Poultry farming is worlds removed from the bits and bytes of computer technology, but an enterprise resource planning system is about to cross the great divide.
From day-old to dinner size, farm gate to supermarket fridge, Cordina Chicken is looking to create more efficiency in its supply chain with a new ERP system.
An existing 12-year-old scheduling system will give way to a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system by November after which the NSW-based poultry producer expects to hatch new management capabilities by being able, for the first time, to manage the complex task of chicken farming with an information system.
Project manager, Vince Greco, said, "Farming chickens to ensure we can meet sales demands with a top-quality product is a complex and intricate balance of capacity planning, farming conditions, vaccinations and feeding which have not, until now, been managed with an information system."
Greco said Cordina Chicken, which sells its produce to Coles and Woolworths, "will be pioneering the introduction of those capabilities in the poultry industry".
After looking at close to 20 ERP systems from tier-one and tier-two software developers, including Oracle, SAP, Microsoft's Great Plains, Movex -- a product of supply chain software developer Intentia, Greco chose Australian-developed ERP system Clear Enterprise, from software house Clear Objective Software.
Greco said the system Cordina uses now came from Scientia, and was managed initially by a [now unnamed] company that folded long ago. Cordina brought the IT consultant from Scientia in-house and continued with the system. Greco said old system had lots of modules that were not being used or needed to be "resurrected", such as inventory planning, scheduling and costing.
"We tried to resurrect [the modules], but decided it was best to look at new technology," Greco said.
"With the Clear Enterprise-based system we don't need to be totally technically supportive. We can change processes without changing codes," Greco said, adding this was ideal in cutting down work-hours for the two-person IT team at Cordina Chicken.
The ERP system, which will be used to manage the supply and subsequent growth of day-old chickens coming in from 60 farms across the state, will be rolled out from Cordina's headquarters in the outer Sydney suburb of Girraween to 40 users in three locations in NSW.
"Managing the farming system is still largely a manual process," Greco said. "At the moment the manual system is mainly a matter of sitting down with a piece of paper, or with Excel [creating spreadsheets], which is basically the same thing."
"There are 60 farms to schedule and we've got to make sure the right number of birds come in on any one day. Some 60 per cent of our costs comes from livestock growing, so this system will suit farming operations and assist in better planning," Greco said.
Cordina plans to have implemented the system by November, and will run a pilot phase parallel to the existing system before switching over completely.
To minimise what Greco calls "operational deficiencies", the system will be used for greater capacity planning by forecasting how fast the birds will grow.
"You've got to take into account the standard growth rate of a bird. This depends on a lot of things - such as the season, because bird growth changes seasonally, and it depends on the quality of the stock.
"It's a balancing act to get them all at the correct weight; each bird grows differently," he said.
"With Clear Enterprise we will be recording key statistics and then we can start trending to forecast how a bird is going to grow."
While unwilling to give a figure for the contract, Greco estimated the system cost 3.5 per cent of the total IT budget for the year and expects to see ROI In 12 months.