Like the payroll, orchard jobs were tracked very manually with pen and paper. Supervisors needed to write out each bin ticket with the picker’s name, the variety, and the block. The tractor driver would also record what they had taken into the shade shed, and that record would be used as a backstop to double-check and sort out any issues.
Hoddy's Fruit Company
Aniseed Valley, New Zealand
Hoddy’s grow and pack apples on approximately 55 hectares (136 acres) for fruit marketer RD8. The company has an annual production of around 10,000 bins and employs close to 100 people in the packhouse and 50 people in the orchard.
Hoddy’s Fruit Company has been growing high-quality apples for around 100 years, with “Quality without compromise” as their motto. “We really want quality to be the key consumer experience, as we realise we are competing against chocolate and ice cream, plus other fruits, so our apples have got to be top-notch!” - Orchard Production Manager Canaan Balck
It’s been about five years since we came out of the dark ages and decided to embrace technology on the orchard. For just over half of the time I’ve worked here, everything was done by pen and paper, which was a drain on my time and not the most accurate way to keep track of everything.
Plenty of hours were spent, including weekends, and especially at harvest time, writing bin tallies, checking bin cards, and doing the payroll. There would also be duplicates of all that information. Overall, it meant about two hours of my weekend was spent doing paperwork, which definitely wore thin by the end of the harvest.
Reading people’s handwriting - especially my own - is also an issue when you rely on pen and paper for your record keeping. Sometimes we couldn't read a bin card, or there might be a scribble in the tractor book that looks like a three but could be an eight. The pay administrator would be left to decipher the handwriting and run the payroll.
So it was a very manual process, with the payroll administrator probably spending an extra two or three hours a week to input all the information. Supervisors were also spending time filling out and checking the timesheets, which during busier times, meant about 10 hours of extra work per supervisor. I know most of our supervisors were pretty sick of it by the end of the harvest.
We have been using Hectre’s Timesheets and Payroll module for several years now. We don’t have paper-based timesheets anymore, and we’re saving about 10-15 hours a week during the busier times and 4-5 hours a week when it is quieter.
I certainly appreciate having more free time at the weekend now.
Time-wise, if you can imagine writing out people’s names, plus the varieties, blocks, and dates, that’s about a minute per card. Then, if there were any errors, you had all these bin tickets to sift through to find out what went wrong.
With Hectre, it only takes a few seconds to print out a bin card, and we don’t need to make phone calls to track down information. Instead, you just open the app to see what’s going on. And our packhouse staff and tractor driver can also check the app to see how many bins have been ticketed and whatnot.
With our previous system, our QC was done by recording defects or damage on a piece of A4 paper, one for each picker. You would end up with stacks of A4 paper, some that would get covered in mud or end up in the back of a truck somewhere, and some with handwriting that was difficult to read.
In the past five years, there has been a push towards providing more accurate QC records, especially in certain markets, and for pest and disease control. So when the QC information is not legible or not properly recorded, it makes it quite hard at the auditing end. QC is really important to ensure we have the highest quality fruit, and it also makes us more competitive in markets that are increasingly asking for more accurate QC tracking.
With Hectre's QC module, with just the touch of a button I have access to all the QC information from across the orchard and packhouse.
We were among the first growers to start using Hectre after having met the team when Hectre was in its infancy stage. We gave them plenty of feedback on what we thought an orchard management system could do for our operation, liked the consultation process, and decided to give Hectre a crack. And we’ve been loyal customers ever since.
There were a few concerns about implementing technology, mainly around relying on it, such as what happens if the data gets lost or wiped. Thankfully, even in the infancy stages, Hectre was very reliable. If there was an issue, it was always easy to get hold of the Hectre team and resolve the issue.
There was a bit of hesitation from some of our older staff members about using the technology, but we generally found that once they tried it, they soon got the hang of it. We had one of our workers retire last week, and he picked it up really quickly and actually really enjoyed using Hectre.
The time-savings, along with better record keeping and real-time access to information with Hectre, have been a game-changer for us.
There is also a boost to productivity from having more time to do more critical things rather than spending it on payroll or writing out bin tickets.
I think the key is to be open and give it a try. All of our supervisors who have used Hectre over the years would say they don’t want to go back to a pen-and-paper system. And if I was given the option to go back to paper, let’s just say I would politely decline!