In the world of tree fruit agriculture everything is done by hand - primarily because there's no way to mechanically trim or pick the fruit. Labor, therefore, is often the largest operating expense.
Since you can't automate any of the work, it's nearly impossible to save money on labor without losing efficiency or employees.
Yet Royal Bluff Orchard, with 70 employees, found a way to save $35,000 a year on labor expenses without losing a single employee. And it was easier than anyone expected.
When Eric Linxweiler, a business consultant with Inflection Point, first met with Royal Bluff to help the business find operating efficiencies, he quickly noticed the supervisors were managing all their employees using pen and paper.
The three supervisors were managing 70 employees - tracking location and employee work hours on paper, then would each spend an hour entering the location and time for the employees into Excel at the end of each day. The Excel sheets would be sent to Royal Bluff's accountant (who was over 100 miles away) at the end of each week, to enter the hours into an accounting software and FedEx the paychecks back overnight.
Saving 15 hours a week
Eric knew there had to be a way to automate the employee management for a non-English speaking workforce, with lack of reliable internet connection, who were spread out and constantly changing locations.
Eric considered implementing time clocks yet realized it wouldn't work well for the workers spread across different fields. He looked at different online solutions, however they needed internet or cell service to operate.
Then Eric found the TSheets Crew App - a simple to use time clock app. It worked without Internet or cell service, was a mobile solution for scattered and shifting employees, and would provide accurate and easy time management for employees.
Initially Eric bought tablets and had a guide created in Spanish to help train the supervisors, however quickly realized the TSheets Crew App could be easily be used by the supervisors on their existing smartphones, and when downloaded, was intuitive enough that the supervisors didn't need a user guide.
Royal Bluff tested the Crew App for a month simultaneously to tracking with pen/paper and quickly realized the management of employee time using the TSheets Crew App was easier and more accurate. The new technology also more than paid for itself in time savings for the supervisors alone (three hours per day, fifteen hour per week).
The management team liked the ease of using TSheets so much Eric knew the next step would be to implement an accounting software that would work well with TSheets, to phase out the weekly FedEx-ing of employee paychecks.
Eric and their head accountant helped Royal Bluff switch the general ledger to QuickBooks Online (QBO) - a cloud-based software (not sitting on one computer in case the computer were to lose the information) that integrated nicely with TSheets and would allow Royal Bluff to easily print their own paychecks.
Reduced labor expenses, more accurate paychecks and happier employees
Since moving to TSheets and QuickBooks Online, Eric estimates Royal Bluff's savings to be $20,000 a year on field management savings, $1,000 a year in FedEx expenses (no longer having to overnight paychecks), and $6,700 in accounting expenses since they can now print employee paychecks on site. They also save an estimated $6,500 a year by using the time/exception reporting in TSheets, and an additional 4-8% on payroll simply by automating time tracking and eliminating data entry errors.
As a result of implementing TSheets and QBO, Royal Bluff is saving significantly on their labor expenses, operating more efficiently, and saving their supervisors time.
We were looking for solutions that could reduce human error, only deal with time once, ensure we have management oversight, and worked within the constraints of a multiple large, rural orchards. Upon our evaluation, everything pointed back to TSheets. We ran a successful pilot, then rolled out to full production. It went much easier than we thought, and it's helping us meet our long term goal of having one of the most technically advanced orchards in Washington.Jim Jackson, CEO, Royal Bluff Orchard
The Key Takeaways from Using TSheets:
- The most valuable employees in the field are the supervisors. By letting them use devices they were already familiar with (their cell phones), and an intuitive product like TSheets, a bilingual solution became unnecessary.
- While TSheets is a cloud-based software, the TSheets Apps are able to accurately track time when outside of cell or Internet service and then sync and upload the data when back in cell service. Not having internet for the employees became a non-issue.
- A mobile phone app made on-the-go managing of employees fast and easy.