Logistics Support: the importance of technologies that support agricultural operations

Support structure for actions such as supply, and maintenance of machinery is essential to ensure efficiency in the field.

18 August 2021

Rural logistics is almost always associated with the transport of materials — whether inputs, seeds or raw material after harvesting. However, the actual meaning of the term goes far beyond commuting services, including organisation and asset management. The logistics support, in turn, involves all activities that provide essential support to meet the demands in order to make the operations more efficient.

"In the case of rural activities, when we talk about logistics support, we deal with everything that happens in the field to ensure that agricultural machines work in the most productive way possible," explains Alexandre Alencar, director of Research and Development at Hexagon's Agriculture division. "As a rule, this equipment stays in the field over the entire harvest period, often operating 24 hours a day over months. In this way, they need to receive all the support necessary to maintain good and continuous functioning," he adds.

Despite the inherent difficulty in logistics support, which leads to possible failures in processes and unscheduled stops in the execution of activities, today, with the assistance of technological advances and connection, logistical support has become much more effective.

Supply routes

One of the most frequent logistics support processes is aimed at supplying agricultural machinery with fuel, considering the long period in which this equipment is in operation in the crop. To facilitate, a train or tank truck travels through areas of the field to carry out the procedure, passing through different rural locations that demand its service.

"In order not to waste time, optimisation systems plan the best routes, considering issues such as the projection of the tank level of the machines and the mileage to be travelled. Thus, the trucks make the most agile route and with the least number of stops", says Alexandre.

Workshops available

In addition to supply, another need for agricultural machinery is maintenance. Therefore, the train trucks also usually function as flywheel workshops, going to the field at times of scheduled shutdown of the equipment to perform adjustments. According to the director of R&D at Hexagon's Agriculture division, "this usually happens at times such as end of shift or operating intervals, so as not to hinder the progress of work throughout the day".

The existing solutions today, such as the HxGN AgrOn Logistics Support Planning, are able to meet this preventive maintenance according to the machine situation — oil change period, lubrication, replacement of parts, etc. Thus, the chances that this equipment breaks down in the middle of performing some tasks is greatly reduced, avoiding unplanned downtime. In addition, during these interventions it is also possible to verify the state of the machine and analyse whether it is necessary to take some preventive care.

Firefighting

Another common logistics support process is the positioning of fire trucks near rural areas. As there are several productive areas that are close to regions with burning risks, it is important that these vehicles are available and positioned at the best points to cover the largest number of crops, moving to extinguish a fire quickly if necessary.

"It is essential to have constant observation and monitoring of fire outbreaks, since the loss of production will be significant if there is the incidence and spread of fire over an extensive area in the field", reinforces Alexandre.

Transport of agricultural machinery

Agricultural activities, both in the harvest and in the off-season, extend over a large area of the field, with machines being shared and moved between different regions and properties, according to the company's operational planning. However, not all equipment is able to move from one productive area to another — a harvester, for example, usually needs to be transported by a flatbed truck when the distance to be travelled is greater.

The support logistics solutions are then responsible for establishing routes for the optimum locomotion of these machines, synchronising the completion and restart of operations. "If a harvester is no longer being used in one area, it can be taken to start cutting in another. The goal is always to reduce travel and waiting times, keeping machines working as long as possible and ensuring maximum efficiency," says the R&D director.

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