5 Business Issues Facing Agricultural Commodities Companies

Managing complex supply chains, over-use of spreadsheets, growing amounts of data, analytics and mobility are some of the most common issues affecting agri-commodities companies.

Deyan Georgiev Stock adobe com
Deyan Georgiev - stock.adobe.com

Let's learn more about the five most frequently asked questions on common issues that affect not only agri-commodities companies, but also span almost all commodities -- managing complex supply chains, over-use of spreadsheets, growing amounts of data, analytics and mobility.

1) Software systems help manage complex supply chains

Most commodities companies have multiple software systems in place to manage commodity trading, risk, procurement and supply chains. This could be due to an accumulation of systems from mergers and acquisitions, especially in agriculture as many of the large ag traders are looking to gain more control over their supply chains by expanding their global footprint.

They may also have a separate solution for each product, department or geographic region. However, when data is kept in multiple siloed systems, companies often turn to spreadsheets to connect the dots. Manually entering data into a spreadsheet is not timely, accurate or auditable, and it forces companies to base critical decisions on the hope that an individual didn’t make any errors. Not to mention it can be expensive, like when an employee at Deutsche Bank reportedly sent a hedge fund client $6 billion on accident due to a “fat finger” mistake.

Luckily the company was able to recover the money, but these types of errors can be easily avoided. Rather than take the risk of costing your company millions, or billions, of dollars, commodities companies should adopt an integrated solution that covers the entire value chain and allows users to focus on data analysis instead of data collection. By aggregating and analyzing data all in one system, users can optimize decision making and gain competitive advantage.

2) How to get more analytics and reporting from existing systems

Commodities companies need to be able to perform predictive analytics in addition to slicing and dicing their data. In order to make better business decisions in today’s complex and volatile markets, analytics need to be in the hands of business users, not the domain of IT and specialists. Using an advanced analytics tool along with an existing solution, such as commodity trading, transaction and risk management (CTRM) software, enterprise resource planning (ERP) or other transaction systems allows brings together all data from different sources, discover new insights and investigate hidden risks faster.

3) How business intelligence tools aid the commodities markets?

Generic business intelligence (BI) tools typically require too much customization to be useful for commodity specific issues. It can be very costly, both in dollars and time, to add all the functionality needed to manage commodities to a generic system, and in the end, you will probably still need to use another system to handle certain tasks.

There are solutions built specifically for the commodities markets that agriculture, energy, metals and manufacturing companies should consider instead of a generic BI tool. This will enable them to get the relevant information needed to solve the most important business issues without having to hunt down the answers from separate departments or solutions.

4) Understand and identify commodity risk and opportunities across the supply chain

Having visual representations of your business makes it easier to recognize risks and opportunities. For an agriculture company, having a transparent view from farmer to stockyard to processor to producer all the way to the end user will allow you to make the best decisions for buying, transporting, storing and selling commodities. For other commodity trading companies, it is critical to be able to view the entire transaction life cycle, from trading, risk management and processing, to scheduling, logistics, accounting and settlement. Using sophisticated visualization tools to get an accurate view across an entire deal lifecycle, users can identify commodity risk and exposures as well as gain insights into opportunities to improve efficiencies and profit margins.

5) Implementing CTRM systems built for mobile

As more people are conducting business on the go, traveling to customer or supplier sites or working from a remote location, it is no longer acceptable to wait until you are in the office to access data and make decisions. To get the most value out of a CTRM software solution, it needs to have all the functionality of a desktop system built in.

Traders, risk managers and executives can maximize productivity with the ability to perform key functions anytime, anywhere. With mobile apps, traders can enter deals and hedge effectively, even while out of the office. Risk managers can manage risk across the organization and executives can monitor key performance indicators at any time. The ability to react quickly to new deal information and communicate this information to the relevant people in an organization rapidly, accurately, and conveniently, provides companies with a competitive advantage. Using mobile apps eliminates the need for multiple follow-up email and telephone communications that can be inaccurate and delay contract settlement.