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Getting ready for the fall logistics challenge

Had a talk last week with a couple people in the propane industry with a look toward harvest, which may be a surprise since it probably feels to many as if planting just ended. But that late-planted crop could be coming out of the field wetter than usual (there's no guarantee if weather turns hot and dry at the right time).

It's that uncertainty that creates challenges unique to agriculture. You have to balance your cash flow and your need to have propane on hand. But this is also a symptom of an even higher-level management question of tackling logistics across your entire operation.

A few years ago when a new larger combine came to market, one of the complaints was the need to run bigger rigs to move grain from field to elevator (or market) faster than in the past. The higher capacity combine was so fast that farmers found it sitting idle too much because they couldn't get carts emptied fast enough. A marketing person at the combine company smiled and said they were helping a farmer "find the pinch points in their operation."

And it's those "pinch points" that can cause wasted time. A $400,000 combine idling in the field why hard-working farm help rushes to empty a 1,300-bushel grain cart into a semi costs you money. Newer, bigger equipment is challenge the logistics planning of even the most savvy farmer. Is the answer bigger carts? An extra semi to move grain?

You're faced with these questions every day. Last spring the challenge was having the right seed where you needed it. And that wasn't always easy.

Today's farmer is dealing with logistics - a term that was alien to the business just a few years ago - in new ways. Strategically tending a sprayer or building your needed harvest infrastructure is a balancing act. How you manage that differs from farm to farm, but the purchase of a single, larger piece of equipment creates a big ripple on the ol' logistics pond that can force changes across your operation.

Iron-makers will keep innovating their equipment for higher productivity, how that impacts your business becomes your challenge. In the next few weeks we'll work some of the math for you especially with large machinery to determine some questions you should be asking for your farm. If you have a question or two on that score, ask in the comment area below and we'll include those answers in our coverage.

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