August 9, 2012

By E. Niven

Change is difficult. Changing behavior, processes and technology along an entire supply chain and keeping all the players satisfied can be close to impossible.

Leading up to 2011, Monsanto, in collaboration with U.S. distribution partners, streamlined operations, increased efficiencies and decreased costs resulting in a more professional dealer network with pinpoint inventory accuracy right down the line. 

“It has increased our accuracy by at least 95 percent,” said Eric Lacey, a seed dealer from Salem, South Dakota. “This allows us to quickly manage transactions and then be able to spend more time with our farmer customers.”

Some of the process improvements include increased electronic transfer of data, stewardship licensing, suggested retail pricing, ordering, inventory management, invoicing and sales reporting.

The Monsanto team determined needs and priorities through investigation and inquiry explained Steve Schaefer, Monsanto’s retail and B2B solutions lead, “We started by looking at inefficient manual paper-based interactions with distribution partners,” he said. “We began with 200 accounts and interviewed more than 700 people, including corporate vice presidents, warehouse managers, farmers and dealers.”

Monsanto identified how best to implement the new tools in a way that would immediately make life easier for every point on the supply chain.

The new tools have cut costs by reducing errors, reconciliation time, shipping costs, manual seed bag counting, and time on tasks across the operations of a dealership. Participating dealers realized an estimated cost savings of $20,000 per dealer.

In addition, the benefits for the collaborating partners include increased accuracy of transactions and improved seed management.

For Lacey this means knowing where the inventory is at any given moment. “Before we used the new online system, the manual process caused us to spend time chasing down anywhere from 100 to 200 bags of seed per season for our B2B grower orders. Now we know where every bag is by clicking a mouse,” he said.

All told, these operational process improvements and information technology tools are utilized in varying degrees by 5,000 distribution partners, including farmer/dealers.

Replacing stacks of paper, spreadsheets, late-night phone calls and whiteboards at the dock is a suite of electronic enhancements, which included website/portal information, bar code scanning, seed-business management software and industry-leading electronic integration with the distribution partner’s chosen business system.

Sharing best practices, continuing dialogue and driving increased simplicity for business success will continue to have a positive impact on Monsanto’s dealers and farmer customers.

Improved operational efficiencies, help participating dealers maximize their opportunity to make the sale by bringing together the right product, right price, right time and right farmer customer. That means they can focus on higher-value activities like growing their business and spending more time with their families.

Originally published August 1, 2012 by Monsantoco