RIVER VALLEY COOPERATIVE
River Valley Cooperative’s (RVC) roots reach back to a group of farmers pooling their grain in 1906. Today, RVC serves over 3,000 farming operations at 24 sites in Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois and gross sales in 2013 were almost $540 million.
RVC's Grain Business Unit handles 45 million bushels per year through 14 retail elevator sites (28 million bushels total capacity) and by shipping direct from customer farms. Their Feed Business Unit processes eight million bushels of corn and nearly two million bushels of soybeans (meal) into approximately 350,000 tons of feed annually across three plant locations. The Agronomy Business Unit provides a full line of products, advice and custom application services for over one million acres of farmland. RVC's Energy Business Unit moves 16 million gallons of fuels and propane and 70,000 gallons of lubricants per year to 5,000 customers.
“Agvance fit into our operation easily from day one, brought us tools we never had before and enhanced our business. It was everything we expected and hoped for.”
Vice President & Chief Financial Officer
River Valley Cooperative
Searching For a Partner
“We were prompted to go looking because the Agronomy Division needed a new solution,” says Tim Burress, RVC's VP & CFO. “Our vendor at the time didn't have the capabilities we needed; they were even encouraging us to find another application they could 'bolt onto' their software. We were concerned about their long-term viability, too. We needed a long-term partner.”
Agvance was at the top of the list from the beginning. A Geneseo, Illinois, cooperative that had merged with RVC recently had used Agvance and the employees at those locations recommended it highly. “It's well-known in the industry that Agvance offers the premier agronomy package,” Burress says. “We were really excited about the tools it offered.” But would it be the answer for such a large and diverse company?
RVC found that not only was Agvance a good fit, it provided especially strong benefits in three areas: time savings, improved customer relations and better information flow.
Big Benefits in Agronomy
Managers in the Agronomy Division saw a significant change. “There isn't any comparison between our previous software and Agvance; it would be like comparing apples to corn. “It's light years ahead of where we were,” says Kevin Frank, RVC Precision Ag Specialist. “Agvance makes it easy to make a plan and take it into blending. Before, we would make a plan with the computer, then fill out paper blending tickets.”
“Agvance cut back the amount of labor it takes to make a plan by fifty percent,” Justin Speth, RVC Agronomy Account Manager, says. “If you have a program you run for a number of growers, you can make a universal plan and change it for each grower's individual needs.” Frank agrees: “The ease of use allows me more time with my growers, and that's definitely increased my business.”
“The ability to input a plan once, flowing into blending and all the way through invoicing has reduced data entry a lot,” Burress says.
Agronomy's customers are seeing a difference, too. “The professional look of the reports was well received,” Frank says. “We can show the customer what's going on the field to the nearest hundredth unit.” Speth also sees the reporting format as a benefit for the grower: “They know what each field will cost for the whole year and the grower summary in the plan gives all the details and a product recap.” “You can go chemical by chemical, report it in any way that will be more useful for them,” says Aaron Trenkamp, RVC Agronomy Account Manager. “They absolutely love it.”
Better Flow in Operations
Improved information flow and the ability to see information across the enterprise from any location is also helping the Operations Division. “It lets us monitor the inventories of other facilities, which we do often toward the end of our fiscal year. It saves time and work,” says Joe DeMeyer, RVC Facility Manager at the Osco, IL Agronomy location.
“I have some customers I take care of personally and I can't recall what I did yesterday, much less what I did six months ago,” says RVC Regional Operations Manager, Chad Petersen, “but if I look into Agvance I can find out exactly what we did on a certain field earlier in the year or last year. The information we can deliver to the customer is just outstanding, and being able to share information across all our locations puts us on the same page as the grower. I'm a customer myself—I farm 500 acres—and I always know exactly what's going on with my fields just from the customer reports I receive.”
Grain Management and Customers See More
Agvance delivers more data from the Grain Division to customers as well. “Their ability to access their transactions and generate contracts electronically is much more robust. We're able to provide our customers more relevant information and they're able to get to it easily,” says Mike Moellenbeck, RVC VP of the Grain Business Unit.
Employees can now access data enterprise-wide; decision making and customer service improved as a result. “We're able to see 14 sites, track our grain position as a whole company or just a single location and see detailed inventory information at all times,” Moellenbeck says. “We can treat direct-ship as if it's a separate location and use Agvance to help us decide where to draw stored bushels from to make up the remainder of a contract. The flexibility of the reporting is just awesome, not just in grain, but in the whole business. It lets you look at data in the exact way you need to know exactly what's going on.”
The improvements in information flow have made things easier for the RVC Central Office personnel, too. “Month-end closing used to take us until at least the 15th of the month; now we are easily able to publish our consolidated financial monthly results by the 10th of the month through improved efficiencies and process” Burress says. We get financials out more quickly and that helps us make better decisions, faster.”
RVC's Management plans to continue expanding and expects Agvance to be a part of it. “We're not satisfied with where we are, we want to grow market share and bring in new partners,” Burress says. “We wanted to set the stage for future growth. One of the reasons we chose SSI was because they could grow with us.”
“We're excited about adapting to new technology,” Moellenbeck says. “We see that as a selling tool.”
“We want to expand our use of Mobile Sales and Mobile Inventory,” Burress says. “We're just beginning to dabble in those. SSI's working with us to increase automation at our grain facilities, integrate RFID's.... We'll keep finding ways to reduce costs by incorporating new technologies, with Agvance as the common denominator. I really enjoy our relationship with SSI and I have a lot of respect for the organization.”
- Greater ease of use