Imagine that, after the harvester fills a haul-out, the equipment is going to be emptied, but there is no truck available. Because of this, the machine needs to interrupt its operation and wait until the arrival of the transportation of the raw material. The result: idleness, delays and waste of time and resources. This problem, however, can be solved with the support of technologies that ensure the synchronisation of operations, improving the performance and results of all involved in the production chain.
"In any productive system, each process depends on and impacts the others, and this is no different in agribusiness. However, agricultural operations involve a very complex routine of activities and communication. When there is no standardisation and automation of processes, it is very difficult to maintain synchronism between the work stages," explains Bernardo de Castro, president of Hexagon's Agriculture division — a company that develops and provides agricultural and forestry technologies.
Today, however, the digital solutions available on the market facilitate the management of resources and processes in a much more controlled way, ensuring that there are no gaps and stops, but rather continuity of work from the automated synchronisation of activities. Here are three reasons to invest in the synchronisation of operations in agribusiness:
1. Increased efficiency
One of the most notable benefits of synchronisation between operations is increased productivity, considering that there is a prevention of interruptions and teams and equipment start to work in a much more aligned way.
The synchronisation of harvesting operations with transport activities is one example that can be highlighted. Software developed to solve this challenge assess issues such as the number and speed of harvesters working in the field, the rhythm of the harvest, the availability of trucks and the working hours of drivers, and, from that, synchronise machines and trucks so that there is no waste of time.
“At Hexagon, for example, we have HxGN AgrOn Transport Optimisation, which works through an intelligent algorithm, analysing data and dispatching trucks on the best routes so that they arrive at the work front at the ideal time. That is, neither delayed, because that would make the harvesters need to stop cutting to wait for the emptying of haul-outs, nor before the raw material is available to be loaded, because that would mean standing still waiting for it," explains Bernardo. At the same time that it maximises the transport capacity, the tool reduces the idle time of the harvest resources, allowing maximum efficiency in the operation.
2. Cost reduction and waste
With a good process optimisation, synchronisation reduces expenses and waste — which indirectly also collaborates with the reduction of the environmental impact of agricultural activities. The synchronisation of the machines with the trucks that will transport the raw material, for example, reduces fuel expenses and may even reduce the number of machines and/or trucks necessary to carry out the logistics of the operation.
Another activity that can be mentioned is used in the sugar-energy market, in which Brazil occupies a prominent position: the synchronisation between the sugarcane cutting rhythm of the harvesters and the movement of the haul-outs.
"The HxGN AgrOn Haul-out Dynamic Allocation system predicts when the haul-out in use will reach its limit and, from that, automatically and optimally calls a new tractor. The full haul-out, in turn, will unload the raw material in the transport truck and resume the queue to meet the harvesters in action", points out the president of Hexagon's agriculture division. Synchronisation is done by machine-to-machine (M2M) communication between work front and haul-out queue.
According to Bernardo, this type of technology prevents the harvester from interrupting the cutting of sugarcane and reduces the waiting time for a new haul-out to continue the operation. With this, there are records of a reduction of up to 20% in the number of transhipments required in a crop.
3. Mitigation of risks
Currently, it is possible to make a remote and centralised control of operations that are happening in the field from the transfer of information from the on-board computers of the agricultural machinery to the cloud through 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi or satellite communication channels.
This monitoring is what guarantees the synchronisation of activities, since it allows the rapid management of eventual occurrences, such as equipment shutdowns. This ensures that the raw material is delivered to its final destination within the scheduled period, which avoids possible delays or industry shutdowns.
In the case of the use of technology that synchronises harvesters and haul-outs, there is also a reduction in the risk of collision accidents between vehicles — these are much more common in manual operations, which are dependent on the experience of operators and at the mercy of communication failures.