The importance of raw material tracking

22 August 2019

One of the greatest technological demands of the sugar-energy sector is to have a system with all the data related to the sugarcane harvesting processes available, including: geographic origin location of raw material, area size, quantity harvested, number of machines and operators involved, traceability of the product during transportation, etc. This is guaranteed by the reliability of the information and happens in real-time, even before the production reaches the plant where it will be processed. There are several factors that generate the need for traceability of the raw material by the sugarcane industry. The first takes into account that in Brazil, many mills plant on third-party land and pay to "rent" the area according to two variables: the amount of sugarcane harvested and the qualitative analysis of the product, mainly meaning the sugar content. At this time, the manager of a sugar-energy industry needs to have a technological system at hand with accurate and auditable data.

HxGN AgrOn Raw Material Traceability fulfils this role. The product was developed by Hexagon's Agriculture division. This is a combination of hardware and software that is installed in the harvesters, the haul-out and trucks that transport the harvested sugarcane to the mills. During sugarcane field operations, the solution collects machine to machine data via radio frequency and Wi-Fi devices until it reaches the mill.

One of the benefits of AgrOn Raw Material Traceability is that it records the exact geographic trajectory of the harvesters in the sugarcane field and makes it possible to prove that the raw material that arrived at the plant is the same that was harvested in that specific area. In addition, the product also allows you to see the area’s specific productivity. This is important information so that at another time, the manager can perform an analysis of the cultivation processes and effectively plan the replanting of the sugarcane fields. The traceability of the raw material throughout the entire harvest and transport processes also contributes significantly to the smooth running of the sugar-energy industry's production line. Ideally, when starting the milling process, the mill should maintain a constant rhythm, as in any other plant. In other words, the arrival flow of the raw material should ensure that the mill does not stop due to a lack of sugarcane, nor does it have the capacity to process the entire harvest. An advantage of AgrOn Raw Material Traceability is it ensures that the manager has control over the processes without having to be in the field. By tracking the raw material during harvest and transportation to the mill, Hexagon's product enables the manager to be aware of everything that is happening in the sugarcane field, thus make decisions based on the figures more quickly and effectively. These include adjusting the harvesting rate to achieve zero stock. Stocked sugarcane loses quality in proportion to the time it remains waiting for processing.

The main differential of AgrOn Raw Material Traceability is the guaranteed connectivity. Without 3G or 4G connections, the field increasingly requires solutions that overcome the absence or unreliability of broadband infrastructure in rural areas. The Hexagon product connects via a system of devices (Taggers) that allow machine to machine data transfer (Wi-Fi) or using radio frequency devices (RFID), similar to the "non-stop" toll system.

The use of AgrOn Raw Material Traceability takes place at all stages. In the first one, the harvester is paired to the haul-out and, through its own connection (using Taggers or RFID), sends the data captured during the harvest to the haul-out. In the second, the haul-out transfers the data, also through this connection, take the production to the mill. The difference is that RFID only reads the information, while the Wi-Fi Tagger device records the data, an unprecedented system. In the truck, the product is tracked during the entire transportation process to the mill. In the last stage, the delivery of the raw material, the trucks arrive in the industry and the information from the taggers of each truck is transmitted to the receiving software. This field information is stored and accounted for in the company's management and control systems. With all the information collected, the system makes a joint delivery linked to both agricultural and industrial management systems (ERPs). AgrOn Raw Material Traceability automatically tracks the raw material throughout its journey, from its origin in the field to the industry. As such, it does not require the use of manual notes and identification labels. Its benefits include reduced human intervention, increased accuracy of production data, improved quality of operations and faster transportation logistics. These are important factors for efficient business management and increasing productivity rates.