frontier
Nuss says most growers have three significant pain points trying to operate their businesses:
1. Shipping/staging processes.
2. Inventory management with accurate availability.
3. Integrating production planning and purchasing.
“The chain stores add a whole new challenge,” she says. “They are demanding more growers take responsibility for replenishment analysis. To be able to really quickly distribute inventory and create replenishment shipments that integrate into the growers’ internal shipping and internal availability is the new frontier. More and more capabilities are going mobile with integration on your tablet or phone.”
Nuss encourages growers who have avoided looking at grower software programs to consider what they can do for their operations.
“Sometimes technology can seem more intimidating then it needs to be,” she says. “I have consulted with customers who implement improvements and new capabilities every year that build on the previous foundation. When I see where they are now compared to where they were when we first started, it’s amazing. I see other growers who are afraid to stick their foot in the water and they are getting farther and farther behind. It is becoming harder to catch up. People need to be encouraged to jump in.”
For more: Starcom Computer Corp., www.starcomsoft.com.