What’s it re­ally like us­ing an Or­chard Man­age­ment tool?

Fourth gen­er­a­tion grow­ers, Si­mon and Matt Eas­ton, give their views.

The Orchardist - - >>What’s New - 021 075 5018, www.hec­tre.com

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.

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