In the seed industry, reputation is everything. Deals are still made on a handshake and when you say that you will deliver 500 units of wheat seed, the expectation is that you will deliver 500 units of wheat seed — no questions asked. However, if that seed does not meet expectations, you likely won’t get a second chance.
One area that you can improve, if you haven’t already, is making sure that your seed is clean, and free of contamination from other seeds that shouldn’t be there. Delivering clean seed on time is one of the biggest impressions you can make on a grower. The last thing a grower wants is to be putting beans in the planter and see a few wheat kernels.
We know you are dealing with a number of different seed crops, and during the year, that seed must be moved from bin to bin or from bin to a seed treater. There are a lot of moving parts and the process can be quite complex, or quite simple if you have the right standard operating procedures (SOPs) in place.
Some view SOPs as unnecessary paperwork or scrupulous management, but SOPs are actually a form of risk management and can be used to improve efficiencies. SOPs are best suited for repetitive tasks and can help to minimize any differences in end product when working across multiple locations.
While every SOP is different, there are a few tips that can help you get started in developing an SOP for delivering clean, quality seed.
- First, watch another person perform the task(s) at hand and then document the steps involved. After you have a draft, ask another employee who performs that same task to review it for inaccuracies.
- Review legislation and regulatory requirements that might impact how the task is performed.
- Research peers who have implemented best management practices in this area.
- Implement SOPs and get documentation in place.
- Ask an auditor or an expert to do a “test drive.” The auditor should be looking for: a) evidence that the written SOPs minimize incidence of contamination; b) visual evidence that the SOPs are being followed; and c) evidence that SOPs have been taking place in the past.
- Once you have your SOPs documented, refined and audited, they need to be stored in a place where staff can access them.
While SOPs might seem cumbersome, making sure you have the right systems in place can eliminate the chance of contamination. Farmers expect their seed to be uniform and of high quality. Make sure you’re meeting expectations and building a solid reputation with each delivery — your business depends on it.