Jason Kaeb Director of Business Development, KSi

I’m often asked, “when is the right time to upgrade?” The answer is “it depends,” because each business is unique in their setup, talent pool and philosophy. Some business owners prefer to be on the bleeding edge, while others are late adopters, and there’s a whole spectrum in between.

If you’re asking this question, there are a few variables to consider: turnover of seed treatment operators, experience of seed treatment operators, age of equipment, cost of down time, quantity of seed treated and brand image or customer perception.

You might be wondering how brand image or customer perception figures into this calculation. That might be the easiest consideration to address. If you want customers to associate your company brand to words such as “modern,” “precision,” and “advanced,” then upgrading your system and going fully automated can help make your brand vision a reality.

The other factors may require some small calculations. What is the turnover rate of your seed treatment operator, and what is the skill of operators you’re hiring? If you have a high turnover rate or struggle to find someone with the experience and credentials you’re looking for, then it might be time to upgrade your equipment. Fully automated, or even partially automated, systems remove the “art” of treating seed and minimize the potential for operator error.

A fully automated system requires fewer people to operate the seed treater, potentially reducing your labor costs and the skill needed. It can also reduce the costly mistake of over- or under-treating seed. Thousands of dollars here and there can add up fast.

What about the age of your equipment and the cost of down time? As equipment ages, the chances of a costly breakdown increase. Did you have any breakdowns or major repairs last year, or the year prior? Today’s automated systems help catch problems early and alert an operator to potential problems in ways that a manual system could never do.

Even more importantly, you don’t necessarily have to wait for a support technician to show up on site. Some estimates show that down time during peak season can cost businesses as much as $7,500 per hour. Many repairs can be done through remote support, minimizing your down time and increasing efficiency.

Then there’s the final factor, quantity of seed treated. Do you want to treat more seed in less time? Increasing efficiency by going automated can help you achieve this goal. Recipe formulations can be preset in the system, and the operator can change formulations with the push of a few buttons. The rest is done automatically. For manual systems, just the calibration can take some time, not to mention the wasted seed done in the process.

As you think about your seed treatment operation, evaluate where you are and where you want to be. What changes need to be in place?

Remember: Technology is never going to stop progressing or improving. Upgrading every three to five years is less money at one time than waiting until your system is completely obsolete and then having to invest in an entirely new system.