Customer confidence is an important factor that leads to loyalty and long-term business relationships. Without it, customers will either fade away or negatively impact your organization when they suspect that your product quality is at the root of some issues they are facing. Building confidence in your customers begins by you having confidence in your process and the tools you employ to monitor and manage it.
When a customer calls you about a feed quality issue, it is important that you can answer the question: “How do you know that this customer’s feed was made correctly?.” It is also important that you can answer this question quickly and efficiently when asked. If you have the right process and tools in your feeding operation you should be able to answer this question on the spot.
I worked in the feed industry for many years before becoming the president of Repete. Back during that time our CEO received a call from a customer who said: “Hey, I just had a large number of my animals die over the last week and I suspect your last load of feed is responsible.” Our systems at the time were fully-automatic with no manual unmonitored processes that would introduce human error into the feed-making process. We also had our production systems tied into our corporate business management systems and had all the data we needed at our fingertips. My CEO, with the customer on the phone, simply pulled up the inclusion report for the customer’s last load and emailed it to the customer after a quick review. The customer said: “Oh, OK, well I guess we will look at other possibilities.” Later that day we received word from the customer that a holding tank had been re-assigned and used without first cleaning out the materials in the tank from its previous use. Analysis of the material in the tank showed the inclusion of exactly the ingredient that would account for the dead animals.
While this example may seem a little over-simplistic, it served to avoid an otherwise very difficult problem if we were unable to answer this simple question immediately. There were many times over the years where having this information at our disposal and readily available allowed us to reassure our customers and foster a high level of confidence. Often, we would supply this information even when the customer did not request it just to help grow that confidence.
So, what does it take to make this happen? First, it is essential that all manual processes within your feed mill are eliminated or monitored using software that tracks the operator’s actions. Then you need to ensure that your automation software collects and easily transfers all production information to a central point where it can be easily used. The more automatic the control system is within your mill the easier it is to simply print out the needed data and send it to the customer.
One very important process within your mill is the hand-add process. If you are still running with a manual and unmonitored hand add area sooner or later a mistake will happen. Therefore, it is essential to have hand add monitoring software, like Repete’s SMX Hand-Add System, that confirms that the right ingredients are being weighed and in the right amounts.
Another area where I see mistakes being made is when one process area is fully-automated but downstream process areas remain manual. Pelleting load out and liquid applications are often either manual or not integrated within the full mill automation solution.
And finally, another area where errors can result is when there is no full mill automation solution responsible for collecting and reporting data, like Repete’s CNX Data Integrator. Islands of service were once considered a reasonable way to go, but in this day and age, modern automation systems are more than capable of automating an entire mill and can more effectively be counted upon to validate that a product is being made properly by all process areas.
The focus of this article was to bring to light the need for good processes along with fully-automatic, full-mill automation systems that can collect the data needed to improve your customers’ confidence. There is another large upside to following the practice here and that is the data can be used for a multitude of purposes, like production efficiency, accuracy, and quality. In short, having and using the data is essential in running an effective and profitable feed milling business today.
Repete specializes in building full mill, fully-automated feed milling software that collects a massive amount of data that can be used to both build your customers’ confidence as well as improve your mill’s effectiveness. If you would like to know more about how Repete can help you, don’t hesitate to give one of our business development representatives a call.