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Digital Transformation in the Swine Industry - Don't Get Left Behind

September 07, 2020

What It Means for You The Producer.

If you are a pork producer, you might think digital transformation has no relevance or immediate value to raising pigs and increasing production performance. You might be thinking “it sounds like something expensive.” The truth is, most producers haven’t taken the opportunity to understand what’s possible and the impact that digitally transforming your system can have on production. I am talking about improving business processes with technology that is available and affordable, even in today’s market, and simple enough that you don’t need a total system overhaul or months of training. That means there are game-changing efficiencies – yes, in swine production – that could have a real impact on our bottom line without breaking the budget.

Your world is digitization, the future is digital transformation

First, I want to clear up the difference between how we operate today in a digitized world vs how we as producers can digitally transform parts of our business processes virtually overnight and realize immediate efficiency gains in all areas of swine production. Let’s take a look at biosecurity.

For example, signing into a farm on a piece of paper clamped to a clipboard is the common practice widely used today. Now, some “more advanced” production systems sign people in on an Excel spreadsheet and send it to the office for contact tracing records. That’s digitization of the clipboard process. We live in Excel and email and operate our business with the same archaic processes that we have digitized. It’s more efficient to do a process on the computer, but it’s usually the exact same way we do it offline, just more efficient.

Most pork producers live in a digitized world that was cutting edge at the turn of the century. We conduct operations with countless spreadsheets (and various versions of spreadsheets), use file storage like Sharepoint and Access to store data in silos, while using email as the main method for sharing that data. The process really hasn’t changed and it looks something like this:

And then there’s digital transformation

Digital transformation is when the technologies we use work together and learn together to create new efficient processes that weren’t possible before. Let’s look at a digitally transformed process around biosecurity and farm access management, digitally transformed and used by BarnTool’s customers every day. A guy walks into a farm... so the joke goes. Using geofencing technology and a mobile app, the system can automatically capture that employee or contractor who approaches your farm property and allow or reject access based on last pig exposure and current site health. Let me explain. The maintenance man crosses the geofence, which then prompts the system to search the record of his last pig exposure. This information is checked against the health status and nights down rules of those two sites. Using the site visit records, it will then validate whether or not the maintenance man is allowed on farm. All of this happens in less than a second and automatically. That’s digital transformation. That’s the power of living on one platform. Total biosecurity compliance for site visits. No more unexpected visitors. No mistakes. All this we do with every farm entry, instantly, hundreds of times every day.

Site health mapping. Data integration. Automatic record keeping and reporting. That’s the real game-changer. That’s digital transformation.

Turn chaos into capability – in days, not weeks

Transformation doesn’t mean disruption. And it doesn’t mean expensive. In fact, the smaller you start, the faster you get there. It’s all about starting on the right foundation and the rest of the possibilities come naturally. Start by cleaning up the chaos – indexing your site information, employee names and roles, along with site-specific health in one unified database. Right away, your systems are integrated on one platform, so data is now set up to talk – better yet, learn from each other – and new processes become possible that were not before. I think it’s ironic the world is shifting to a more remote working environment when we have been doing it for decades in the swine industry given the geographic spread of our farms. Shouldn’t we be leaders in running a remote-first business with strong communication and operations given the head start we had?

Why do producers need to take the next step and transform?

First and most obvious, recruit the millennials and younger generations. As the millennials are now the largest workforce, attracting them takes different qualities than previous generations. Technology is a part of younger generations’ lives. Second, offset increasing production costs. Producers need to maximize visibilty, ensure compliance, reduce infractions in biosecurity. There are processes that you simply cannot do without taking the next step and those are gains that go unrealized until you do so. Third, business continuity. Have the data, the visibility, and be prepared for events such as an FAD. Prove negative and keep pigs moving.

5 signs you’re falling behind

  1. You import and export data, and use email to share it
  2. Employees are in the farm office more than the barn
  3. Your data is latent, siloed, and living in multiple locations
  4. You use excel as a form of data management and storage
  5. Information systems upgrade is overdue due to cost, downtime, learning curve

Michael Hansen
BarnTools, Inc

Barn360 is a digital swine production management platform that integrates and connects all facets of your operation, optimizing the real value of your data to make more informed and timely decisions, for improved production efficiencies.

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