With three locations totalling nearly 30ha of greenhouses and around 500 workers, keeping track of everyone’s activities is a job in itself. In 2014 Mexican tomato producer United Farms installed a new version of the Ridder Productive labour and production registration software. This allows more efficient allocation of labour and ensures workers are correctly paid for the jobs they do.
Finka, Solar Garden & Incubados
Saul Villalobos is head grower and oversees United Farms’ three greenhouses, Finka, Solar Garden and Incubados, which are located in the Queretaro AgroPark. He previously worked for Village Farms in the USA and it was here that he first gained experience with Productive.
“When I arrived at United Farms I asked for it to be installed because it’s the only way to see exactly what everyone is doing. It is a very good tool.”
“I am always in the greenhouses so I know what people are doing. However, the staff in the office who make the payroll don’t know. It’s important for us to make sure we pay the right amount of money to the right people based on the work they have done,” says Villalobos. “Also, it’s good to be able to show each employee his individual performance and, based on that, what bonus he will receive. It makes it clear and motivates everyone to work harder.”
“Our aim is to run the business with the least number of people necessary but retain the people we have and pay them more. The registration software gives us more control and we can see exactly where we are spending the money. The system is helping us to improve efficiency.”
In own interest
On average, 10 people per hectare work in each house at any one time. Finka is a high tech glasshouse covering 10 ha, producing tomatoes and cucumbers. Solar Garden is a high tech glasshouse of 10.5 ha and produces various varieties of tomato. Incubados is a high tech poly greenhouse of 8.5 ha and produces tomatoes and cucumbers.
Both glasshouses are equipped with the Ridder advanced climate control process computer as well as its complete irrigation control and drain water disinfection systems. Incubados will soon be expanded to 18 has and will also be upgraded to include the full package of climate, irrigation, electrical and drain water disinfection systems.
The Ridder Productive software was installed nearly four years ago and is linked to all three greenhouses. However, the benefits were only fully realised after it was upgraded in March 2014 and Francisco Bonfil was employed full-time to run it.
“The concept is easy but making it work in practice needs attention,” says Bonfil. “I make all the employees understand it is a benefit for the company as well as for themselves: Payments are related to the information they put into the system so it is in their own interests if it is accurate” he says.
Employees log onto fixed terminals in the greenhouse when they start working in a new row or change tasks. New workers sometimes forget to use it or forget their codes, he says. “Then I have to track down that person and explain that he must use it otherwise his payment might not be correct,” says Bonfil.
We have so much information in our database that can be analyzed in so many different ways.
Saul Villalobos agrees: “Productive is easy to work with, once you’ve got used to it, but as other systems you have to teach and remind new people how to work it.” Nevertheless, it gives much better insight into what employees are doing.
“In the end you want to know how much they spend on each task, whether it’s clipping or sweeping, and compare it with the other tasks and with the same tasks in the other greenhouses. Also, if there is a problem we see it and can fix it right away, rather than discover it at the end of the week when there’s an even bigger problem to solve.” Also, by knowing the individual performance of workers, supervisors can calculate how many people are needed for each activity.
“This helps us to schedule the labour as well as determine who is below standard for a particular task. We can either encourage them to improve or switch them to a different activity,” says Bonfil.
“I get a report at the end of the week. When I visit colleagues on other nurseries, who don’t have this system, I realize how much better off we are because we have a lot of information in our database that can be analysed in so many different ways,” he says.
The flexibility of the system allows users to customise the information and create their own graphics. “I have created 30-40 different reports based on what our growers and supervisors normally need to know. They can access these at any time by logging in, from various places, such as in the greenhouse, and go straight to the report. Administrative staff also receive reports on a weekly basis” he says.
Bonfil regularly provides feedback to Ridder. “I provide suggestions and they try to come up with solutions that suit the Mexican conditions. This works well and it helps us better meet our needs; we are constantly improving and creating new functions in the system that are related to employees’ pay and evaluations that, in turn, helps them perform at their best.”
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