The tight U.S. labor market and uncertainty about corn and soybean prices are dual challenges for U.S. farmers and food producers this year. Compensation costs are up, making it tough for many companies to find the skilled workers they need. And while overall feed prices are down slightly, international tariff talk is unsettling and fueling uncertainty throughout the industry.
With these two factors largely out of its control, Fieldale Farms, a Georgia-based poultry producer, is using analytics to improve its margins where it can. Here is a look at the company’s efforts and its impressive results.
Fieldale Farms is a family-owned business founded in 1962 and a Dimensional Insight client since 2012. With $1 billion in revenue and 4,800 employees, the company is one of the largest independent poultry producers in the world. It produces about 3 million broilers per week. Fieldale Farms produces antibiotic-free chicken under the Springer Mountain label and supplies chicken to national players such as Panera Bread, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Publix, Ahold, and Stop & Shop.
Getting better data faster
Fieldale Farms now uses Diver to track data and improve performance throughout the enterprise, including:
- Sales: margins and volumes
- Finance: capital spending, taxes, departmental budgets
- Operations: Actual cost by truck and by mile, tracking internal transfers from plants to freezers
- Live cost information
- Daily emails on bird weights and other KPIs
It all started with General Ledger Advisor, an application built on Dimensional Insight’s Diver Platform. Fieldale Farm implemented GL Advisor in 2012 to view its financial data in real time. Based on its success, Fieldale Farms deployed Diver and soon upgraded to Diver Platform 7.0. The newest version of Diver is built on columnar database technology, which delivers faster processing time and improved performance for queries.
Diver users within Fieldale Farms noticed the upgrade immediately, according to Andrew Rudeseal, the company’s information systems manager, and operations controller Tony Maturo. “The speed at which everything refreshes” is Diver’s biggest strength, Maturo says. He notes that generating a report from the Fieldale Farms’ line production software might take 10 – 15 minutes whereas “that same report coming out of Diver, it’s just a couple of clicks and you have the same information.”
Maturo and Rudeseal also like the self-service aspect of Diver. “That part is fantastic,” says Rudeseal, noting “the ability [of trained users] to go from concept to something in DivePort quickly… We’ve got it set up in a way that it’s as simple and as easy to understand as possible to get the information that you’re looking to get to.”
Reducing ‘yard time’
Let’s take a closer look at one of the company’s initiatives: reducing yard time. Yard time is the amount of time birds spend in line to be processed after they are brought from the farm and weighed. The birds lose more weight the longer they wait. Therefore, the shorter the yard time, the higher the profits.
Fieldale Farms set up a daily yard time report in Diver, which delivers data much more quickly than the former, decades-old tracking system. “It’s in DivePort to view any time you want and it refreshes daily as birds are being processed,” Maturo says. “And gets sent out to a key group of people who are tracking that metric every day.” Using this report, the company was able to reduce its yard time from about 4 hours to 3.5 hours, or 13% — a substantial increment and one that certainly helps profits.
Results and next steps
The overall financial results are not chicken feed, either. Fieldale Farms paid back its analytics investment in one year by saving the work of two full time employees. That’s about $170,000. Plus, the company achieves a 5x return on investment on its maintenance costs.
With a big ERP initiative on the horizon, Fieldale Farms plans to leverage Workbench, Dimensional Insight’s development platform, especially for the ETL required. “I really like Workbench as an ETL tool,” says Maturo. In addition, the company is considering adopting Dimensional Insight’s Measure Factory to define and maintain all its metrics and business rules.
Want to learn more about Fieldale Farms’ successes with analytics? Check out our case study.
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