Accelerating Digital Agriculture through Internet of Things (IoT) and Analytics

Jim Kinnett, VP of Global Supply Chain and Enabling IT, Monsanto Company [NYSE: MON]
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Think about seed corn, harvested from several production growers’ farms, traveling to a manufacturing plant. Sound simple?

Now think about this: for every hour that corn spends inside a truck, the internal temperature of the seed rises one degree. Multiply that temperature increase by a 10-hour trip from Point A to Point B, and it could mean seed damage and, potentially, discarded seed.

Consider, then, multiple trucks transporting seed from Monsanto’s plant to customers’ farms during harvest season. Lots of Point As and Point Bs and lots of chances for logistical challenges.

Not so simple anymore. So, how can we maintain the highest seed quality, track every truck to make better decisions—and increase customer satisfaction?

At Monsanto, we’ve intersected Internet of Things (IoT) and analytics to not only complement our global production strategies. We’ve unlocked its power to accelerate digital agriculture.

Global Production Strategies

We’re all familiar with the value of Internet of Things—connecting data from a hardware device to the Internet. Using this important concept, we decided to leverage sensor technology from two external partners. This would enable Monsanto to monitor the temperature and geolocation of trucks. At the same time, our teams ensured all data from the hardware devices flowed seamlessly—and sustainably—into FieldDrive, our cloud-based data collection platform which makes the data available to mobile devices and dashboards that will help to optimize production operations.

  ​ We’re leveraging real-time information and analytics to drive insights, optimize processes, improve the efficiency and quality of decisions  

Use of these sensors builds upon our global production strategies—leveraging digital capabilities to create a better customer experience—to yield big results.

During the 2015 harvest, our team in Mexico identified 30 truckloads of corn (out of 1,000 tracked) that had overheated. We were able to intervene a cooling process, thus reducing our seed loss. In the United States, we are positioned to track all corn harvesters and inbound corn movement (trucks transporting the corn from the fields to the facility) for the 2016 harvest, an expansion from approximately 2,800 truck loads monitored in 2015.

Real-Time Visibility

Our South American IT Supply Chain team recently partnered with our Logistics team to complete a proof of concept for a new cargo monitoring tool. The goals were to improve on-time delivery, speed up customer response times, and enable real-time visibility of freight trucks to avoid disruption.

The platform was first implemented ahead of the 2015 harvest, and now the team has full visibility of the trucks through an online dashboard—which uses a color coding system to indicate on-time deliveries and delays. The cargo monitoring tool empowers the Logistics team to make fact-based, agile decisions.

Before the project, it could take up to three hours to pinpoint the location of a vehicle. Now, we have real-time visibility of our trucks, and that’s improved on-time delivery. If there’s a disruption with a particular truck, we know about it and we can proactively inform our teams and customers.

Leveraging Data for Planning Analytics

Internet of Things is more than data collection. We truly unlock its power—increase agility, make better decisions and optimize the digital ecosystem—when we apply robust analytics.

Our team has set up sensors in the field and in the trucks, and we continue to modernize our manufacturing plants globally through improved processes. The results can be found in the higher quality seed that we produce. But it doesn’t stop there. We are leveraging all the information through analytics to enhance the end-to-end iterative supply planning decisions and positively impact the customer experience.

Leveraging FieldDrive’s data platform, data warehousing and transactional databases, an analytics platform and dashboard capabilities, our team built a supply chain platform. This platform optimizes and solves critical business decisions via analytical models.

These capabilities take big data to optimize inventory levels, improve placement of crops in regions and fields and increase the efficient use of our distribution network. Each of these investments in big data analytics has led to a higher-than-expected return on investment through better alignment of crop planning processes, visibility of information and more efficient supply scenario planning within our business processes.

Real-time Information and Big Data Analytics

Our teams at Monsanto have long understood the importance of data. But we’ve now come to realize the power of IoT and analytics throughout our end-to-end processes. We’re leveraging real-time information and analytics to drive insights, optimize processes, improve the efficiency and quality of decisions and empower our employees to drive a differentiated customer experience.

And that’s the true value as we accelerate digital agriculture. 

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