Many horticultural businesses wage a daily 'battle' with their labor force. That is to say, regarding the effort involved and the planning of these forces. What needs to be done this week, and how much workforce is required? Such queries are usually answered by figures derived from the past, experience and averages that one is aware of or (if lucky) tucked away in Excel sheets, laden with numerous assumptions, stipulations, and bandwidths.

Labor planning is complex and difficult to analyze

As a grower, you have to take into account so many aspects, that it is difficult to manage it all in an Excel sheet. In practice, I see the following problems that make the planning of labor so very complex.

Problem 1: The time required for activities is hard to estimate

The first problem arises with growers who have to deal with a wide range of varieties. You need to be able to manage numerous characteristics and grading levels. Moreover, an added level of complexity emerges when you are growing in multiple locations, sections, and areas. That is why, it is hard to provide an adequate estimation of the activities to be carried out and the amount of time involved, based just on experience and averages.

Problem 2: 'Made to Order' extra complex

In addition to the first problem, the increasing degree of 'customized production' or 'made to order' requirements, induces additional labor complexity. More and more growers need to take into account the specific wishes of customers during the growing process, such as the type of pots, stakes, tags or the growth medium used. It also applies sometimes to the manner in which activities are carried out, such as grafting, pinching, potting, clipping, watering, stake usage, fertilization or crop protection. Any of these endeavors could also be part of the 'customized production' process, as required by the customer, and therefore, need to be taken into account during labor planning. 

Problem 3: Depending on failure rates per growth stage

Furthermore, the production of plants ensures that the expected demand for (flextime) employees depends on the season, the climate, and the failure percentages per growing stage. As a result, managing work schedules in both the short and long-term is not always straightforward. By not having this finely tuned, there could be no transparency on the impact on staffing, financial budget, and expected cash flow either.

5 benefits for time and labor registration in an ERP software package!

Time and labor registration in an ERP software package could help you to manage the issues by reversing the complexity back to easily comprehensible insights. Working with these systems can avert the problems mentioned above. I would like to mention five advantages of managing time and labor resources in a software package as follows:

Advantage 1: Standard norms for long and short term

Planning labor and activities in the agriculture business, soon feel like a sumo wrestling contest, where no one can predict the outcome at the start,  and consequently, a so-called subjective reality is devised.

This is why more and more growers are resorting to using the potential of within our software. They generate, with an uncomplicated approach, accurate activity schedules with excellent insight into the total demand of hours. This can be achieved by working with predefined labor norms and standards, in combination with a production plan, to create insight for both short and long-term labor needs.

Labor planning per week

Advantage 2: Overviews per month / week / day to make choices

Time and labor registration in a standard software system, allows you to derive precise overviews per month, week and day. These overviews support the employees in making the best decisions based on accurate data. This allows you to anticipate issues like the need to increase the number of employees during a peak period, adjust the production plan dates and figures or level activities over a specified period when excessive labor is planned.

Advantage 3: Insight into productivity per product or group

The query was raised earlier in this blog: How do I influence my labor costs in horticulture? Managing the costs of labor could be difficult. With a software system, you can gain insight into productivity and consequently, pinpoint where the lion’s share costs arise from. You can, therefore, steer the organization with more ease, based on the actual and planned information.

Advantage 4: Analysis planned and actual productivity

It is also possible to analyze the standard norms afterward and to compare them with the actual registered hours, enabling you to plan new crops more accurately. This saves time while planning, but mainly ensures that not too many or too few people are hired, and the pre-calculated costs are as precise as possible.

Analyse labor based on norm deviations

Advantage 5: Integrate labor planning with other processes

Since labor planning in our ERP software is integrated with crop production and area planning, the schedule of activities that are 'to be done' is always up-to-date, especially after users have updated crop results once production of a crop has begun.

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Ultimately, the outcome of the 'planning competition’ with our software, regarding predictions, is very reliable, leaving time to spare for your employees to deal with the management of other essential tasks.

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