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Technology for eggheads

By Jonathan Stoller | December 13, 2012
Technology for eggheads

The challenge

Timing is always important when managing perishable commodities, but overseeing the distribution of more than 816 million eggs every year brings this challenge to a whole new level.

To the BC Egg Marketing Board, information means everything. Consumer demand has to be anticipated precisely, chickens have to produce eggs accordingly and health and safety concerns have to be identified immediately to prevent outbreaks.

For years, the torrents of data needed for these jobs was gathered manually, a slow and cumbersome process. Farm inspectors, for one, compiled their audits on a mess of paperwork, leaving very little time for analysis.

To help streamline their planning, budgeting, and forecasting processes, the BC Egg Marketing Board initially implemented a planning and analytics system in 2012. They haven’t looked back since.

The strategy

The current generation of analytic tools gives users a powerful instrument that makes the analysis of complex data accessible to non-technical people. If a manager wants to know about inventory levels, for example, the answer is a click away. More complex scenarios can also be defined and calculated with relative ease.

To implement this system, the BC Egg Marketing Board had to consolidate the data from two existing systems into a single database. Farm inspectors were then given tablets to help them record and transmit audit information directly into the new system. Once the system was operational, information was made available via online portals.

“A farmer can be in Tim Hortons and look at their iPhone,” says Anne-Marie Butler, Director, Finance and Administration at the BC Egg Marketing Board, “and they can look at the average price that they’ve got this week over prior weeks.”

The board of directors were also given a portal, granting them access to current information, such as inventory levels, that was previously only available every six weeks.

The results

The move to electronic data collection has reduced farm inspection workload by 66 per cent, and resulted in $100,000 in annual savings. Now, instead of spending their time filling out forms, farm inspectors can perform audits far more efficiently. “It allows them to do more value-added work with our producers,” says Butler.

The higher visibility in the field that analytics gives the BC Egg Marketing Board has led to increased productivity, according to Butler. “We’ve been able to do a lot more with less people.”

Looking forward

The BC Egg Marketing Board plans on expanding their use of analytics in the coming months to help other departments make faster, more informed decisions. Three more online portals are currently in development, at the request of several of the BC Egg Marketing Board’s stakeholders. “It’s changed the way people do things,” says Butler.

Health and safety are a top priority at the organization, and Butler believes that analytics will play a key role in driving this mandate. “The next thing on the horizon will be involved in traceability right down to the egg,” she says. “I see this as a fantastic solution to drive what’s really important to our business.”

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