As another year passes, business leaders are wise to examine their current operations and consider their position in the marketplace. 2019 will undoubtedly see further emergence of new data technologies. Businesses that adapt are well-placed to use these technologies in order to thrive. Businesses that do not or are slow to react are likely to face mounting challenges from their customer base and lose out on productivity gains.
For businesses in the supply chain, data solutions can form the backbone of sustainable growth, ensuring robust internal operations that are future-proofed and primed for data integration and insight which presents a potential landscape of dynamic new services and ways of working adding value to both businesses and their customers.
Here Jeff Bradshaw, CTO at Proagrica, the agriculture and animal health data connectivity specialist that rethinks conventional business practice and system architecture, provides his take on four predictions which he believes will be driving the agribusiness sector in 2019 to make it more connected and more grounded in data and insight unlocking value across the whole supply chain:
1) Connecting to a network will create a step change in productivity
“Joining a digital network that effortlessly links your established company systems and data to a wider business network, across whole supply chains will be transformative for agriculture and animal health,” Bradshaw says.
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In general, adoption of digital infrastructure has grown exponentially in multiple sectors. Agriculture and animal health has, to a degree, been slower in its uptake. However, the prevalent trend is for this to grow substantially. The ability to communicate instantly, efficiently, and autonomously with customers and supply chain partners is vital to achieve customer satisfaction. Proagrica’s global network is focused solely on agriculture and animal health and now spans every sector of the market place, giving businesses the opportunity to connect once for a seamless electronic link to customers and supply chain partners. In its basic form, connectivity increases productivity by reducing inefficiency.
For example, businesses relying on manual operations devote extensive resources towards maintaining their ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system, without taking into account the loss of productivity caused by human error or oversight. For example, one study by the Australian government estimated up to 30% of invoices contain incorrect information, highlighting just how prevalent this can be in business transactions.
A report published by Gartner found that the cost of processing invoices is reduced anywhere from 70% to 90% when conducted electronically. A study undertaken by retailers Landmark and Elders found an actual saving of $18 per transaction.
The more exciting vision is the opportunity for businesses to have a single view of the customer, through finance, CRM and logistics creating an incredibly powerful single source of truth. The subsequent opportunities for productivity gains across the whole supply chain are immeasurable as inefficiencies are removed and resources are focussed upon the activities that create the greatest added value.
“The impact of this digital transformation for individual businesses, sectors and global trade is only just being seen, the opportunities for efficiency and adding value are enormous,” concludes Bradshaw.
2) Delivering actionable insights
“Actionable insights represent the apex of any businesses data,” comments Bradshaw, “the result of data analytics, they provide key insights which allow organisations to make well-informed decisions. We have entered a period where we have the technology to harness the vast quantity of generated data and we will witness transformational change within connected businesses”
So what does this mean for businesses? Once connected, either through internal systems or, for greater impact, through a connected network, data analytics has the capability of generating actionable insights and thus bridging the gap between just data and business value. This could be answering questions such as who are your best/worst suppliers, how do your stores rank on agreed efficiency measures and more importantly, why, or what is your businesses real time market share? It could even extend to hot button issues like what is the prevalence and impact of preventative treatments on animal health and food sustainability versus more traditional antibiotic usage. On a wider, cross-supply chain level, data analytics can supply demand forecasting or pest outbreak alerts ensuring all those involved in the supply chain have the insights to enable optimum efficiency.
“Businesses have always made decisions on actionable insights,” Bradshaw says. “However we have entered a period whereby data analytics have the capability of transforming whole supply chains, making sense of the data and providing both efficiency gains and new value propositions.”
3) Unlocking precision agriculture
“The irritating problem is typing data into several different systems,” said Bradshaw. “The bigger problem is that the data doesn’t then overlap. What if you could bring those different applications together to do another unique more valuable thing?”
Mordor Intelligence, in their report on the rise of precision agriculture, project that this technology will have a global market value of $7.3bn by 2023 — more than double its value just five years earlier.
The key issue in this rapidly evolving technology is the usability of the data. There are so many applications, all generating huge amounts of data, all working to improve on their particular focus. What if you could bring all this data together, ensure all your kit talks to each other and then overlay other data — the weather, soil type, disease alerts, market demand.
“The opportunity to overlay multiple data layers and getting that data to the place where value can be delivered represents the holy grail,” comments Bradshaw. “We have the technologies today to achieve this, but the environment is not connected and where it is that connectivity is being used to solve one dimensional issues – albeit valued ones. Tomorrow’s precision agriculture can deliver so much more, increasing productivity and delivering environmental and biodiversity benefits — and it really is within our grasp.”
4) The Internet of Things continues its momentum
The Internet of Things (IoT) is gaining momentum, as smart devices are increasingly able to interoperate and share with one another. For the supply chain, this could mean the end of entering the same data multiple times into different systems. It could change how stock ordering and inventory management is done — a significant leap akin to the use of new technologies like barcode scanning.
Within agriculture and animal health the ability to connect and share information and data across devices, from weather stations, to soil sensors, to in cab information systems, will only serve to increase the ability of growers and suppliers to boost efficiency and therefore productivity.
The rate of IoT adoption means, according to research agency Gartner, 20.5 billion connected devices are projected to be in use by 2020. Businesses that utilize connectivity between their operational processes and devices are well placed to provide a productive and profitable offering in the market place.
Data is going to impact agriculture and animal health more than anything else in the 21st century. Farmers will use their data to apply the right products, at the right rates, and at the right time; distributors will use data to strategically buy inputs and to position them properly; manufacturers will use data to improve the way they manufacture and recommend the use of their products.
“The first step for a business in the supply chain is to investigate their own operations and determine areas of possible improvement,” concludes Bradshaw. “At every stage, business leaders should ask themselves whether they are getting ahead of the wave of technological innovation or simply treading water.”