Control of grain movement processes at threshing-floor and elevator

By Polina Koshlak, Expert Consultant

Harvest is the most important moment in the functioning of agricultural enterprise. From farm preparedness to necessary field processes, grain processing and well-planned logistics procedures will depend on whether the company can say that the season is successful. Grain in the field is potential money for the next year’s campaign, it is the financial resources to pay off current short-term loans, it is farm profit, it is capital investment and the guarantee of further enterprise development. But all this is potential, because the golden harvest in the field is not yet grain in the warehouse or even it is not money in the enterprise accounts. Its main goal is to realize this potential, which requires effective planning and control.
Not every farm manager properly evaluates the importance accounting as an element of control over what is happening with the finances of his enterprise, and that accounting is able to provide a manager with the information in the process of making daily management decisions.
How exactly accounting can help in the implementation of control over the harvesting process?
Firstly, to provide information on ongoing processes and associated costs, about to what extend the planned is being implemented in the actual, indicate discrepancies and provide material for analysis.
Secondly, analysis and monitoring of accounting documents allow to track the movement of grain from the field to the buyer, and, therefore, identify potential misuse at the enterprise.
Accounting for the grain movement begins in the field, and the accountant should be almost the first to know about the start of the campaign and be ready to provide it with documentary and analytical support.
Step 1. The preparation of the relevant primary documentation (exchange coupons, invoices for internal movement), which should be accordingly numbered, include data on drivers/harvester drivers, crops to be harvested, and be registered in the logbook.
Step 2. Each driver and harvester driver must receive a certain amount of, for example, exchange coupons, sign in the journal about their receipt before the shift. Driver coupons must be different from harvester driver coupons. Accordingly, the numbering and registration of coupons is carried out separately.
Step 3. The coordination between the production unit and accounting department, because the production manager must take care of documenting and approving the plan for the day, a copy of which should be provided to the accounting department to understand which fields are to be harvested and which resources are planned to be involved.
Step 4. Based on the data provided by the production manager, the accounting department or the check-man determines what is the exact number of coupons per day to be given out to harvester drivers and drivers, can prepare in advance the harvester driver’s waybills in the system indicating the field numbers and crops, print them and give to responsible persons.
Step 5. During the harvest, the driver and the harvester driver exchange the signed coupons, each of which is intended to confirm the shipment of one grain bunker (and, if necessary, part of it, which is additionally indicated in both coupons), and, thus, the transfer of responsibility to the driver from the harvester driver. It is important to make sure that both parties indicated the time of the grain shipment and the field number in the coupons.
Step 6. At the end of the day, all issued coupons must be returned to the accounting department or to the check-man to verify and enter data into the system. Although the actual weight cannot be obtained from the coupons, they are a valuable source of information, the analysis of which may indicate potential inconsistencies and, possibly, misuse.

What should one pay attention to?

To simplify the analysis, all coupons must be represented in the system. Now all accounting programs designed for accounting in agriculture, provide such an opportunity. Be sure to check whether the data in the driver’s coupons matches the ones indicated in the harvester driver’s coupons regarding the number of bunkers shipped. It is necessary to make an analysis of the work of each driver:
  • how many bunkers were transported — data in comparison with other drivers should be comparable. It is also preferably to compare the actual number of tons transported with the registers of the weigher and roughly calculate how many tons are on average in one bunker. Comparison with past seasons and the industry as a whole will help to understand how adequate the information is;
  • how many missions were completed (from the field to the threshing-floor/elevator): compare the data between the drivers and find out the reasons for significant deviations. Additionally analyzing the arrival time to the weighing platform with the departure time from the field (for the starting point one can take the time indicated on the last harvester driver’s ticket for each dispatch), one can understand whether the truck was on the road for too long, and what are the reasons for deviations between drivers/dispatches.
Already at this initial stage, “bottlenecks” in the process of harvesting can be identified. That is, how efficiently time and resources are used, are there any downtimes, and if so, what is their reason. After all, not a single process is ideal, and practice makes adjustments to any theoretically designed action plan.
It may happen that the number of harvesters does not match the number of trucks involved. Or the elevator/threshing-floor, due to the technological process or available space, is not able to accept so many trucks/grain per day, which creates queues and downtime. Such problems should be identified as quickly as possible and solutions should be found, since these are not only lost funds from inefficient use of resources, but also because of delays in harvesting.
Delivered to the weighing platform grain is weighed with the establishment of the gross mass, tare and set-off weight. The task of the weigher is to record this data, as well as information about the truck and the driver, the time of arrival on the weight and the data from the harvester driver’s coupons, which the driver must give to the weigher in the appropriate registers (“Register of grain reception from the driver”, “Extracts from the register on the grain grinding and harvested area”, “Registers of grain reception by the weigher”, “Statement of grain and other products movement from the field”).
At the same time, the weigher issues an invoice for the internal movement of grain, which is used for record-keeping of the grain movement at the threshing-floor/elevator. The driver must sign in the appropriate register(s), confirming the delivery of grain. The data of these registers are used by the check-man to fill out the waybills for the harvester drivers, and by the driver to maintain their own waybills.
Corresponding registers are transferred to the accounting department for reconciliation and serve for the analyst as synthesized data on the grain received per day, the harvested area and additional information for reconciliation with the coupons of the driver and the harvester driver.
The more information automatically enters the registers, the less is the likelihood of errors and misuse. Processes automation of harvesting, synthesizing and transmitting data differs significantly from farm to farm — in small farms all operations can be recorded manually, large enterprises buy some form of automation control.
For example, the scales are often equipped with certain control sensors and software that can automatically record the weight and/or data regarding the driver and the truck (by introducing certain cards and devices for reading information). The software on the scale can be synchronized with the accounting program and/or software on the elevator, which will allow one to download relevant data in automatic mode and the like.
Each enterprise independently determines what level of automation is now affordable and expedient for it, therefore, the influence of the “human factor” on the processes of grain movement is different.
In any case, accounting registers are the information that provides the analyst with many opportunities for analysis. What percentage of fields is harvested? How does this correlate with the plan? What is the current yield? If the yield was assessed before the start of the harvest (for example, by external experts in the process of issuing a bank pledge), then how much does the planned yield differ from the actual one? What is the reason for the main crop losses? What are the tendencies?
Another amount of analytics integrated into the reports and graphs is critical for management to evaluate campaign performance and ways to optimize processes.
Before weighing each vehicle at the weighing platform, laboratory (if available) makes an express analysis of the grain, after which the relevant indicators are recorded in the invoice for internal movement and given to the driver, who, in turn, gives it to the threshing-floor manager after arrival to the threshing-floor to determine the places of discharge. In the process of grain cleaning and drying, the laboratory monitors quality indicators to ensure certain standards of moisture and impurity. All analyzes are recorded in analytical cards.
At the enterprise with a certified elevator, Form 36 is required, which is the basis for the posting of grain in accounting. This Form contains not only quantitative, but also qualitative indicators of grain and is an object of special control.
According to the executive, the main risk at this stage lies in the correct determination by the laboratory of the quality indicators of grain from the field. The overestimation of impurity and moisture indicators at the elevator can be realized in a larger volume of “written-off dead waste,” that is, the set-off weight of the grain will be underestimated. This problem is usually quite common when working with external elevators, when laboratory data are deteriorated for reducing the set-off weight.
But if there are doubts about the indicators defined by the laboratory (for example, the indicators of grain from one field that came to different elevators differ significantly), one should contact external experts to be sure.
While selling losses during loading and transshipment should be monitored — such losses are common, given the peculiarity of the product. Nevertheless, they must meet certain standards fixed by state regulatory documents, and in case of their absence — specified in the internal documents of the enterprise.
Therefore, primary documents and registers, when used correctly and analyzed, can become an important element in the process of monitoring the movement of grain at an enterprise. But it is precisely an element (and in some aspects — a full-fledged and self-sufficient), mainly additional information to the available physical controls.
And though 100% confidence in the absence of errors and misuses is hardly an achievable goal, the intensive use of accounting information together with the introduction of physical control (automatic or physical control by the security service or external experts) will help not only to protect the company from significant material losses, but also provide information on the effectiveness of its functioning.