What’s it really like using an Orchard Management tool?
Fourth generation growers, Simon and Matt Easton, give their views.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE ON THE ORCHARD BEFORE USING TECHNOLOGY TO HELP WITH HARVEST?
It was pretty slow going. We used to have paper bin cards, so a lot of duplication with counting out at night all the the various pickers, bin and block tallies for the day. It was pretty cumbersome.
We were looking for a quicker process and a way to stop the duplication so we could enter it once and it went through to payroll.
HOW DID YOU CHOOSE AN ORCHARD MANAGEMENT TOOL TO USE?
The team from Hectre came to us 3 years ago and we suggested what would be good, and it evolved from there.
In the beginning we had issues, the interface wasn’t quite as user friendly. But now, Hectre is much simpler, to the point where the quality control managers just go to the picker name and push a button. It’s a 3, 4 second job [for bin cards] now, so that sped things up so they can focus on looking at the fruit instead of fluffing around with paperwork. Their job is checking for quality. Their job is supposed to be bin cards and quality control, but they were spending more time on bin cards. Now it has spun right round.
My staff have certainly been happier since using Hectre. We used to leave counting bin cards to just before payroll, we probably save 3 or 4 hours per week counting out and then putting it into payroll. Payroll is that much easier. It was hopeless at the start, but it’s evolved, and before last season we ironed out most of the problems in the field. Last season I asked my main QC who has been with us for 3 years, is it there yet? And she said: “Yeah I think they’ve got it.”
IS THERE ANYTHING THAT MAKES HECTRE STAND OUT COMPARED TO OTHER OPTIONS OUT THERE?
There is another option out there and we tried it. But the interface and getting around it is a quarter of the easiness of Hectre, so we flagged it. The tablet they used was hopeless in the sun with glare. They had better reporting, but Hectre has improved
a lot here since then.
Because Hectre allows you to look at costs per block, you can look at how much the block is costing you to grow the crop. So then we can work out the profitability and if we’re overspending in certain areas.
HOW HAVE YOU FOUND THE HARDWARE?
We’ve had no issues with the printers. The only problem we had was when someone plugged in the wrong charger and we cooked it. But that was our fault! So apart from that they’ve been bulletproof with the original printers still in use three years later.
WHAT’S MADE YOU HAPPIEST ABOUT CHOOSING TO WORK WITH A COMPANY LIKE HECTRE?
It has been fun, because along with several other growers we’ve been at the coal face and worked through the problems. We took a little bit of a punt at the start, switching to the system going into the fruit season. Every year it’s become easier and we’ll fine tune it further.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO OTHER GROWERS?
It just speeds up everything. For me it’s getting the quality controllers to focus on the fruit and not paperwork. For my admin and payroll person it’s saved her 3-4 hours a week.
For me, I love looking at things live. During a season it’s made my life easy logistically. I know they’ve picked 100 bins so I don’t have to go and count the bins and organise trucks for packing and storage. I don’t have to shoot up there in my car or ring people and tell them how many bins there are.
I can keep track of picking gangs, who is performing and who isn’t without having to wait a day or two to check bin cards. I know straight away. I know what pickers are doing and their performance.
ANY FINAL THOUGHTS?
You need to give it a try.